Historical Witness

From Red State to Golden State: Soviet Jewish Immigration to the City of Angels

From communism to democracy, follow several Jewish families as they recount their immigrant experience from Russia to the United States

Historical Witness - Egon Günther

Egon Günther is known for the controversial, yet successful DEFA films he directed in the 1960s and 1970s. His films address truth and honesty as well as forbidden social themes such as gender and religion. The authorities reproached him for his subjectivism and skepticism. Consequently, they banned his films, such as Wenn Du Gross Bist, Lieber Adam (When you grow up, dear Adam, 1965) and censored others, such Der Schluessel (The Key, 1974).

Historical Witness - Alwin Nachtweh

Previously trained as a tailor, Alwin Nachtweh had his share of Cold War adventures in the shadow of the Berlin Wall long before it figuratively ‘tumbled down’ at the end of 1989. This stunning world event, however, is what brought him quick celebrity and expertise, making him into a successful entrepreneur while he began literally quarrying the Wall into colorful pieces.

Historical Witness - Hagen Koch

Hagen Koch began working for the Stasi, the East German Ministry for State Security, or Ministerium für Staatssicherheit at a young age. In August 1961, as a Stasi cartographer, Koch was responsible for painting the white line on the asphalt that marked the East-West border at Checkpoint Charlie, along which the demarcation was to run. Years after Hagen Koch mapped the route of the Wall, his father lost his job for protesting the expulsion of his Dutch father, Hagen’s grandfather. Disillusioned, Koch submitted his resignation.

Historical Witness - Peter Bochmann

Major Peter Bochmann is a former platoon leader in the East German Border Guard (Grenztruppen der DDR), which was responsible for securing the border and preventing the flight of East Germans to the West (Republikflucht). He took part in developing many of the Wall’s security features. He devised a comprehensive system of facial recognition based on taxonomic identification of subjects’ physical features and characteristics, which was designed to help guards test authenticity of a passport photo.

Historical Witness - Thierry Noir

French-born Thierry Noir chose to give his 2006 interview in English. The Berlin Wall experience became the center of his career and livelihood for the young painter from Lyon, who at age 22 had come to Berlin and soon fallen in with other ‘starving artists’ in Berlin-Kreuzberg. Sharing an impatience with the long expanse of “white” along the Wall, they saw it as an invitation to create colorful, garish, humorous and inventive street art, often just ahead of the East German guards glaring over the top of the Wall.

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