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Disarming Hatred: History Education, National Memories, and Franco-German Reconciliation from World War I to the Cold War

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  20 January 2017

Mona Siegel
California State University, Sacramento
Kirsten Harjes
University of California-Davis and California State University-Sacramento


On May 4, 2006, French and German cultural ministers announced the publication of Histoire/Geschichte, the world's first secondary school history textbook produced jointly by two countries. Authored by a team of French and German historians and published simultaneously in both languages, the book's release drew considerable public attention. French and German heads-of-state readily pointed to the joint history textbook as a shining example of the close and positive relations between their two countries, while their governments heralded the book for “symbolically sealing Franco-German reconciliation.” Beyond European shores, East Asian commentators in particular have taken note of Franco-German textbook collaboration, citing it as a possible model for how to work through their own region's often antagonistic past. Diplomatic praise is not mere hyperbole. From the Franco-Prussian War (1870) through World War I (1914–1918) and World War II (1939–1945), France and Germany were widely perceived to be “hereditary enemies.” The publication of Histoire/Geschichte embodies one of the most crucial developments in modern international relations: the emergence of France and Germany as the “linchpin” of the New Europe.

Copyright © 2012 History of Education Society 

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32 The union represented over two-thirds of all primary schoolteachers in Germany. Bendick, , Kriegserwartung, 148; Lamberti, , The Politics of Education, 1; Internationales Schulbuchinstitut an der Kant-Hochschule Braunschweig, Deutschland und Frankreich im Spiegel ihrer Schulbücher (Braunschweig: Verlag Albert Limbach, 1954), 7.

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49 Reimann (1870–1938) taught history and German at a gymnasium in Berlin. He published the textbook Deutsche Geschichte im Reformationszeitalter, 1500–1648 in 1917 and helped write and edit several textbook series including Weltgeschichte in fünf Bänden and Geschichtswerk für höhere Schulen.

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62 In 1941, Herre would publish Germany and the European Order containing an elegy to Adolf Hitler. Four other German delegates—including the Nazi textbook author Moritz Edelmann—were supposed to attend. Sigmann, Jean, preface to Probleme der deutsch-französischen Geschichtsschreibung (Baden-Baden: Verlag fuUr Kunst und Wissenschaft, 1949), 8.

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67 Ibid.

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73 Ibid., 744.

74 Ibid.

75 Isaac, Jules, “Une tentative d'accord franco-allemand,” 359.

76 Ibid.

77 Ibid., 361.

78 Ibid., 362.

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88 Both the British government and UNESCO also sponsored international history textbook discussions in the late 1940s, and some of the participants in the Franco-German discussions participated in these as well. See Schüddekopf, , History Teaching.

89 Cited in Corinne Defrance, La Politique culturelle de la France sur la rive gauche du Rhin, 1945–1955 (Strasbourg: Presses universitaires, 1994), 265, fn. 10.

90 Ibid., 114.

91 Ibid., 248.

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95 In the American sector, the first widely circulated new postwar history textbook Wege der Völker (1949) was commissioned and funded by the American-sponsored Reorientation Fund and written by Berlin classroom teachers. American occupation forces in Berlin also ordered book plates from Columbia University's holdings of Weimar textbooks. In Berlin, the only textbook printing operation left intact after the war was located in the Soviet sector. See Gregory Wegner, “Germany's Past Contested,” 4–5.

96 Eckert participated in twenty-seven bilateral meetings between July 1949 and May 1951 alone. Eckert's institute, renamed in his honor in 1974, was eventually fully subsidized by the government and has become an important center for international textbook work. See Mitteilungen, Kleine, Internationales Jahrbuch für Geschichtsunterricht, vol. I (Braunschweig: Albert Limbach Verlag, 1951), 686–94, and Riemenschneider, Rainer, “Transnationale Konfliktbearbeitung,” Das Willy-Brandt-Bild in Deutschland und Polen, ed. Tessmer, Carsten (Berlin: Bundeskanzler-Willy-Brandt-Stiftung, 2000), 120–31.

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101 The German delegation was composed of Bonwetsch, G., Eckert, G., Erdmann, K., Krausnick, Kaier, H., Mielcke, K., Müller, O. H., and Röhr, H. The French delegation was composed of Bruley, Ed., Renouvin, P., Zeller, G., Droz, J., J.-Duroselle, B., Sigmann, J., Alba, A., Mangin, R., J.-Hoop, M., Aubert, A., and Bonnet, H.-M. “Les Entretiens franco-allemands, mai-octobre 1951,” in Deutschland-Frankreich-Europa, 15.

102 Jules Isaac continued to see the pursuit of historical truth as a tool for fostering understanding, but after having experienced the full horrors of anti-Semitism, after World War II he refocused his attention on the historical origins of anti-Semitism and on Judeo-Chrisrian reconciliation. Kaspi, Jules Isaac, 178–238.

