Educational Myths About the GDR (MythErz)

The BBF | Research Library for the History of Education is participating with two sub-projects, a research project and an infrastructure project, in the joint project "Educational myths about the GDR - a dictatorship and its afterlife (MythErz)" funded by the Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF).

Project Description

The interdisciplinary project "MythErz" of the BBF, the Humboldt-University of Berlin, the University of Hildesheim and the University of Rostock, which is funded within the framework of the BMBF research networks on GDR history, deals with the myths about education in the GDR. In various subprojects of the partners, an extensive collection of previously untapped image, text, sound and film sources is used to analyze emotionally powerful mental images and narratives about education, upbringing and school in the GDR, which outlasted the dictatorship. These images and narratives are analyzed in relation to the often positive assessments of the GDR's education system, which were expressed soon after reunification and which have intensified over the years. These include, for example, ideas about socially unrestricted access to education, a better education (more systematic, especially in the natural sciences), and an equal gender relationship that was also established through education. These assessments become myths when they become an identity-forming component of a collective memory. Through source-critical and contextualizing interpretation and contrast, practices of producing narratives and images in educational and teaching situations are to be revealed and their coagulation into effective, lasting "educational myths" investigated. The findings gained in this way and the data and sources newly developed and used in the collaborative project will then be made digitally and sustainably accessible to the general public on an online platform for research, teaching and instruction, which will be managed by the BBF. This includes interactive formats such as virtual exhibitions or special thematic source collections, enriched with didactic concepts.

BBF Subproject "Indoctrinating Lessons - Images of Specialized Classes in GDR Film Recordings"

The first subproject of the BBF deals with the cinematic recordings of the GDR specialized classes. Since the early 1970s, lessons in the GDR have been recorded by the Humboldt-University of Berlin, the Academy of Pedagogical Sciences in the GDR (APW) and the Pädagogischen Hochschulen (i.e. teacher's college) Potsdam und Dresden. The recordings were primarily intended for teacher training and further education. More than 200 of these recordings have survived to this day.

Against the background of memories of school teaching in the GDR, which were disseminated after 1989 and sometimes condensed into myths (e.g. in pedagogical journals), the aim of the project is to use source-critical methods of (serial) videographic analysis and videological interpretation to expand and deepen historical knowledge about school teaching in the GDR.

Among the narratives often reproduced and, in the sense of Roland Barthes, coagulated into "Mythologies" (Englisch translation, 1957) are - among others - those of very well structured natural sciences lessons in the GDR, of a larger 'subject-methodological' system of disciplined teaching or of a lack of communicative orientation in Russian lessons. The study examines the recordings of specialist lessons primarily in physics and chemistry as well as in German and foreign language teaching. In this way, the results of the project can provide insights into ideas of good teaching in the GDR, into the relationship between teaching and social development in the GDR in the context of the East-West conflict, and into the mythical continuation of stories about teaching in the GDR.

BBF Subproject "MythErz - Infrastructure Services, Transfer of Results and Exploitation"

In the second subproject, a comprehensive collection of sources will be developed and made available for evaluation in the subprojects. These include digitized pedagogical lectures, illustrations from textbooks and archive materials from the Archive of the Academy of Pedagogical Sciences of the GDR (APW). In addition, the BBF advises and supports the project partners in data management and in questions of copyright and personal protection law.

On the other hand, from the end of 2020 on, the BBF will make the results of the various collaborative projects available to researchers at universities, colleges and non-university institutions as well as schools, for political education and for the genereal public on an online portal. The portal will be divided into various sections: Under the heading "Knowledge", virtual collections with questions and materials on various topics will be made available. In addition, materials are to be bundled in the form of "virtual exhibitions" and access to GDR educational history offered via interactive formats, which are suitable for teaching in the various types of schools and age groups. In addition, under the heading "Sources", collections of sources will be made available in the appropriate form - taking into account personal protection rights and copyrights.

All these Open Access services are aimed at enabling users to engage in independent activities and discoveries while at the same time reflecting on myths and dealing with them in a historically conscious manner - neither euphemistically nor demonizingly.


The project is funded by the Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) within the framework "Forschungsverbünde zur DDR-Geschichte" (i.e. "Research Networks on GDR History").


Project Management

Prof. Dr. Sabine Reh

Project Team

Project Details

Current project
Area of Focus Transfer and Transfer Research
Department: BBF | Research Library for the History of Education
06/2019 – 02/2023
External funding
Contact: Dr. Stefan Cramme, Head of Unit