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In its early years, the Geschichtswerkstatt was mainly concerned with the immediate post-World War II era in Tübingen. Then, on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of the Reichspogromnacht (“Crystal Night”) in 1988, the Geschichtswerkstatt started research for the book “Zerstörte Hoffnungen. Wege der Tübinger Juden” (Destroyed Hopes. Paths of Tübingen's Jews), published in 1995. Since then, the Geschichtswerkstatt has dealt with various topics from the fields of Jewish history, anti-semitism, and National Socialism. Over the course of the years, two large cultural memory projects have been carried out: the Denkmal Synagogenplatz (Synagogue Square Memorial) in 2001 and the movie “Wege der Tübinger Juden. Eine Spurensuche” (Paths of Tübingen's Jews. A Search for Traces) in 2004. From 2009 to 2010, the lecture series “Vom brauen Hemd zur weißen Weste” (From Brownshirts to Clean Records) addressed continuities in Tübingen biographies from the Nazi into the post-war era; the accompanying book of the same name was published in 2011.
Current projects are the Geschichtspfad (History Path), the book Tübinger Täterbuch on Tübingen Nazi perpetrator biographies, and an oral history project on the aftermath of National Socialism. Since late 2012, the Youth Guides are connected to the Geschichtswerkstatt as a working group.
Geschichtswerkstätten and the Search for Historical Traces
In the 1980s, the grassroots history-from-below movement in West Germany—which had formed as a response to dusty views on history, professional academic historians at universities, and traditional historical societies—received a fresh impetus. This Geschichtsbewegung applied new approaches to Alltagsgeschichte (everyday history) and local history.
Geschichtswerkstätten (history workshops) started to emerge in many cities. They collect oral histories from witnesses of everyday life in Nazi and post-war Germany, search for traces of Jewish victims, lay open the suppressed history of women in families and the workplace, and research democratic traditions in German history.
Geschichtswerkstätten vividly present the historic experiences of people: through exhibitions, city tours, movies, discussion groups, and books. History from below has become so popular that even academic history is now receptive to topics addressed by Geschichtswerkstätten.