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Foreign Ministers Present
Polish-German History Textbook

(June 23, 2016) In Berlin on Wednesday, Witold Waszczykowski and Frank-Walter Steinmeier, the foreign ministers of Poland and Germany, presented a history textbook jointly prepared by historians from the two countries. The launch of the book was part of the Polish-German intergovernmental consultations. 

“Seventy-one years after the end of the second world war, which, it seemed then, would irrevocably divide our societies for generations, we can now present the result of a unique joint project: the Polish-German history textbook,” Mr Waszczykowski said at a ceremony to present the publication at the Robert Jungk School in Berlin.

“The book takes a practical form because from now on, Polish and German pupils will be able to learn Europe’s common history as seen from the same perspective. That will allow them to better understand their neighbours’ historical sensitivities, facilitate dialogue, help do away with stereotypes and teach greater tolerance,” said the chief of Polish diplomacy.

According to him, the launch of the book also carries a symbolic meaning as it coincides with this year’s celebrations of the 25th anniversary of the Treaty on Good Neighbourship and Friendly Cooperation.

“This publication shows how quickly our joint effort has brought about normalisation in bilateral relations. It also reflects the two countries’ maturity, openness and willingness to talk about all issues, even the most difficult and sensitive ones,” Mr Waszczykowski said.

“The effort has paid off. It’s an excellent book that sensitises the reader to the dreams and traumas shared by Poles and Germans; it will help us develop a common German-Polish look at history: its dark side, which left its mark even on our times, too, but also on the bright side of our common history,” Mr Steinmeier said.

As the German politician pointed out, given “what the Germans did to the Poles in the 20th century” good neighbourly relations “cannot be taken for granted.” He added that he was grateful to the Polish partners for the fact that the representatives of both countries “will sit at one table” despite such contentious issues as the problem of immigrants.

In his address, Mr Steinmeier thanked for the “brave struggle of the Polish shipyard workers in Gdansk, for the Polish readiness to trust the Germans,” and for the countless people-to-people contacts “no matter who is currently in power in Warsaw and Berlin.”

Referring to the 25th anniversary of the Treaty on Good Neighbourship and Friendly Cooperation, Mr Steinmeier said that “Poles and Germans have become what Willy Brandt (FRG chancellor in 1969-74 – PAP) dreamt of: good neighbours.”

“At first, there were many sceptics. But we managed not only to reconcile the Polish and German points of view, but also to create a common European narrative. For the first time, young Poles and Germans will receive the same body of knowledge about the past,” said Robert Traba, director of the Historical Research Centre of the Polish Academy of Sciences in Berlin.

“We will be able to argue about interpretations, but they will be based on sound knowledge. That’s important, because it’s the lack of knowledge and sensitivity to the other that engenders misunderstanding and conflict,” said Mr Traba.

Entitled Europe. Our History, the textbook covers the period from prehistory to the late Middle Ages. It is intended for students of lower secondary schools and grade one of upper secondary schools. While it could be used already from the start of the new school year, it will probably be introduced some time later. Three additional volumes are to come out by 2018, covering the period until the political watershed of 1989-90.

In autumn 2006, Mr Steinmeier approached the Polish authorities with a proposal to draft a common textbook, on the model of a similar German-French initiative. In January 2008, Warsaw and Berlin entrusted a Joint Polish-German Textbook Commission with preparing the concept, which the two sides began implementing in May 2008.

Source: PAP