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Grimme Online Award for “Eigensinn im Bruderland”

Press release | 29 June 2020 | sn

TU Berlin’s Center for Research on Antisemitism has been awarded the Grimme Online Award for its web documentary “Eigensinn im Bruderland”. The prize is for high-quality online works. The web documentary reports on migrants who came to the GDR as contract workers, students or political emigrants and who succeeded in pursuing their own ideas. People from Ethiopia, Chile, Mozambique, Turkey and Vietnam discuss their experiences and the struggles they faced. The documentary uses interviews with first-hand witnesses as well as animated illustrations to provide insights into the lives of migrants in the GDR. Files maintained by GDR authorities and introductory texts explain the political background behind migration to the GDR.

Between 1951 and 1989, approximately 70,000 young people from more than 125 countries arrived in the GDR to study, with around half coming from “friendly nations” such as Vietnam, Mozambique, Cuba or Chile. As a rule, they did not have to pay any tuition fees and were given a place in a student dorm, with many also receiving a scholarship. These former students explain at how they took advantage of their opportunities – not always in the interests of their governments.

At the end of 1989, there were some 190,000 migrants living in the GDR, almost 60,000 of them from Vietnam.

The largest group of migrants was formed by foreign workers. Bi-lateral agreements promised them training programs leading to qualifications, but for the GDR they represented an urgently needed workforce. The other major migrant groups were students and people escaping political persecution.

“Officially, the GDR presented itself as an open society keen to stress international solidarity. Yet today we see so much casual racism and the emergence of racist parties in the geographical area that was the GDR. So, we are interested in finding out how migrants in the GDR managed to make their way,” explains former research associate at the ZfA Dr. Isabel Enzenbach, who compiled the documentary together with Julia Oelkers of “out of focus medienprojekte”.

Further information

“Eigensinn im Bruderland” web documentary


Dr. Isabel Enzenbach
TU Berlin
Fellow at the Center for Research on Antisemitism
E-Mail: isabel.enzenbach(at)

© Hans Dieter Hentschel