20 Years of EUSTORY in Numbers
Since 2001, the idea of encouraging young people to investigate local and family history has generated a lot of new interest.
Grandpa, a WWII Norwegian-German War Child
Alwin Sagstuen, participant of the Norwegian History Competition in 2019, was named after his grandfather Alwin Edvardsen, who was born a World War Two Norwegian-German war child.
Ruth: History Never Has a Single Truth
History was a driving force behind the separation and later the reunification of Ruth Pérez Castro’s family. In a personal and moving documentary, which she submitted as an entry in the Iberian History Competition, Ruth told the story of her grandparents and their five children.
Marie: From Competition Entry to Court Evidence
While conducting her research on a former women’s concentration camp in Brandenburg/Germany in 2015, Marie Grandke did not yet realise the significant impact her work would have.
Milena: A “European Couch” in Belgrade
For Milena from Serbia, prize winner of the Serbian History Competition, an international EUSTORY Youth Encounter in 2004 entailed many “firsts” and became the starting point for many long-lasting friendships across borders.
German National Award for EUSTORY
In 2007, EUSTORY was awarded the German National Prize (“Deutscher Nationalpreis”). In his laudation, Horst Köhler, German Federal President at the time, honoured EUSTORY for its engagement and dedication towards the unity of Europe.
History Festival “Europe 14|14”: Feeling What We Share
On the occasion of the 100th anniversary of the beginning of WW I, 400 young people from all over Europe met in Berlin. Together they discovered how the war still matters to them today. Among them was Julien from Grimma, Germany.
Onaleigh: Female Role Models from the Past
While researching the stories of young women who emigrated to Australia in order to escape poverty in overcrowded workhouses in Ireland, Onaleigh Earls developed a great deal of admiration for her young female forebears.
Shaping Museum Education
An extraordinary opportunity: Six participants of the EUSTORY Summit 2018 developed an innovative format for museum education on the topic of restitution of artworks at the Dresden State Art Collections (Staatliche Kunstsammlungen Dresden).
DANIEL: A HIDING PLACE IN THE BASEMENT
In 1996, his research for the German History Competition led Daniel Grossmann to an untouched hideout that had been used by Jews to escape Nazi persecution.
20 Years of EUSTORY in Numbers
The Rise of a Vital Network
Initiated by Körber-Stiftung in Hamburg, the EUSTORY Network of research-based history competitions was founded in 2001 with members from 12 countries. Today, the network connects more than 30 civic organisations from over 20 countries.
“Understanding differences, overcoming divisions” – EUSTORY fosters international understanding through different activities.
Since its foundation, some 230,000 young people have participated in EUSTORY History Competitions, handing in 95,000 entries. Every year, more than 2,500 teachers, experts, scholars and volunteers are devoting their time to the different national competitions.
For prize winners, the EUSTORY International Office has organised 67 international youth activities in 19 different countries, 1,900 young people have participated throughout the past two decades. All history competition organisers meet every year at an EUSTORY Annual Network Meeting.
“We believe that listening to others and telling our stories in an empathetic manner makes them understandable and meaningful for people from diverse backgrounds and helps building a peaceful coexistence.” (EUSTORY Mission Statement)
Grandpa, a WWII Norwegian-German War Child
Alwin Sagstuen, Norway, Prize Winner 2019
Alwin Sagstuen was named after his grandfather, Alwin Edvardsen, who was born to a Norwegian mother and a German father in 1943. When participating in the 2020 EUSTORY Youth Activity “Europe 1945-2020. Looking back, thinking forward” on the occasion of the 75th anniversary of the end of the Second World War, young Alwin shed light on the untold life story of his grandfather.
“The fate of most of these war children was determined from the beginning. As children of the ‘enemy’, they were met with harassment and exclusion, treatments that in most cases left everlasting marks on their lives.”
Alwin’s grandfather however was lucky. His Norwegian family, especially his Norwegian stepfather, stood up for him and made sure he got the same opportunities as everyone else. Alwin Edvardsen became manager at a Volkswagen dealership which secured him a living standard above average.
