The project „Life behind barbed wire“ was started in 2022 to document the history of the first Thuringian asylum centre at „Neues Haus“ in way that is accessible to as many people as possible. The multilingual website does not only offer information and photos, but also a possibility to participate in writing the history of the place. Visitors are invited to make sense of four selected sources by themselves: the traces of former inhabitants on the walls of the building, a report by the camp committee protesting the living conditions in the asylums centre, an article in the local issue of the tabloid BILD-Zeitung and a documentary on the protests. By opening up the process of interpreting the sources, usually reserved to historians, to the interested public, we hope to assemble a wide variety of interpretations and comments, that render visible, how much the meaning extracted from a source depends on the subjectivity and positionality of the interpreter.
The project is a collaboration of Jona Vantard, Christian Simon and Anita Mirza from Berlin and Emilia Henkel and Quirin Hacker from Jena. Before the came together for „Life behind barbed wire“ they had often sat together to discuss the writing of (hi)stories, asylum politics and asylum centres in Germany. They have different perspectives on these issues and on the place discussed on this website. Quirin grew up hundreds of kilometres away from the camp near Tambach in Munich. He only knows the life in asylum centres from the stories of his flatmate. Emilia grew up only five kilometres away from camp Tambach, but only learned about the asylum centre in the forest behind her home by chance a few years ago. Christian has lived for some years in Thuringian asylum centres. At that time, the camp Tambach had been long closed. Anita worked as a translator in a reception centre in Brandenburg and got to know the place from inside during that time. Jona lacks such insights, just as Emilia and Quirin. But like Anita, he thought a lot about how, why and by whom histories are written.
The project is funded by the Hochschulwettbewerb (university challenge) and supported by the chair for contemporary history at the university of Jena.
We are looking forward to your feedback, ideas and opinions and especially to your interpretations of the sources!