The Joint German-Polish Textbook Commission
The Joint German-Polish Textbook Commission was founded in 1972 under the auspices of the German and Polish UNESCO commissions. It was the principle platform for cooperation between historians and geographers in the two countries until 1990. Circumstances have since changed and today there is a wide range of forums in which German and Polish academics can meet and collaborate, the Commission remains, however, a central and strong network, supported by trust and cooperative partnerships built up over many years, and is a cornerstone of international textbook research. Its influence extends beyond the German-Polish relationship to include extensive contacts with academics across Europe and East Asia.
Link to the Commission.
The Commission’s objective is to facilitate a meaningful and professional dialogue about textbooks. Through its expertise and regular academic and didactic analysis of German and Polish teaching materials, the Commission works to ensure the two neighbours fairly and appropriately represent each other in their respective schools.
The Commission undertakes joint reviews of German and Polish curricula for history and geography which ensure that, despite the differing perspectives, an academically correct and pedagogically responsible portrayal of the mutual relationship can be achieved and/or maintained. To this end its executive committee meets annually and it holds conferences for experts. It also awards the Maria Wawrykowa Prize for long-term involvement in the dialogue related to German and Polish textbooks and particularly for spreading the Commission’s message within schools. Through these different formats the Commission also addresses issues related to the implementation of its own didactic products and recommendations in textbooks, curricula and in the classroom.
The reputation of the of the German-Polish Textbook Commission was built on its success in revising textbooks and curricula across political borders and despite the associated differences in memory politics. It was cemented by the development of a four-volume, joint German-Polish history textbook series titled ‘Europe, Our History’ on which it worked closely from 2009 to 2020. The publication of the textbooks was the culmination of a complete production cycle of bilateral textbook work, from dialogue to source material collections. Each volume of the joint textbook is available in either German or Polish but the books are otherwise identical in terms of content and design and can be used in history lessons in Germany and Poland. Volume 1 (From prehistory and ancient times to the Middle Ages) was published in June 2016 and Volume 2 (The modern period to 1815) followed in September 2017. Volume 3 (From the Congress of Vienna to World War 1) was published in 2019 and the final book, Volume 4 (Twentieth century to the present) appeared in June 2020. This bilateral textbook has enabled the German-Polish Textbook Commission to set didactic and academic standards for transnational or European oriented history teaching.
> The Europe. Our History website.
In 2018 the Commission launched a German-Polish working group for teachers, which reflected the Commission’s desire to closely consult with experts from education practice in the implementation of the joint school history book. It also addressed the request from teaching staff in both countries to be able to contribute their expertise to the development of teaching materials. Associated training seminars for teachers and authors take place several times a year. In 2020 four representatives of the working group were co-opted to the executive committee. The working group represents a new instrument that optimises the synergy between academia and teaching practice. The content developed by the Commission can be more effectively communicated to educators in both countries and they, in turn, bring ideas and experience from teaching practice to the work of the Commission.
The website of the working group for teachers (in German and Polish).
In July 2017 the German-Polish Textbook Commission was awarded the Viadrina Award by the European University Viadrina in Frankfurt (Oder).