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Colonialism and Decolonization in National Historical Cultures and Memory Politics in Europe

Modules for History Lessons

Edited By Uta Fenske, Daniel Groth, Klaus-Michael Guse and Bärbel P. Kuhn

Colonialism and decolonization are historical phenomena that are part of the historical experience of many European countries. This volume offers students and teachers a new understanding of how colonialism and decolonization fit into our shared European past and contains teaching materials for history classes in European schools. The contributions have been produced by the EU project CoDec, involving partners from Belgium, Germany, Estonia, Great Britain, Austria, Poland and Switzerland. Analyzing colonial pasts, processes of decolonization and memory politics in different European countries from comparative and transnational perspectives, the study presents useful sources and practical suggestions for cutting-edge history lessons in European schools.
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Who Owns the Polish Past? Polish History Seen From Western European and Polish Points of View


Introduction to the Module

The module focuses on the analysis of a newspaper article. In this article from 11 July 2003, the Polish journalist and publicist Adam Krzemiński (born 1945) criticizes the paternalist posture of Western Europeans towards the candidates for joining the EU and compares this posture with the ignorant and imperial attitude of Western Europe towards the eastern half of the continent since the Enlightenment.

In doing so, the author reacts to an initiative of Western European intellectuals led by Jürgen Habermas (born 1929) and Adolf Muschg (born 1934) to form a peace-movement avant-garde of the “old” “Core Europe”. Their motive lay in the Polish participation in the US war with Iraq in 2003. Krzemiński objects to the Western European image of Poland and implies that it has basically never changed since the partitions of Poland: “Like Kant once, so Habermas today”. Eastern Europe (in this case, Poland), according to his article, is still considered backward and deviating from Western European norms. Polish memory culture is contrasted with the historical consciousness of German middle-class citizens, who saw Poland first as an amorphous mass, the division of which was its own fault, then as a key place for the European fight for freedom, and finally as a beneficiary of the First World War. Yet Polish memory culture, as Krzemiński points out, makes the Polish commitment in the war on Iraq comprehensible. Indeed it is a symbolic deed with the...

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