The Politics of Historical Memory in Germany

Brandt's Ostpolitik, the German-Polish History Textbook Commission, and Conservative Reaction

in Journal of Educational Media, Memory, and Society
Author: Yangmo Ku
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Prior to the late 1960s, German history textbooks lacked coverage of Poland and depicted Germany's eastern neighbor with negative images. The 1970s and 1980s, however, witnessed positive changes to the contents of German school textbooks—particularly with respect to their descriptions of Poland and German-Polish relations. How and why did Germany promote a more reflective view of history and correct negative descriptions of the Poles in German history textbooks between the 1970s and 1980s? This article addresses this question by focusing on the influence of Brandt's Ostpolitik and on the activities of the German-Polish History Textbook Commission. The article also shows how contemporary conservative reaction was not powerful enough to reverse these positive changes to German history textbooks.

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