Berlin Childhoods: Conserving the City’s History Through Personal Stories

With all of us being so busy with keeping up with our lives and this super fast moving digital society it is awfully easy to forget to take the focus off ourselves and onto others. An old friend of my parents said to me the other day: “You should really ask your mother about your childhood and also her childhood. When she isn’t here anymore, both of your stories will be lost. I have no one to ask about it anymore.” It was a harsh truth that I honestly never considered before. We need to conserve the childhood stories of us, our parents and grandparents, to keep them from disappearing like they never happened.

That exact thought moved educationist Johannes Zillhardt, when his lovely 80-year-old neighbor Waldtraud Gasche, used every opportunity to have a chat with Johannes. Of course only because “the TV isn’t working”, or “the heater makes strange noises”, but all she truly wanted was to talk about her childhood to someone. That heartfelt connection started Johannes idea to meet people from Berlin at any age and write up the stories of their past to keep them alive.

With this idea, Johannes’ blog Berliner Kindheiten and Facebook page were born, where he keeps uploading cute video interviews with people who talk to him about their childhood in Berlin. But the core idea of the project wasn’t its digital publication but rather to create a big book of stories about people’s past in Berlin, as a means of conserving their stories and teaching his readers about a Berlin that is in its details and differences almost forgotten. While the blog is growing more popular with each interview he adds, the book is a project for the future, that will be created soon.

Johannes got over 500 emails ever since the blog went online, asking to be a part of the series. He interviewed people of any age, the oldest having been born in 1920, the youngest in 2005. The background of the people is as diverse as their stories, while they talk about witnessing the end of the war as a child, the construction and fall of the Berlin Wall, their feelings about identifying with East and West and experiencing the Love Parade for the first time. To get a taste of his video series, we selected a few of our favorite Berliners that you can see in the videos above and below. There are many more to be discovered here.

With his idea, Johannes is not only making his dream of publishing a book come true, but also helps to conserve a part of the history of this city and its inhabitants for the generations to come.

Franziska by
on July 24th, 2018
updated on July 24th, 2018
in People, Stories, Videos
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