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Textbook of two nations

A joint history textbook published by France and Germany will cover some of the most sensitive issues of of the former enemies' wartime experiences.

It is the first school book ever to be produced jointly by two countries and the first in a planned series of three published by Editions Nathan and Klett Verlag.

The opening section covers the immediate postwar period to 1949 and "memories of World War Two", including the Holocaust, the Vichy regime and the Germans confronting their past.

The book is available in French and German language versions with identical covers and contents, and will be in schools from September for pupils in their final year of lycee or gymnasiale Oberstufe (age 17 to 19).

It focuses on Europe and major world events since 1945, including divided Europe and the Cold War between 1949 and 1989; Europe in a globalised world from 1989; technical, economic, social and cultural changes; and German-French relations over 60 years.

French education minister Gilles de Robien presented the French-language edition last week at the Historical First World War memorial museum at Peronne, in the Somme. Also present was Peter Mueller, minister-president of the Saar regional government, who is responsible for culture within the Franco-German Co-operation Treaty and will launch the German version in July.

Mr de Robien said the friendship between the the two countries needed actions as well as words and the textbook would allow a "clear understanding of our past".

Mr Mueller said the project was educationally enriching and had great symbolic value. "For the first time in the world, two nations are writing history together," he said.

The idea for a common textbook came from the Franco-German youth parliament in 2003 and got the support of President Jacques Chirac and Gerhard Schroder, the then German chancellor.

The 10 French and German authors met few problems establishing a common vision of history, but had to find compromises in presentation to suit the countries' respective teaching methods. For example, French pupils do more work based on documents, while the German approach favours narrative and chronology.

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