The project

Breaching the Walls. We do need education! is an international project dedicated to the critical re-elaboration, through a plural involvement of institutions and citizens, of the history and memory of the fall of the Berlin Wall and the events triggered by it.

Result among the winning projects, within the Europe for Citizens 2014-2020 program, of the European Remembrance 2019 call, was promoted by the Gramsci Emilia-Romagna Foundation, as lead partner, together with 5 European partners: the University of Bielefeld, the Institute of Contemporary History in Prague, the Municipality of Tirana, the Past/Not Past Association in Paris and the History Meeting House in Warsaw.

The project, started in 2019 and lasted 18 months, contemplates a hybrid approach, capable of promoting, on the basis of the guidelines provided by the Europe for citizens program, a continuous and polyphonic dialogue between scientific research and active, and multiple, involvement of European citizens.

The idea

The fall of the Berlin Wall represents, perhaps and paradoxically even more than its construction, a crucial node in contemporary history, from which historiographical periodisations and powerful collective and ideological imagery still move today. In view of this, the project Breaching the Walls aims to develop a critical reflection on the historical significance of the events of 1989 and on the political and symbolic impact they played in the delineation of European identity dynamics. Particular attention will be paid to three specific and positive tensions:

– the tension between history and memory, the latter in the dual meaning of private and public memory;

– the tension between the different national narratives of the event of the fall of the Wall and the process that produced it and followed it, starting from those developed in the countries of the former Soviet bloc;

– the transgenerational tension, aimed at establishing a dialogue between the witnesses of the events of 1989 and the new generations.

The aim is to investigate the genesis and legacies of the experience of ’89, in the light of the subsequent developments in European politics and the integration process, in an attempt to critically assume the gap between the promises, hopes and expectations opened by the fall of the Wall and the characteristics of today’s reality, increasingly crossed by the spread of extremely critical feelings towards the project of European construction, its institutions, its representatives, as well as its own ideals and raison d’être.

Two will therefore be the main vectors of the project, characterized by a continuous methodological and content interweaving.

Collection of memories through video interviews

Through the techniques offered by oral history and memory studies, video interviews will be carried out with witnesses of the fall of the Wall, appropriately selected by the partners according to the specificity of their national history.

The direct involvement of citizens

The memories collected in this way – formalized, edited and historiographically contextualized – will become the support for the direct involvement of citizens, through the elaboration of formative and creative moments, particularly dedicated to high school students.

The interpenetration between a historiographically accurate analysis of the events opened by the fall of the Wall and the critical and collective re-elaboration of the memorial dynamics grafted by these events will thus allow the spread of a greater awareness on the democratic future of European identity and on the necessary advancement of civil, social and political rights that should animate its realization.

The main activities of the project will be divided into three phases:

Collection of memories through video interviews

The research will start from a collection of oral memories; in this respect, the different national histories and the different geopolitical location of the partner countries will offer a great wealth of perspectives. As far as Italy, belonging to the former Western bloc, will be interviewed politicians and leading figures of Italian culture and civil society who in 1989 had a privileged perspective on the international political scene. In Poland, Germany and the Czech Republic the working groups will interview citizens who lived in the former Soviet bloc and who had a direct link with Solidarność, the Montagdemostrationen and the Velvet Revolution. As for Albania, a former communist government autonomous from the USSR, the subjects of the video interviews will be the citizens who animated the demonstrations in December 1990. Thanks to this approach, it will be possible to investigate the memory of the events in relation to both personal and national experiences of citizens, in search of the different stories of development and transmission of the founding principles of modern European citizenship.

In Bologna, thanks to the video-recording of intergenerational “focus groups”, other testimonies will also be collected, aimed at giving an account of opinions, perceptions, memory, knowledge and “amnesia” about the events of 1989 by citizens not directly involved in the events, or without any connection, cultural or political, with them.

All the video testimonies, which will be preserved and catalogued in the partners’ archives, will be included in a documentary that will be presented in Bologna during one of the international events planned by the project and disseminated at European level.

Projects in schools

Bologna and Paris will see a direct involvement of some upper secondary school classes, heterogeneous in age and school, social and cultural contexts. Starting from the materials collected from the video interviews, opportunely contextualized from a historiographical and memorialistic point of view thanks to critical seminars, the students’ protagonism will be promoted through workshop activities of an artistic nature. The aim is to build thematic, symbolic, aesthetic and narrative relationships between the facts evoked in the video interviews and the personal and collective memories of the students, looking for tools that can help them to critically represent the experiences of walls and deprivation of rights that cross our societies and undermine the democratic European future. In Bologna, thanks to the involvement of Baumhaus and Cheap Festival, students will create 10 posters that will be disseminated in the city, using the municipal notice boards, and a video-documentary. In Paris, thanks to the involvement of the Bibliothèque La Contemporaine and the BNF/Gallica, students will create an exhibition dedicated to the history of narration and iconographic representation of the events of 1989.

International events 

The project aims to activate a collective, transversal and transnational reflection on the historical, political and cultural roots of the EU and the challenges that characterize today’s Europe, promoting international events that stimulate the debate and the meeting between European citizens on the most relevant issues of the project. A series of international events will therefore be proposed which, in different ways – conferences, open debates, public readings, projections, collective billboards for posters, exhibitions, workshops, concerts – allow the comparison between the different national memories of the events that led and followed the fall of the Wall. The goal is to weave a horizontal, European and transgenerational dialogue on the aspects of the project that have a significant impact on the EU’s present – on its memory, traumas, expectations, values ​​and perspectives -; in the hope that the dissemination of the results of the project will help us find the appropriate tools for the realization of a future that is as attentive as possible to the democratic fate of the European identity.