Researching his grandfather’s past has brought Alwin closer to his family and its history:
“The project has given me a better understanding of my family’s struggles, and what led to us being in the position we are in today.”
Alwin especially wants to share of one the lessons he learned:
“The story of my grandpa really shows how important it is to stand up for each other. Individuals can make an important difference in people’s lives.”
History Never Has a Single Truth
Ruth Pérez Castro, Spain, Prize Winner 2014
History was a driving force behind the separation of the family of Ruth Pérez Castro as well as their later reunification. In a personal and moving documentary, Ruth told the story of her grandparents and their five children. Ruth’s grandparents lived in Galicia, Spain, with their three daughters until harsh living conditions made them decide to emigrate to the Dominican Republic. The Dominican Republic and its dictator Trujillo generously supported Spanish immigration at the time. Hidden behind the pretence of improving agriculture by bringing in French, Italian and Spanish immigrants lay the racist policy of “whitening” the population. For the immigrants, however, this racist idea was seldom apparent behind the propaganda.
After Ruth’s grandfather emigrated in 1954, her grandmother and two of their daughters followed one year later. Not being able to take along all three children and knowing that an aunt would take good care of one daughter, Ruth’s grandparents decided to leave their middle daughter behind. The parents set up their new life in the Dominican Republic and had twin sons ̶ one of the twins is Ruth’s father.
The twins only got to know their older sister in Galicia at the age of five. After the assassination of the Dominican dictator Trujillo in 1961, the political situation changed and Spanish immigrants were no longer welcome. Facing increasing threats from the Dominican people who had suffered under Trujillos rule, Ruth’s family saw no other option than to return to Spain.
As someone who did not witness the events of the past herself, Ruth researched and critically examined her family’s role in the history of the Dominican Republic:
"All those Europeans who left, like my family, did not see the involuntary hurt that they were causing to the Dominican society."
When interviewing her family members about their eventful family history, Ruth found that history never has one single truth, but as many as there are contemporary witnesses:
“Seven years after the presentation of my research, we still talk about all of it.”
From Competition Entry to Court Evidence
Marie Grandke, Germany, Prize Winner 2015
While conducting her research for the German History Competition »Being different. Outsiders in History« in 2014/15, Marie Grandke did not yet realise the significant impact her work would have.
Marie investigated the history of »Gut Zichow«, an estate in Brandenburg on which Soviet and French prisoners were forced to work about a year after the beginning of the Second World War. Later, in 1944, a subcamp of the Ravensbrück women's concentration camp was set up on the same estate. The imprisoned women lived and worked on the estate’s farm for many months under terrible conditions.
The estate owners made enormous profits from the exploitation of the prisoners. Moreover, after German reunification, the family of the estate owners received more than 100,000 euros in reparation payments, which the Ministry of Finance in Brandenburg demanded to be repaid in 2015. According to a report of the court case that followed, the representatives of the Ministry referred to results of Marie’s research in court. Most likely, Marie’s work contributed to the court’s decision that the reparation payments had to be repaid to the Ministry in the end.
Digging deeper into the painful past of Zichow, Marie sought exchanges with the local people but often met with rejection. There seemed to be no desire to exchange information regarding the history of the village between contemporary witnesses, other locals and the younger generation.
”Is there really no one who remembers the Soviet prisoners of war who were forced to work in the village or the concentration camp prisoners who were held captive in the centre of the village?”
While researching for her history competition entry Marie realised the importance of a vivid local remembrance culture. She believes that children in primary school are well able to deal with such topics and she thinks that a lot can be done with the help of ambitious teachers.
“In my future career [as a primary school teacher] I would like to introduce children to difficult topics of local history.”
A “European Couch” in Belgrade
Milena Tatalovic, Serbia, Prize Winner 2004
For Milena from Serbia, an international EUSTORY youth encounter in 2004 entailed many “firsts”. It was the first of many EUSTORY youth activities that Milena attended.
“It was also the first time that I left Serbia, my first time flying with a plane and the first time that I met people from outside my home country.”
Meeting young people from all over Europe, working together creatively and exchanging about different views and values had a lasting – one could even say life-changing – effect on Milena’s perception of herself and others.
