Bibliographic data

Kremb, Klaus: Geschichte und Geschehen. Stuttgart; Leipzig: Ernst Klett Verlag, 2009, 236–237.

Experiential Spaces and Internal Borders: Germany, France and Poland as Neighbours in Europe by Herfordt, Ewa (2018)

This history textbook, first published in 2009 by the educational publisher Klett, was developed for the final years of upper academic secondary school (gymnasiale Oberstufe) in the German state of Rheinland-Pfalz; it was designed to cover the entire curriculum for history at foundation level (Grundkurs) in school years 11 to 13. 1 The piece of authorial text we discuss here presents a chronological account of what it considers the key turning points in Franco-German and Polish-German relations in the course of the twentieth century. The paragraph is to be found in a chapter entitled “Europe: The long road to a ‘European house’” (Europa: Der lange Weg zum ‚Europäischen Haus’), which, proceeding from specific ideas of Europe and their realisation or attempted realisation post-1945, presents students with current and controversial issues for discussion in this context. The issue outlined in the paragraph takes up one page of the textbook and is supplemented with four sources; along with two relevant excerpts from treaties of 1963 and 1991 whose purpose was to provide a regulatory framework for Germany’s relations with France and Poland respectively, the book provides students with two satirical cartoons on the treaties (p. 237). The series of questions for students that follows makes explicit reference to the treaties’ function as “turning points” in the relationships between their signatories.

In his lead-in to the exemplary excerpts from the sources, the author, Klaus Kremb 2 , makes reference to the issue of ethnic boundaries in states that are young in historical terms, such as the ethnic lines of division in the former Yugoslav republic of Macedonia, or, going back a little further, those in states, such as the Kingdom of Belgium, which have been in existence as independent entities since the nineteenth century. In Kremb’s view, the difficulties in these neighbourly relationships are, as a rule, the “result of attempts at political instrumentalisation” (p. 236). The structure of the narrative timeline which follows this text is based on phases of confrontation and cooperation in Germany’s, France’s and Poland’s mutual relations. The author commences his discussion with reference to Germany and France, whose cooperation he deemed in the introduction to the chapter to be a key prerequisite for peace and unity in Europe (p. 225). The passage under discussion here opens with a reference to the view, instrumentalised by the media in the context of wars since the late nineteenth century, of France and Germany as “hereditary enemies” (ennemis héréditaires), a perception the author regards as now obsolete thanks to the work of those historical figures he views as the most important in the process of successive unification in post-war Europe, from Jean Monnet to Alfred Grosser. In Kremb’s view, the French and the Germans can look back on a successful history of “lived cooperation”, initiated by the signing of the Elysée Treaty in 1961, which has now led, among other things, to the establishment of Franco-German youth exchange schemes. The situation, as the book details, is a different one in the context of the “painful” history of the relationship between Germany and its neighbour Poland. Sensitive issues such as Auschwitz are referred to in the book, but not discussed at any length. As an introduction to this topic, the author discusses the “Treaty of Good Neighbourship and Friendly Cooperation” signed between the two countries in 1991, an agreement analogous to the Elysée Treaty. He points to the aim of this agreement being, as in the Franco-German case, the attainment of reconciliation, while emphasising the issues which continued to divide Poland and Germany and which he viewed the two countries as needing, at that point in time, to overcome; he views this process of resolution of these issues as having been promoted, in analogy to the Franco-German experience of reconciliation, by the establishment of the German-Polish Youth Office (Deutsch-Polnisches Jugendwerk) and Poland’s accession to the EU. By contrast to the passage on Franco-German relations, this piece of text does not name specific figures involved in the process of rapprochement; this is a reflection of the fact that in Poland, as in the other states of the former Eastern Bloc, there were no policies of integration between countries comparable to those in existence in western Europe. Instead, the book provides a brief extract from a speech made to the Polish parliament in 2004 by Johannes Rau, then president of Germany, marking Poland’s accession to the EU, which reiterates Germany’s desire to overcome issues and factors which continued to separate the two neighbours, such as the controversial Oder-Neisse line; it is with this extract that the passage we examine here concludes. The curriculum approved in Rheinland-Pfalz at the beginning of the 1998/1999 academic year after a probationary phase of five years calls for students to be familiarised with “Europe as a field of action [Handlungsfeld]”; the extract we discuss here demonstrates how this textbook meets this stipulation. That said, while the extract provides students with access to a depiction of transnational experiential spaces, it does not enable them to explore such spaces further. 3 The author’s very brief inventory of those turning points in Franco-German and Polish-German relations in the twentieth century which he considers the most significant raises the issue of the political instrumentalisation of relationships between one country and another in an “expanded Europe”. The fact that the book deals first with the Franco-German relationship corresponds to the significance of these two states in the process of (western) European integration. The manner in which the book partially intertwines its depictions of the periods of change in the three countries dealt with in the extract represents an attempt to understand Europe not in a merely additive or prospective manner, as a “Project Europe” to be undertaken by EU politicians and involving the propagation of the universalism of a shared set of values 4 , but rather from the perspective of the history of relations among the states of which it consists. We therefore note with some surprise that the extract fails to mention the Franco-Polish-German association Weimar Triangle, which suggests itself most obviously as a “turning point” in this context. 5 Including this form of cooperation between the three countries, as does the other textbook in the Geschichte und Geschehen series to be approved in Rheinland-Pfalz, would have enabled the author to open up to students a transnational experiential space encompassing all three states under discussion here, a space in which both shared elements and divisive factors have their place and which provides a forum for critical reflection on what “difficult relationships between neighbours” currently mean in Europe in practice.6 6 We are currently experiencing sustained transdisciplinary interest among researchers, in fields including, but not limited to, the history of education, in Europe as an active entity which draws its representations and legitimation from a history and culture shared by its constituent states. Europe as an experiential and communicative space becomes more clearly defined through the exploration of the actions and representations of the institutional and political figures and entities of which it consists, of its images of itself, and of the views of it held by others from outside (Kaelble 2002; Budde 2006; François 2007; Joas/Jäger 2008). The highly politically topical question of expansion of the EU to the east is implicitly present in the text of the book; one of the effects of the comprehensive deployment of culture as “symbolic capital” is to open up new arenas of conflict, as the example of the cultural nationalism which is on the rise in some states in eastern Europe indicates (Kaschuba 2008). Textbooks which examine the construction of entities and elements whose purpose is to generate transnational connection need to develop the examples they cite more fully, the diverse range of “shared sites of memory” of Franco-German history is emphatic proof of this (cf. François 2007 and 2008; König 2008). Kremb’s textbook gives less emphasis to the relationship between Germany and Poland than to Franco-German relations. Seen exclusively in terms of the list of influential figures in the process of (western) European integration which takes up a large proportion of the coverage of this topic in the book, this difference in weighting might seem to make sense. That said, if we continue to keep in view the issue of the instrumentalisation of international relationships for political ends, this form of depiction is to be interpreted primarily as a call to overcome the East-West “boundary between civilisations”, which, alongside other “internal boundaries” of a mental or psychological nature, continues to exert an influence in Europe, and manifests, to come full circle, in the very content and structure of this textbook chapter. To overcome this contextual framework based on East-West divisions, do justice to the idea of Europe as a space of action, and thus provide upper secondary school students with a nuanced and comprehensible image of European history, we will need teaching led by a firmly problem-centred inclusion of divergent spatial and temporal experiences. 7


