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Show Trials and the Cold War in East Central Europe, 1948-1956

Political trials that took place after the Second World War in the Eastern European democracies against opposition members and communists are rightly regarded as highlights of Stalinist terror. They shed light on attempts at repression and integration in the socialist camp and thus in a central conflict zone of the Cold War. Using case studies, the project examines the communicative efforts undertaken by the political leadership to address and integrate the largest possible sections of the population. Show trials will be examined in terms of their staging and medialization.
As part of the teaching (winter term 2014/15 and summer term 2015), an online exhibition has been created with financial support from the HHU Teaching Fund. Under the title Show Trials - Staging and Medialization of Political Justice in Eastern Europe, numerous multimedia exponents on ten trials from four Eastern European countries are presented. In May 2022, an international conference was held at HHU, which also dealt with the staging and medialization of trials. A conference volume is in preparation.

Online Exhibition: Show Trials - Staging and Medialization of political Justice in Eastern Europe

Students of history at Heinrich Heine University Düsseldorf have jointly developed an online exhibition on show trials in Eastern Europe. Under the title Staging and Medialization of Political Justice in Eastern Europe, numerous multimedia exponats on ten trials from four Eastern European states are presented.

Stalinist show trials have become the subject of very different academic disciplines. For a long time, decisive impulses came from research on victims, later perpetrators, and with a view to the political prehistory. The exhibition aims to look at this phenomenon from a different angle: It assumes that show trials are less legal proceedings than media events. This brings both the courtroom as a place of staging and the (mass media) communication of the trials into focus.
In this respect, it is about the “show” in show trials: Based on case studies, the online exhibition presents aspects of the staging and medialization of this form of political justice. On display are images, caricatures, newspaper articles, audio and video sequences as well as excerpts from the trial transcripts and other publications on ten trials from four countries: from the Soviet Union in the 1920s and 30s and from three states of the socialist camp - Hungary, Czechoslovakia and the GDR - in the early phase of the Cold War. This country reference was supplemented by a cross-sectional area entitled “Western Reception”.

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