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Unsere Geschichte/Nasza historia: a first German-Polish history textbook

22.06.2016 - Article

The first joint German-Polish history textbook was presented to the public by Steinmeier and his counterpart Waszczykowski at the Robert Jungk Secondary School in Berlin.

Foreign Minister Steinmeier and his Polish counterpart Witold Waszczykowski presented the first joint German-Polish history textbook to the public at the Robert Jungk Secondary School in Berlin on Wednesday (22 June) on the sidelines of the German-Polish intergovernmental consultations. Dietmar Woidke, Minister-President of Brandenburg and Coordinator of German-Polish Cooperation, also attended the event.

A long shared history

Foreign Ministers Steinmeier and Waszczykowski present the joint history textbook together with pupils from Germany and Poland
Foreign Ministers Steinmeier and Waszczykowski present the joint history textbook together with pupils from Germany and Poland© Gottschalk/Photothek

Way back, over a thousand years ago, there was “an early indication of what German-Polish relations could be like.” Back then, Holy Roman Emperor Otto III travelled to Gniezno, roughly 50km from Poznań, where he was received by Duke Bolesław of Poland. “Recognising him as his peer, Otto placed his own imperial crown on Bolesław’s head as a mark of friendship. And Bolesław recognised in him a fellow human being and perhaps even a friend.” Foreign Minister Steinmeier made the most of this anecdote at the presentation of the joint German-Polish history textbook at the Robert Jungk School in Berlin, referring to it as “a particularly heartening episode” from our German-Polish past.

This joint past has now been encapsulated in a school textbook. Encouraged by the Foreign Ministers of Germany and Poland, the German-Polish Textbook Commission began in 2008 to work through the countries’ shared past for the benefit of schools in Germany and Poland. The aim of the project is to produce a series of textbooks in German and Polish which can be used in history lessons in secondary schools in both countries. The first volume is now ready, and is to be part of the curricula in both countries from the coming school year.

The textbook “Unsere Geschichte/Nasza historia”

“A wonderful book has been produced,” Steinmeier said, “a book that makes you more sensitive to the dreams, and the traumas, that our neighbours entertain in connection with our shared history.” The book is entitled “Unsere Geschichte/Nasza historia” (Our History), and is intended to help pupils develop a common German-Polish take on the past. This should be easy at the Robert Jungk School in Berlin. The school is a German-Polish Europe School, where various subjects are taught in Polish.

25 years of good-neighbourliness: “A reason to give thanks”

But this harmony is not such a matter of course everywhere. On the contrary, considering “everything that the Germans did to the Poles in the 20th century”, we should be immensely grateful that Germany and Poland have now been “good neighbours” in Europe for 25 years. Steinmeier also mentioned the crumbling cohesion in Europe today as a further reason to celebrate not just the publication of the joint textbook, but also the 25th anniversary of the German-Polish Treaty on Good-Neighbourliness.

Steinmeier welcomes his Polish counterpart Witold Waszczykowski at the Robert Jungk School in Berlin
Steinmeier welcomes his Polish counterpart Witold Waszczykowski at the Robert Jungk School in Berlin© Gottschalk/Photothek

The school pupils – some of whom came from Poland for the event – were also glad to see the new joint textbook. Numerous German-Polish issues are already on the syllabus, and they thought it was a good idea to bring together different perspectives on the past. This cooperation is not however solely focused on the past. It also encompasses the present – the pupils were united in their enthusiasm for the successes of Lukas Podolski and Robert Lewandowski in their respective national teams.

After the book presentation, the two Ministers drove to the Federal Chancellery to take part in the German-Polish intergovernmental consultations.

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Speech by Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier at the presentation of the German-Polish history textbook

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