Germany and Poland intensify youth exchange

Foreign Minister Heiko Maas talking to young Germans and Poles in Warsaw

Foreign Minister Heiko Maas talking to young Germans and Poles in Warsaw, © Xander Heinl/photothek.net

04.09.2019 - Article

During her visit to Poland for the events to commemorate the 80th anniversary of the outbreak of the Second World War, Minister of State Müntefering is promoting projects with young people designed to encourage examination of the past.

The focus of the past weekend was the commemoration of Germany’s invasion of Poland on 1 September, marking the start of the Second World War. Minister of State Michelle Müntefering joined President Steinmeier and Chancellor Merkel at the commemorations in Warsaw. Afterwards she met Undersecretary of State Magdalena Gawin from the Polish Ministry of Culture to discuss joint steps to promote key projects with young people from both countries.

In this connection, Michelle Müntefering said:

When it comes to examining our common past and drawing from it a responsibility for the future, young people have a crucial role to play. That is why we have agreed to intensify exchange and interaction among young people.

Minister of State Müntefering and Undersecretary of State Gawin
Minister of State Müntefering and Undersecretary of State Gawin© Auswärtiges Amt

Learning together from the past for the future

A new development is the school exchange project “menschen gedenken” (remembering people – people remember), in which schoolchildren from Germany and Poland jointly investigate the fates of individual victims of German war crimes in Poland and victims of the Shoah and present their findings. The current pilot project involves pupils from Neustrelitz and Szczecin, and from Datteln and Opoczno. Thirty of these pupils spoke with Foreign Minister Maas in Warsaw on 1 August, when he visited Poland to mark the 75th anniversary of the Warsaw Uprising. “menschen gedenken” is part of the “Young people remember” programme, through which the Federal Government aims to enable more young people to get to grips with the past and provide greater support for commemorative institutions. The German-Polish Youth Office and the International Youth Meeting Centres in Auschwitz and Krzyżowa also bring together many young people to learn from the past and from one another for the future.

Commemoration in Berlin

With regard to the debate on a memorial site in Berlin for the victims of war and occupation in Poland, Michelle Müntefering explained that the important thing was to preserve the memory of the cruelty and complexity of this past for the next generation. “We support this initiative, which is now being debated in the German Bundestag. Another important aspect is the work of teaching and raising awareness, the sharing of knowledge of Germany’s history and responsibility.”

Michelle Müntefering and Magdalena Gawin paid a joint visit to the Pilecki Institute in Warsaw, a research institution in the capital focusing on documenting and remembering the experiences of Polish citizens in the 20th century. The Institute will open an office in Berlin in Sept


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