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Latest YouTube Documentary Spreading Awareness About the Berlin Wall

A newly released documentary utilises virtual reality (VR) to take individuals back to the time when their ancestors witnessed the Berlin Wall

The documentary project is part of YouTube’s programming venture, YouTube Originals. The Virtually History documentary is being presented by Emma Daibri, a historian who has approved of the virtual reality elements. According to her, the idea of being immersed in a separate period is exciting. Daibri feels that many historical events can fascinate young people if packaged interestingly, and considers the VR initiative as a novel initiative to raise the interest of audiences.

The documentary is set to correspond with the 30th anniversary of the Berlin Wall’s fall and features many guests including Anton Von Keussler. Anton’s grandfather Klaus Von Keussler had helped fugitives escape and had a part to play in digging the tunnel under the wall. Others with similar personal connections to the Berlin Wall are also joining Anton in addition to several content creators. The participants can go back and witness how dangerous it was to live in the divided Germany of the past.

YouTubers Hannah Witton, Riyadh K and Rezo experienced Berlin’s death strip via VR (Photo: YouTube)

Anton is seen barely passing through a small space built by his grandfather, Franzi Rosin, whose grandmother is present in a historical photograph showing her family’s escape from East Berlin, visited the same streets and saw how those looked at during that period. Rosin remarked that exploring her family’s past was unusual but interesting. She revealed that the featured photograph was shown to her by her grandmother, who was quite proud of it. Rosin said that VR let her explore the photo in greater depth, to gain even more knowledge about it.

Virtually History is a novel way of exhibiting history documentaries. Joff Wilson, its director, is hopeful that it will bring new audiences to the VR medium. Wilson remarked that the bulk of YouTube’s audience was not alive during the Berlin Wall incident. He believes that the moments highlighted through the documentary bring the event to life. As Anton got into the tunnel he became aware of how cramped it had been.

The VR experience is not just for the participants who revisited their ancestors’ links with the Berlin Wall. Viewers will also be able to take a tour on the Berlin streets by themselves, by watching a set of videos that would accompany the YouTube documentary. Whilst these videos do not need any devices to view, a VR headset will give users a vivid virtual experience.

The documentary makers wanted to give viewers a closer look into the virtually designed Berlin city. They approached YouTubers Riyadh K and Hannah Witton to investigate how dangerous the city’s ‘death strip’ area was. This section between the walls was heavily guarded, lit with bright floodlights, and had watchtower snipers. The YouTubers were also not chosen randomly. Hannah’s German grandmother was alive during the Wall’s fall, and Riyadh’s father escaped Iraq during Saddam’s regime.


The VR documentary being presented by a massive platform like YouTube is a positive step towards better history learning.


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