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108 Cornelißen, , Gerhard Ritter, 394. Herzfeld, Dr. Hans, Göhring, Dr. Martin, and Schüddekopf, Otto-Ernst also joined the German delegation in Mainz. From the French delegation, Professors Zeller, Duroselle, Alba, and Mangin did not participate in the Mainz meeting. M. l'Inspecteur general Fouret joined the delegation. “Les Entretiens franco-allemands, mai-octobre 1951,” in Deutschland-Frankreich-Europa, 15.

109 Cited in Cornelißen, , Gerhard Ritter, 475.

110 Cited in Farquharson, and Holt, , Europe from Below, 65.

111 Herzfeld, Hans (1967).

112 Ritter to Renouvin, 15 October 1951, Bundesarchiv Koblenz D-56075 (henceforth BArch), N 1166/293, 338, 339.

113 Ritter to Renouvin, date illegible [October or November 1951], BArch N 1166/293, 338, 339.

114 Renouvin to Ritter, 28 November 1951, BArch N 1166/293, 338, 339.

115 Cornelißen, , Gerhard Ritter, 475.

116 Ritter to Renouvin, 22 February 1952, BArch N 1166/293, 338, 339.

117 Renouvin to Ritter, 20 November 1951, BArch N 1166/293, 338, 339.

118 Ritter to Renouvin, date illegible [October or November 1951], BArch N 1166/293, 338, 339.

119 Renouvin to Ritter, 20 November 1951, BArch N 1166/293, 338, 339.

120 Ibid.

121 Ritter to Renouvin, date illegible [October or November 1951], BArch N 1166/293, 338, 339.

122 Renouvin to Ritter, 4 May 1952, BArch N 1166/293, 338, 339.

123 Renouvin, Ritterto, 23 November 1951, BArch N 1166/293, 338, 339.

124 Les entretiens franco-allemands, mai-octobre 1951,” in Deutschland-Frankreich-Europa, 24–27.

125 Ibid., 31.

126 Renouvin to Ritter, 2 February 1952, BArch N 1166/293, 338, 339.

127 Ritter to Renouvin, 22 February 1952, BArch N 1166/293, 338, 339.

128 Renouvin to Ritter, 27 February 1952, BArch N 1166/293, 338, 339.

129 Les entretiens franco-allemands, mai-octobre 1951,” in Deutschland-Frankreich-Europa, 34.

130 Ritter to Renouvin, 22 February 1952, BArch N 1166/293, 338, 339.

131 Renouvin to Ritter, 2 February 1952 and 15 February 1952, BArch N 1166/293, 338, 339.

132 Ritter, Gerhard, The Sword and the Scepter: The Problem of Militarism in Germany, vol. III, Norden, Heinz, trans. (Coral Gables, FL: University of Miami Press, 1972), 3.

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133 Girault, “Pierre Renouvin, La BDIC et l'historiographie française des relations internationales,” 7–9.

134 Renouvin to Ritter, 4 May 1952, BArch N 1166/293, 338, 339.

135 For the rare expression of dissent, see Pierre Bonnoure, “A Propos des recommendations franco-allemandes de 1951,” Bulletin de la Société des professeurs d'histoire et de géographie de l'enseignement public 45, no. 153 (June 1955): 686–94.

136 Puaca, , Learning Democracy, 80–89, and Dierkes, Julian, “The Decline and Rise of the Nation in German History Education,” in The Nation, Europe, and the World: Textbooks and Curricula in Transition, eds., Schissler, Hanna and Soysal, Yasemin Nuhoglu (New York: Berghahn Books, 2005), 82102.

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137 The Wege der Völker series and Braunschweig secondary school teacher Hans Ebeling's Deutsche Geschichte are two prominent examples. See Puaca, , Learning Democracy, 80–89.

138 Schüddekopf, , History Teaching, 25. On the gradual reform of history education in postwar France, see Garcia and Leduc, L'Enseignement de l'histoire en France, 200.

139 Ibid., 36.

140 Beginning in 1953 the Council of Europe played an active role in sponsoring such discussions. See Bruley, E. and Dance, E. H., A History of Europe? (Leyden: Sythoff, A. W., 1960).

141 The representation of German atrocities in occupied Belgium and France served as the principal point of contention. Seres (2008).

142 Rollot, Catherine, “Le Manuel d'histoire franco-allemand pour la classe de 1re est présenté à Berlin,” Le Monde (10 April 2008): 8.

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143 Seres, Aude, “Le Manuel d'histoire franco-allemand fait des envieux,” Le Figaro, 9 April 2008, 8, and Schmoll, Heike, “Historische Verständigung; Der zweite Band des deutsche-französischen Geschichtsbuchs ist mehr als ein Schulbuch,” Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung (8 April 2008): 10.

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