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On 15 August 1961 the nineteen-year-old East German border policeman Conrad Schumann leaped over a barbed-wire barrier into the West section of Berlin. This moment was captured by the photographer Peter Leibing. According to Time magazine, the photo of the fleeing policeman is an icon of the 20th century and counts among the 100 photographs that have changed the world. Like no other photo it stands for the division of Germany and the history of Berlin. Today it is part of UNESCO’s Memory of the World Programme.

From 14 January to 5 April 2021 the 360° Virtual Reality Installation “THE LEAP – 1961” carries visitors of the Deutsches Historisches Museum from reunified Berlin back to the year 1961. By means of a VR headset they will experience how the policeman Conrad Schumann took the leap at the intersection of Ruppiner Strasse/Bernauer Strasse into the West part of Berlin and how at exactly this moment the photo was taken that has gone down in world history.

Almost 60 years after the Berlin Wall went up, film director Boris Hars-Tschachotin tells the story of the genesis of the iconic shot from three different filmic perspectives: that of Conrad Schumann fleeing in his National People’s Army uniform, that of the photographer Peter Leibing, and that of the West Berlin policeman Manfred Klumm. With this immersive art installation, the Deutsches Historisches Museum employs virtual reality technology for the first time in order to capture the experience of the historic moment and the stories behind it.

The 360° full-colour room captures the historic moment of the leap multi-perspectively and transcends the bounds of the original iconic black-and-white photo for the first time. The public thus experiences the events directly from these subjective viewpoints – on the one hand from the West Berlin side, on the other from the East. Thanks to VR technology, museum guests will be transported virtually into the positions of the three protagonists at the time and will participate in the historic moment in five-minute fictionalized sequences from their subjective viewpoints.

With a combination of scenes shot at the film set, visual effects, and exactly replicated, computer-generated images, the installation artist Boris Hars-Tschachotin brings the photograph back to life in 3-D. Participating in the shoot are seven actors, including Max von der Groeben (“Fack ju Göhte”, “Bibi & Tina”) as Peter Leibing, Anton von Lucke (“Babylon Berlin”, “Bad Banks”) as Conrad Schumann, and Daniel Axt (“SOKO”, “Notruf Hafenkante”) as Manfred Klumm, as well as 41 extras.

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