German-Polish Joint History Textbook ‘Europa – unsere Geschichte’ (Europe – Our History)

Europa – Unsere Geschichte (Europe – Our History) is a series of textbooks created jointly by representatives from Germany and Poland. It continues the decades-long dialogue between historians, geographers and experts in history education from both countries, especially within the framework of the joint German-Polish Textbook Commission. The new textbook series, which is intended for regular use in history classrooms at the lower secondary level (Sekundarstufe I) in Germany and for years 5-8 of Polish primary schools, will extend to four volumes. The first of these: Von der Ur- und Frühgeschichte bis zum Mittelalter (From Prehistoric and Ancient History to the Middle Ages) was released in June 2016 in German and Polish versions with identical content and design. Volume 2, Neuzeit bis 1815 (From the Modern Era to 1815) was published in September 2017, and volume 3, Vom Wiener Kongress bis zum Ersten Weltkrieg(From the Congress of Vienna to World War I) in June 2019. Volume 4 20. Jahrhundert bis zur Gegenwart (From the Twentieth Century to the Present Day) will be available in both languages from July 2020. The series has been developed by the project group and the publishing houses Eduversum (Germany) and Wydawnictwa Szkolne i Pedagogiczne (WSiP, Poland). 

Goals

The joint history textbook aims to introduce new and modern ways for students in Poland and Germany to understand history; to foster their ability to engage problem-oriented historical thinking; and to actively address the role of history in shaping identity.

At its core is European and world history seen through German-Polish perspectives. The textbook thereby provides a new lens with which to view Europe: It aims to disrupt the enduring focus on the founding states of the European Union and expand the historical consciousness of German youth towards the East – and Polish youth towards the West. Going beyond widespread nation-centric interpretations, the textbook leads readers to discover European and world history anew, to evaluate that history differently and to perceive it in a more nuanced way. The textbook highlights the multifarious nature of Europe itself and the plurality of European memory cultures. Taking an age-appropriate approach, it helps students hone their understanding of how history is written and how historical memory is constructed.

Students gain competence in dealing with historical material and are encouraged to shift their perspectives. Based on deep knowledge of the respective other, as well as Germany and Poland’s shared and divided history, the textbook promotes mutual understanding and empathy.

History

In autumn 2006, former Federal Foreign Secretary Frank-Walter Steinmeier first proposed a German-Polish history textbook. In January 2008, the foreign secretaries of Germany and Poland acted on the idea and authorised a joint German-Polish Textbook Commission to develop a concept for the book.

The project officially began in May of the same year. A German-Polish project group was created with academic and political stakeholders from both countries. On 1 December 2010 the project group presented its recommendations for the development of a joint textbook to leading German and Polish political representatives in Warsaw. These included proposals for the concept and design of the textbook series put forward by the project’s panel of experts. The panel’s recommendations incorporate a pedagogic framework and define five separate epochs reaching from the ancient world to the beginning of the twenty-first century. They also address central issues of European and global history from a German-Polish perspective.

Since 2012 the project group has been working with a German-Polish publishing partnership, Eduversum and Wydawnictwa Szkolne i Pedagogiczne (WSiP), to develop a textbook based on the above recommendations. In summer 2016, the then foreign ministers of Germany and Poland, Frank-Walter Steinmeier and Witold Waszczykowski, presented the first volume to the public, titled Europa - Unsere Geschichte / Europa. Nasza historia (Europe: Our History). In autumn 2017, the ministers of education of the state of Brandenburg and Poland, Britta Ernst and Anna Zalewska, presented the second volume to the public. Volume 3 was launched in autumn 2019 by Britta Ernst and the undersecretary of state for education in the Republic of Poland, Iwona Michałek. Volume 4, the final book in the series, is set to be launched at the end of 2020.  The publication of each volume is accompanied by targeted teacher training sessions, workshops and briefings.

Organisation

The project has a bi-national panel of experts, in addition to a German-Polish steering committee. This panel provides academic support for the workflow and publication processes. Chairing the panel are Prof. Michael G. Müller (Halle) and Prof. Robert Traba (Berlin/Warsaw). On the German side, Prof. Eckhardt Fuchs, director of the Georg Eckert Institute, is responsible for academic coordination, a role filled on the Polish side by Prof. Igor Kąkolewski (Berlin/Warsaw). The panel also includes the members of the presidium of the joint German-Polish Textbook Commission.

In the steering committee, the minister of education for the state of Brandenburg, Britta Ernst, represents the German side, while the deputy education minister, Marzenna Drab, is the official Polish representative. The project is funded equally by both governments, with additional support on the German side from the Standing Conference of the Ministers of Education and Cultural Affairs.

Significance

The project is of great significance to Polish-German relations in the arena of educational and research policy. Both sides are demonstrating their desire to include the historical experience of the neighbouring country in their schools’ portrayal of history and to expand the academic debate surrounding historical themes.