“These first times marked the starting point for a new era in my biography. Since then, encounters with other young Europeans have become an essential and formative part of my life. I am almost addicted to the feeling of being part of something that exceeds my national, cultural and personal boundaries.”
While participating in more EUSTORY Youth Activities over the years, Milena built close and long-lasting friendships with young Europeans from many different countries. Some of them have even visited her in her home in Belgrade.
“This is what I call my “European Couch”. It actually is quite an old and ugly sofa in my apartment, but it means a lot to me, because it stores unforgettable memories of fun nights and long conversations. European politicians might meet in Brussels, Paris or elsewhere, but Europe’s young generation can also come together - in a living room in Belgrade!”
German National Award for EUSTORY
A Milestone on the Road to Greater Recognition
The German National Prize (“Deutscher Nationalpreis”) has been awarded by the German National Foundation (“Deutsche Nationalstiftung”) since 1997. It honours people and organisations for their engagement and their dedication towards the unity of Germany and Europe. In a festive ceremony in Berlin on 19 June 2007, the award was handed over to Alicja Wancerz-Gluza, the Polish History Competition Organiser, who received it in the name of EUSTORY.
During the ceremony, Horst Köhler, Federal President of Germany at the time, made a speech honouring EUSTORY:
“The participants in national history competitions and their network EUSTORY stand for a Europe that knows its common roots, but also knows about its differences. A Europe that draws strength and identity from its diverse national 'stories' and experiences.”
President Köhler put emphasis on the role that young people play in the future of Europe.
“They [the European youth] stand for a Europe that keeps growing closer together, that wants to learn from the past and at the same time build our common future. Young people bring with them what is needed for this: expertise and curiosity, enthusiasm, but also the necessary degree of skepticism.”
President Köhler’s perception of EUSTORY was in line with the experiences that EUSTORY Youth Activities participants shared on the occasion of the award:
“EUSTORY means cancelling our borders just as historians, but broadening our borders as humans. It […] is an excursion to the history of Europe, but a trip to the future of the European history as well.” (Milan Vukašinović, EUSTORY prize winner from Serbia, in the brochure “National Prize Award 2007”).
History Festival “Europe 14|14”: Feeling What We Share
Julien, Germany, prize winner 2010/11
On the occasion of the 100th anniversary of the beginning of World War One, 400 young people from all over Europe met for the international “Europe 14|14” youth event in Berlin to share their stories and perspectives on this war. Among them was Julien from Grimma, Germany.
In 22 different workshops, various of them organised by Körber-Stiftung, Julien and his fellow participants delved into the past by doing research, renegotiating treaties, shooting films, writing scripts, and performing.
For him, the five-day-long History Festival of 2014 was an exciting time that made some lasting impressions:
“I had never been in contact with a Serb or a Hungarian before and could now see that we could laugh at the same jokes. That may sound simple but experiencing that dozens of times made a strong impression on me.”
Julien and his fellow workshop participants approached the legacies of the First World War through the medium of theatre. They looked back on war and peace in European history over the past 100 years and focused on personal experiences in order to show how perspectives differ.
“It was striking how, for us Germans, the beginning of the 1990s is remembered positively but for Bosnia-Herzegovina it means the beginning of a period of war.”
During the event, Julien was reminded of a slogan displayed in his elementary school: “For peace and international understanding” (German: Für Frieden und Völkerverständigung).
“This, both simple and grandiose, slogan from GDR times was still written at my elementary school and was filled with life at ‘Europe 14/14’.”
Female Role Models from the Past
Onaleigh Earls, Ireland, Prize Winner 2021
Leaving everything you know behind and setting off for an unknown continent in the hope of a better life – that is a decision that requires courage and bravery. Onaleigh from Athenry, Ireland researched life stories of young Irish women who emigrated to Australia between 1848 and 1850 in the hope of a better life. Her research not only highlighted a little-known chapter in Irish history, but through it Onaleigh also developed a great deal of newfound empathy for her young female forebears.
