In the summer of 2015, they took part in a German-Polish youth encounter; on Monday, the 25th of January 2016, they reunited for the first time: In Auschwitz – the symbolic location of mass murder by National Socialists – young people from Poland and Germany reflected on their memorial trip together: What of this youth encounter is – with some distance – still being remembered? What were the effects of the trip?
“We are much more alike than we imagined”, Ida from Poznań summarised her insights. “The Germans” don’t have it easy in Poland. “In our culture there is an established image of Poles as victims and Germans as those responsible for all crimes”, Ida said. This is why, after the collective visit to the concentration camp Auschwitz, she listened with the utmost interest to the thoughts voiced by her new friends from Germany. “In this moment, I felt something peculiar”, Ida remembers. “The perception of the concentration camp was very similar for both the German and Polish youths. During the visit, they all had the same feelings: It was equally painful for all of us; for all of us it was equally hard to understand, and all of us were at a loss for words.”
Agata Grzenia and Burkard Grahn, consultants for memorial trips to Auschwitz at the International Association for Education and Exchange (IBB e.V.), invited the youth group for a second meeting, and also Matthias C. Tümpel, chairman of IBB, listened carefully. In regular intervals, IBB questions former participants. But most often these are groups of pupils from Germany, accompanied by the IBB team. Mixed groups of German and Polish pupils are more of a rarity. Should IBB offer more bilateral school trips in the future? “We spent a lot of time with each other and talked a lot about history, but also about many current topics”, another participant reported. “I found it quite interesting to meet young Poles and to learn about the thoughts of Polish youths.”
The crimes of Auschwitz are a mission for all following generations, irrespective of nationality. This is what contemporary witness Zofya Posmysz from Poland told her listeners during the final discussion round. “I don’t just want to tell you about my experiences. I want to warn you about inhuman ideologies.”
This text can also be read in Polish. Tutaj znajdą Państwo ten tekst w języku polskim.