Editors Note: This is an archived blog post from 15/7/2013.
View of the interior of Bautzen II Prison (c) Jürgen Matschle
One of the great things about teaching History at Manchester is seeing the excellent and exciting research that so many of our students are engaged in. The BA dissertation, now a staple of History degrees across the world, was pioneered at Manchester in the beginning of the twentieth-century, and continues to bear fruit.
Such is the case with Marcel Thomas (2012), who has just published an article based on his BA dissertation on how east Germans engage with the memory of the GDR’s repressive regime that ruled them between 1949 and 1989. The article, “Coming to terms with the Stasi: History and Memory in the Bautzen Memorial” has just been published online by the European Review of History and will appear in print by December.
The article is adapted from Marcel’s BA dissertation, for which he conducted a number of interviews with people connected to the Bautzen prison, the GDR’s ‘celebrity’ prison, where high-profile political dissidents or those accused of spying for the west were detained, and often tortured. The prison is now a visitable memorial to the history of repression. Drawing on interviews with former prisoners and current visitors, Marcel explores how personal memories engage and often find themselves in conflict with official public memory, and the role of memorial sites such as Bautzen prison in provoking personal reassessments and engagements with the past.
Marcel is currently completing an MA in History at the University of Bristol under the supervision of Dr. Josie McLellan, an expert on the social history of eastern European communism. His current research continues to use oral history to explore the ways in which villagers in East Germany remember socialism and make sense of the dictatorship they lived in through a local perspective. He has secured funding for a PhD at Bristol, where he hopes to build on his MA dissertation to undertake a comparison of everyday life and social change on both sides of the Iron Curtain.