Stowarzyszenie Projektów Międzynarodowych „INPRO”

“Yes, Germans aren’t very welcome in Poland.”

“Yes, Germans aren’t very welcome in Poland.”

By: Denise

A few days ago I went to a school to give a workshop, we were playing some games and I was talking about my country. Everything was going well up until the point when one student asked me: “Who won the Second World War?” I was very confused about this question and in the spur of the moment, I answered “not the Germans.” But then he went on and asked: “Who killed all those people?” To be honest, it was a really strange and awkward situation getting asked these questions, especially because I was in a primary school and this was a 7 year old kid asking me. At his age I probably didn’t even know that there was a World War.

Some days later I went on another school visit. I explained to the head teacher there what the child had asked me and the teacher’s reaction was: “Yes, Germans aren’t very welcome in Poland.” But why?

I mean the historical reasons are pretty obvious: Nazis created concentration camps in Poland and are responsible for the Holocaust in which many, many people died.

But is it fair that the new generation of Germans must continue to apologize for what their ancestors did and what happened during the Second World War, considering that they took no part in it and are against it? Is it fair that only Germans have to censor their words when it comes to their opinions towards foreigners? Especially since Germany has apologized extensively and has made reparations to those countries affected?

Personally, I don’t think it’s fair. As far as I’ve seen, people continue to have an image in their heads that Germans are connected to the horrible things that happened during the Second World War. And I believe this image has been influenced by education at school, and also through parents or maybe grandparents that lived during this time and who might still feel hatred towards Germans.

In Germany this is a topic that is taught very intensely in school, and it takes approximately 2 years. We learn about what happened in Poland and as a student, even if you know you weren’t born during that time, you feel guilty or sorry. You see all these horrible pictures and get taught how the life was and thus, as you always say Germans did this or Germans did that, so this guilty feeling evolves and is instilled in us.

However, I don’t believe that people, whether they are Polish or not, should blame the next generations for the wrongs of the past. I think we should learn to think of Germany as a whole, and that means not only taking into consideration the bad things from the War, but also the good things that make Germany today such as its cooperativeness or support for other countries, its very good educational and welfare systems.  

Nevertheless I don’t mean to say that Germans are not that unwelcome in Poland. I’ve met many Polish people who are happy to see a German person, because they know the language often better than English. Also, the bond between our countries can be further seen in our family trees, since our borders have been redrawn so many times, we share common ancestor lands as well. And during every school visit I meet at least one child who has a relative working in Germany.  

I will also never forget that one time in the bus when there an old man asked about my nationality. And when I told him I am from Germany, he hugged me. I was actually really surprised about his reaction because he was very old and probably lived during the Second World War. It was a pity that a common language couldn’t bring us closer, as he only spoke Polish and my level isn’t very good. But his gesture was kind and comforting. So in the end, it’s not really about winning or losing the war, it’s about our behavior towards each other and how we choose to remember the past. And in fact, that’s how Germans should be treated in Poland: just like anyone else!