Role of the Georg Eckert Institute and the Joint Textbook Commission

The joint history book project has benefited a great deal from the experiences of the joint German-Polish Textbook Commission. The decision to develop a textbook was based, in part, on a feasibility study initiated by the commission and carried out by the Georg Eckert Institute. This study analysed the curricula of Poland and each of the sixteen German federal states for the school levels seen as the target group. Representatives of the textbook commission play a significant role on the project’s panel of experts. The German project office is located at the Georg Eckert Institute.

Publications

  • Europa – Unsere Geschichte. Band 1: Von der Ur- und Frühgeschichte bis zum Mittelalter. Herausgegeben von der Gemeinsamen Deutsch-Polnischen Schulbuchkommission in Zusammenarbeit mit dem Georg-Eckert-Institut – Leibniz-Institut für internationale Schulbuchforschung Braunschweig und dem Zentrum für historische Forschung Berlin der Polnischen Akademie der Wissenschaften. Wiesbaden: Eduversum 2016.
  • Europa. Nasza historia. Kl. 5 szkoła podstawowa, podręcznik: Od prahistorii do średniowiecza. Pod redakcją merytoryczną Wspólnej Polsko-Niemieckiej Komisji Podręcznikowej Historyków i Geografów, w kooperacji z Centrum Badań Historycznych Polskiej Akademii Nauk w Berlinie oraz Instytutem Międzynarodowych Badań Podręcznikowych im. Georga Eckerta w Brunszwiku (Członek Stowarzyszenia Leibniza). Warszawa: WSiP 2020.
  • Europa – Unsere Geschichte. Band 2: Neuzeit bis 1815. Herausgegeben von der Gemeinsamen Deutsch-Polnischen Schulbuchkommission in Zusammenarbeit mit dem Georg-Eckert-Institut – Leibniz-Institut für internationale Schulbuchforschung Braunschweig und dem Zentrum für Historische Forschung Berlin der Polnischen Akademie der Wissenschaften. Wiesbaden: Eduversum 2017.
  • Europa. Nasza historia. Kl. 6 szkoła podstawowa,, podręcznik: Czasy nowożytne (do 1815 roku). Pod redakcją merytoryczną Wspólnej Polsko-Niemieckiej Komisji Podręcznikowej Historyków i Geografów, w kooperacji z Centrum Badań Historycznych Polskiej Akademii Nauk w Berlinie oraz Instytutem Międzynarodowych Badań Podręcznikowych im. Georga Eckerta w Brunszwiku (Członek Stowarzyszenia Leibniza). Warszawa: WSiP 2017.
  • Europa – Unsere Geschichte. Band 3Vom Wiener Kongress bis zum Ersten Weltkrieg. Herausgegeben von der Gemeinsamen Deutsch-Polnischen Schulbuchkommission in Zusammenarbeit mit dem Georg-Eckert-Institut – Leibniz-Institut für internationale Schulbuchforschung und dem Zentrum für Historische Forschung Berlin der Polnischen Akademie der Wissenschaften. Wiesbaden: Eduversum 2019.
  • Europa. Nasza historia. Kl. 7 część 1 szkoła podstawowa, podręcznik: Od kongresu wiedeńskiego do I wojny światowej. Pod redakcją merytoryczną Wspólnej Polsko-Niemieckiej Komisji Podręcznikowej Historyków i Geografów, w kooperacji z Centrum Badań Historycznych Polskiej Akademii Nauk w Berlinie oraz Instytutem Międzynarodowych Badań Podręcznikowych im. Georga Eckerta w Brunszwiku (Członek Stowarzyszenia Leibniza). Warszawa: WSiP 2019.
  • Europa – Unsere Geschichte. Band 4: 20. Jahrhundert bis zur Gegenwart. Herausgegeben von der Gemeinsamen Deutsch-Polnischen Schulbuchkommission in Zusammenarbeit mit dem Georg-Eckert-Institut – Leibniz-Institut für internationale Schulbuchforschung und dem Zentrum für Historische Forschung der Polnischen Akademie der Wissenschaften. Wiesbaden: Eduversum 2020.
  • Europa. Nasza historia. Kl. 7 część 2 szkoła podstawowa, podręcznik: Dwudziestolecie międzywojenne 1919-1939. Pod redakcją merytoryczną Wspólnej Polsko-Niemieckiej Komisji Podręcznikowej Historyków i Geografów, w kooperacji z Centrum Badań Historycznych Polskiej Akademii Nauk w Berlinie oraz Instytutem Międzynarodowych Badań Podręcznikowych im. Georga Eckerta w Brunszwiku (Członek Stowarzyszenia Leibniza). Warszawa: WSiP 2020.
  • Europa. Nasza historia. Kl. 8 szkoła podstawowa, podręcznik: Od wybuchu II wojny światowej do czasów współczesnych. Pod redakcją merytoryczną Wspólnej Polsko-Niemieckiej Komisji Podręcznikowej Historyków i Geografów, w kooperacji z Centrum Badań Historycznych Polskiej Akademii Nauk w Berlinie oraz Instytutem Międzynarodowych Badań Podręcznikowych im. Georga Eckerta w Brunszwiku (Członek Stowarzyszenia Leibniza). Warszawa: WSiP 2020.