EUSTORY Network Meeting 2014
From 8 -11 May 2014 the organisers of national history competitions from twenty-two countries as well as external guests gathered in Berlin for the EUSTORY Annual Network Meeting in order to discuss about ways of “Remembering, teaching and commemorating European history in 2014”. The meeting was opened by Sylvia Löhrmann, President of the Standing Conference of the Ministers of Education and Cultural Affairs of the German Federal States, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for School and Further Education of North-Rhine-Westphalia. Our host was the Körber Foundation.
In her input, Minister Löhrmann talked about ways of remembering, teaching and commemorating the experience of the two World Wars in Europe in the 21st century. As a part of the opening, she also discussed with three EUSTORY alumni from Slovenia, Poland and Finland about their views on the legacy of World War I. All three of them had prepared brief inputs on the topic that were based on research in their family and country history. The meeting was held in connection with the HistoryCampus Europe 14/14 and was hosted by the Körber Foundation.
“Dealing with the legacy of the two World Wars in all our different countries of Europe will make a major contribution towards the development of mutual respect for both the individual family histories and the national histories. It can help us to develop a European culture of remembrance and strengthen our democracy”, said Minister Löhrmann in her opening speech.
The input by the three EUSTORY alumni from Slovenia, Finland and Poland showed that the legacy of WWI and WWII still matters for young Europeans of the 21st century. Tamara Čakić from Slovenia underlined that the shifts of borders and loyalties that took place in South Eastern Europe as a consequence of World War I still affect the region and the identity of people in Slovenia today. Tomasz Korandy from Poland talked about the consequences of occupation and border shifts for Poland, particularly focusing on collective memory and identity in his home-country. And Anna Sievälä from Finland made a connection between her family history and the legacy of both World Wars in her home-country Finland. She highlighted how WWI and the civil war connected to it led to a division of the Finnish society and how the history of the winners dominated the public commemoration for many decades. But she also stressed the fact how WWII then made a contribution to the re-unification of Finland when the society saw itself confronted with Russia as a “common enemy”.
The opening of the conference was completed by an input of Marjan Verplancke, head of education and outreach of the memorial “Kazerne Dossin” in Belgium and member of the Special Committee on Remembrance and Education in Flanders. Marjan Verplancke presented best-practice examples of the 21st century remembrance education from her own work at Kazerne Dossin as well as from other institutions that operate on the background of the multi-ethnic and multicultural society in Flanders.
All three elements of the opening plenary led to a vivid discussion among the participants of the EUSTORY Annual Network Meeting about strategies on how to tackle the historical legacies of 20th century Europe in an up-to-date manner in the framework of EUSTORY history competitions and related activities in the next years to come. History 2.0 and its consequences for EUSTORY was the underlying pattern for all the debates in Berlin.
Ways of presenting of and dealing with creative approaches towards history and results of historical research was one of the core issues discussed by the EUSTORY member organisations. For this purpose, Birgit Wenzel, co-editor of the online platform “Learning from History”, one of the leading platforms on this topic in Germany, presented a lot of different formats in which youngsters could present their historical research in creative ways. But Ms Wenzel also underlined how important it is to empower tutors and teachers in order to be able to guide students through the creative process and in order to have a clear understanding about the skills necessary for the different approaches.
But creative approaches towards history was not the only issue the EUSTORY member organisations focused on in Berlin. They also exchanged experiences on regional and institutional cooperation, on a stronger involvement of schools, archives and community organisations into the competitions and, last but not least, they discussed about the question to what extend EUSTORY history competitions are initiatives with a more academic or a more pedagogical focus. In addition to that, new network members such as the EUSTORY competition in Israel, the joint Iberian competition in Spain and Portugal as well as the re-emerged competition in Belarus used the possibility to present their concepts, ideas and plans to the network members. Also the French EUSTORY competition that will be announced in September 2014 on the topic of “Europe on the battlefields – the legacy of WW I for us today” used the platform of the Annual Network Meeting to present its current stage of planning as well as the challenges linked to an institutional partnership with three very different organizations and the link to a governmental commemorative initiative, the Mission Centennaire in France.
Apart from the in-depth discussions about EUSTORY network and competition activities, the competition organisers got the chance to meet their national prize winners during a unique get-together at the famous French Dome in the heart of Berlin. Besides that the network members had many opportunities to visit the HistoryCampus Europe 14/14 and get an impression of the creativity of young Europeans when dealing with the question of “World War I: what is still in there for me?”
Both during the gallery walk and the closing ceremony of the HistoryCampus at the Maxim Gorki Theatre the network members were able to see staged readings, animated video films, role-play, improvisational theatre, ideas for new monuments and many more results from the 22 different workshops that all illustrated how it is possible to make history interesting, challenging and relevant for today´s youth of Europe. The impressions from Berlin will be an inspiration to the EUSTORY Network Members for their work within the competitions and the network for the next months and years to come.