On 13-17 November 2020, a winter school for history teachers from Belarus, Germany, Poland and Russia took place in an online format. The Forum’s Secretariat organised a winter school in partnership with the Forum’s member organisation the Jan Nowak-Jezioranski College of Eastern Europe in Wroclaw. Forty-five history teachers participated in the online winter school.
Conflicting memories, WWII and history teaching was one of the topics of the Forum tackled almost from the beginning of Forum’s initiation. In 2013, the working group “Historical Memory and Education” was established. In 2015, the experts of the working group “Historical Memory and Education” created an exhibition „Different Wars: National Textbooks on WWII“ that travel to 22 cities in the EU and Russia as well as Belarus. The exhibition was about different narratives of how WWII is depicted in history textbooks in 6 countries. It turned out to be a socially important project, because it brought deep conversations and thoughts to the public level.
Following the success of the exhibition, the Forum initiated a programme dealing with historical memory “Different Wars: Remembering the Past”, which continues working with history education and in close cooperation of the working group “Historical Memory and Education”.
During the winter school and in the current project with history teachers from Belarus, Germany, Poland and Russia, we try to dig deeper into history and see what lays behind the minds of people by applying a multipersepctivity approach in history lessons. It seems to us that showing different narratives in history lessons give people more acknowledgment and respect towards each other. Moreover, there is no black and white in history, so we encourage to find shadows of grays, not only to look from current different perspective but also go back in time and try to understand the events in history. We hope to bring and apply this into the classrooms.
During the winter school, we tested and exchanged about teaching materials and lessons prepared by the group of teachers and education specialists. All four topic of the lessons are connected to WWII. After the winter school the experts will finalise the lessons and teaching materials, which will be translated in a variety of languages of participating countries. They will be also uploaded on the website which is specially developed for this history programme.
The winter school has welcomed special guests — history teachers and educators from France, the UK and Korea — to present their history textbooks and show how WWII is taught in these countries. The last day of the winter school had additional events for a wider public: a discussion “75 Years Since: Confronting memories of WWII in East Asia”. The discussion was well attendant by viewers from all over the world from Japan, Singapore to Europe and the USA. It was a second discussion on the commemoration of WWII and ongoing social-political debates revolving around its historical memory organised by the EU-Russia Civil Society Forum. In this discussion we looked at the aftermaths of WWII and challenges of commemoration in East Asia, especially Japan, Korea and China. See the discussion here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UQnxH_a0wnQ&t=4148s
Additionally, Georg-Eckert Institute from Braunschweig, Germany, facilitated a workshop “A transnational approach to history teaching: The German-Polish textbook project ‘Europe – Our History’”. The central questions of the workshop were: Can there be a common or even a European narrative in the neighbouring countries Germany and Poland – and what could it look like? How can students be made aware of different perspectives and divergent experiences – and how can they be enabled to engage in dialogue? What is the benefit of looking at European history through the eyes of the neighbour? And what didactical-methodological concept was used as basis for a textbook that aims to offer more than a nationally framed approach to history?
The winter school was well regarded as a space for history teachers where besides testing teaching materials of the project, teachers could also talk about more difficult questions, such as: How can one really change the teaching of history without having the political powers? Which topics in the history education of war are the most painful to national perception? Which topics are the most violent confrontations between historians and public debate? How to teach and not to repeat the past when the current political situation is connected with violation of the human rights? The organisers of the winter school stay hopeful that the project will be continued next year and the situation will allow to meet in person to tackle all these issues in person.
The public events connected to the presentation of teaching materials and history education are planned in the beginning of 2021 organised by the coordinators of all participating countries.
The project with history teachers is supported by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Germany and the European Commission.