The commission is one of the most successful projects in the context of the bilateral textbook work that is at the heart of the Georg Eckert Institute's remit. When the commission was founded in 1972 on the initiative of the German and Polish Commissions for UNESCO, its members sought to pursue the principal objective of exploring possible prejudices, stereotypes and misrepresentations of facts in the history and geography textbooks used in both countries, and to advocate for objective representations of the often conflict-laden history of relations between the two countries. The fact that the commission’s work began in the Cold War era meant that it was constantly overshadowed by the political conditions of the time; in the early years, this compelled both sides to adopt a pragmatic approach when, for example, dealing with representations in textbooks of the expulsion of Germans from Poland in the wake of the Second World War. Throughout, it was of the utmost importance that members of the commission consistently approached discussion of these delicate matters on an equal footing.
The Poland and Germany of today no longer belong to different blocs in a Europe divided along ideological lines, but rather live side by side as neighbours in Europe. The commission therefore no longer deals primarily with problems pertaining to past relations between the two countries, but instead devotes itself to investigating ways in which history and geography can contribute towards overcoming challenges which both countries will have to face in the future.
The most recent project run by the joint German-Polish Textbook Commission reflects the ongoing development of its area of activity. In January 2008, the foreign ministers of Poland and Germany requested the commission to devise an outline of a Polish-German history textbook which could be used in the lessons given in the state schools of both countries. The GEI, represented by its director Professor Simone Lässig, is in charge of coordinating the project. A publisher for the textbook is on board in both Poland and Germany. In May 2012, just in time for the fortieth anniversary of the commission's inception, recommendations on the content and form of the textbook, drawn up by German and Polish academics, were published in the book series ‘Eckert. Expertise’.