This project examines the dictatorship experiences of people who lived both in Syria and in the GDR.

In the project, the Syrian author Dima Albitar Kalaji and the writer Annett Gröschner, who grew up in East Germany, examine the experiences of dictatorship of people who lived both in Syria and in the GDR. Their artistic research project incorporates the stories by people who were in close contact with people from the other country

The aim of the research is to link the archival findings and the personal life stories to the intertwining of the political systems in Syria and the GDR from the 1950s to the end of the 1980s. In their work in the archives and in interviews with contemporary witnesses, the two authors shed on the student exchanges between Syria and the GDR at the time, the cooperation between the secret services (which has recently received greater attention in research) and the ideological proximity of the two dictatorships.

Our approach in the project is an artistic-documentary one that looks at individual cases and directs the attention both to the multi-layered effects of dictatorial violence and to the subtle forms and means of protest. Groups of people of interest are students, scientists, diplomats and lovers who lived in Syria and/or the GDR at the time. Dima Albitar Kalaji and Annett Gröschner will present their findings in interviews, essays, photos and, as of June 2023, a podcast on the website (coming soon).

In addition to the work in the archives and the conversations with contemporary witnesses, another focus of the project is the communication of this artistic-documentary research method to young people between 15 and 18 years of age with and without migration history. The goal of the authors is to work out together with the pupils how to research a topic in an archive, conduct interviews with contemporary witnesses and finally produce an episode for a podcast that then presents the results of the project work. This part of the project, „Open ears, living archive: the young podcast“, is being developed in cooperation with the Genshagen Foundation.

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Living Archive – Coping with Dictatorship is the follow-up project to The Smell of Dictatorship, a project that Dima Albitar Kalaji and Annett Gröschner initiated back in 2021.

Living Archive – Coping with Dictatorship is funded by the Federal Foundation for the Reappraisal of the SED Dictatorship.

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