Earl Grey, Secretary of State for the British Colonies at the time, invited unmarried Irish girls between the ages of 14-18 living in overcrowded workhouses in Ireland to emigrate to Australia. His scheme aimed at increasing the number of settlers in the colony and evening out the gender imbalance. The poor young Irish women who followed Earl Grey’s call faced many challenges, including prejudices and discrimination.
During her research Onaleigh developed a strong empathy for the young women and their resilience to make the most of the opportunity given to them.
“I admire these girls‘ courage and bravery to leave this workhouse on the Earl Grey Scheme and travel in the hope for a better life in Australia.”
The young women's stories inspired Onaleigh to embrace the opportunities outside her own comfort zone, too, for example in the process of figuring out where to go to college.
“I have so many opportunities around me, and these girls did not, but they still took that one opportunity. Those girls did do it – so why can’t I?”
Participating in the Irish History Competition laid a foundation for Onaleigh's plans to study journalism or to pursue a media-related career.
“This international history competition allowed to develop my writing skills and skills as a historian. I will carry these skills and the stories I learnt along my research journey into the future with me.”
Onaleigh’s competition entry was made available to the public in the library of the National University of Ireland in Galway.
Shaping Museum Education
EUSTORY Summit participants take an extraordinary opportunity
During a workshop following the EUSTORY Summit 2018, six participants from five countries were given the opportunity by the German Lost Art Foundation and the Dresden State Art Collections (Staatliche Kunstsammlungen Dresden) to develop innovative educational material addressing the issue of provenance research together with the museum.
"I think a lot of people know very little about the relevance of the provenance of exhibits." (Lara Mia, Germany)
Together with staff of the Dresden State Art Collections, an internationally renowned art museum in Germany, the young people developed ways to inform the museum’s visitors about the relevance of provenance research – where the objects came from and how they found their way into the museum – facts that are especially important in cases of unrightfully acquired artworks and entitlements to restitution by previous owners.
The focus of their work was the Klemperer Collection at the Dresden State Art Collections. This collection of porcelain figurines belonged to the German Jewish Klemperer family. After the family was forced to flee Germany in 1938/39, the collection was confiscated by the Nazi regime. The restitution to the family was finally achieved 53 years later. However, the Klemperer family gave a part of the collection to the museum in Dresden as a gift.
The challenge the workshop group was facing was how to present the collection’s complex history to the public.
"We are creating a new, maybe even experimental way to explain restitution of art and provenance to people who may not know a lot about it." (Anete, Latvia)
To awaken especially young people’s interest in this topic, the participants developed an innovative format: A comic intertwining the history of the Klemperer Collection’s objects with the history of the family. The format was designed together with a comic artist. The workshop result became part of the exhibition and is furthermore displayed online in a multimedia format.
Daniel Grossmann, Germany, Prize Winner 1996/97
For his entry to the German History Competition on the history of help and assistance, Daniel Grossmann researched the story of Karl Schörghofer, a cemetery administrator who saved a group of Jews from Nazi persecution by hiding them in a basement on the site of the Munich Jewish cemetery in 1944/45. Five out of the seven people whom Schörghofer hid, survived, although the hideout was discovered in the last weeks of the war and some of them were imprisoned.
Daniel was the first person to enter the hiding place in 50 years while doing research for his work.
“I went down there [in the cellar of the Munich Jewish cemetery], and no one had ever touched it since, no one had ever seen it, no one knew about it. And suddenly, […] there was a small door. I opened this door, and at once, a world opened up that had been hidden for 50 years. I walked in - and it was really incredible, because everything was just as it had been when it was abandoned.”
His awarded entry to the 1996/97 German History Competition received wide attention. Daniel was interviewed for the radio, became part of a documentary film project and was invited to a history workshop in Dachau where he did research on musicians in concentration camps.
“I learned that you can discover astounding things by researching.”
Today, Daniel Grossmann works as a conductor and is also the founder and artistic director of Jewish Chamber Orchestra Munich. It is his mission to cultivate the rich traditions of Jewish music and to bring rarely performed works and forgotten Jewish composers to light.
“I have always been interested in the undiscovered. It bothered me that there are some musical pieces that you hear everywhere while others are never performed at all.”