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[1] The Klett publishing house, alongside its competitors Westermann and Cornelsen, is one of the most successful textbook publishers in this German state. Cf. Geyr [2007], pp. 126f.

[2] Dr Klaus Kremb, born in 1950, is a former headteacher of the Wilhelm-Erb-Gymnasium academic secondary school in the town of Winnweiler (Pfalz) and has lectured in politics at the University of Kaiserslautern. He studied history, politics and geography from 1972 to 1976 and gained his doctorate from Technische Universität Darmstadt.

[3] The relevant curriculum is: Lehrplan Gemeinschaftskunde, Grundfach und Leistungsfach – mit Schwerpunkt Geschichte in den Jahrgangsstufen 11 bis 13 der gymnasialen Oberstufe. Ministerium für Bildung, Wissenschaft und Weiterbildung. Rheinland-Pfalz, 1998 (Mainzer Studienstufe). See Stoffverteilungsplan: Geschichte und Geschehen (Klett), Ausgabe 2009 für Rheinland-Pfalz (online: . In the 1990s in the federal state of Brandenburg, a similar approach to the topic was used as a course topic for the final two years of upper secondary education and specifically labelled as the “problem of European history”; cf. the Brandenburg curriculum, Vorläufiger Rahmenlehrplan Geschichte. Gymnasiale Oberstufe. Sek. II. Potsdam 1992. Das Ministerium für Bildung, Sport und Jugend des Landes Brandenburg (this specific issue is to be found under “Framework Topic 4: World issues and conflicts of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries” (Rahmenthema 4: Weltprobleme und -konflikte des 19. und 20. Jahrhunderts).

[4] The terms “Project Europe” and “an expanded Europe” refer to the European Union. Cf. Wagner (2004).

[5] The Weimar Triangle, Committee for the Promotion of French-German-Polish Cooperation: %2Fblog.php.

[6] Cf. Bender, D./Epkenhans, M. u.a. (eds.), Neuzeit: 1789-2005 (Geschichte und Geschehen 2, Schülerband), 1st ed., Leipzig: Klett 2005, pp. 394-396; see particularly p. 397. While Bender devotes separate chapters to the relationship between Germany and France and that between Germany and Poland, without making direct comparisons, interesting points for comparison do arise in the book, due in part to its mention of the trinational cooperation between the three states and in part to the book’s thorough, problem-based treatment of the issues, which places it, at least to a degree, explicitly in the context of “pan-European policy”. The high number of sources the book cites is indicative of the significance it ascribes in practice to the issue of neighbourly relationships in Europe.

[7] Deutschland-Frankreich-Polen. Drei Wege in die europäische Geschichte (2004). Online ressource: . The interviewees in this resource, when they refer to internal boundaries and borders, mean, for instance, the borders separating the EU from non-EU states, religious and cultural boundaries, the Schengen border, and the East-West “boundary of civilisations” referred to above, although we might view this latter as having been abolished in 1989. Cf. also the essays by Geremek and Schlögel (2008).


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