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Experiences of reconciliation in German contemporary history (1949 – 2011)

“I have lived long enough to remember coming home from a prisoner-of-war camp and living through the rebuilding of West Germany. If you have said to a refugee or to the average German in 1947 that we should within the foreseeable future live alongside Poland as we do now, or had said the same to the Poles, then you would have been lucky to be thought mad. (…) It took us fifty years to change the climate on both sides so that the vast majority of us can say that we can live comfortably alongside and with one another. Fifty years! (…) Why did we need fifty years? I tell you, it takes two generations to create a viable distance. The generation most immediately affected finds it very difficult. The second generation has to break new ground, but has also to cope with the burden. Only in the third generation is it possible to live together without prejudice.” (Hans Koschnik, 2003)

The workshop aims to explore the rich and successful experience West Germany made with the processing of the Nazi Regime as the darkest part of its history. The internal transformation of the West-German post-war society into a pluralistic, open-minded and democratic society is the result of the ’68 Cultural Revolution in Germany. This movement started in Germany with the simple question “Where have you been in Nazi times? What was your role in the Nazi regime?” The question was asked by the first post-war generation and members of the parent’s generation were the recipients.

In the late 1970ies, as part of the “New Social Movements”, small urban initiatives on local history originated. The idea of these history workshops (“Geschichtswerkstatt”) is to “dig where you stand”, which means to find out more about the history of the place you live in. Related to this approach another method the so-called “Geschichte an authentischen Orten” (“History at authentic sites”) was more and more used in Germany. The idea is work on history where history actually took place. Generally, the role of education, re-education and adult education were crucial in this transformation processes.

The aim of this workshop is to share good practices of such reconciliation initiatives from the German contemporary history. The following questions will be addressed:

  • What made/make these reconciliation initiatives successful?
  • What methods/approaches were/are used?
  • Who were/are the actors involved?
  • What was/is the role of the state?

Morning Session, 11.00 - 12.30

Moderator: Uwe Gartenschlaeger, dvv international

11.00 - 11.20 You just have to do it - an initiative from civil society action reconciliation service for peace from 1958, Christian Staffa, Action Reconciliation Service for Peace, Berlin, Germany

11.20 - 11.40 Which past? Which future? Referring to visitor’s backgrounds in educational programs at the Buchenwald Memorial Site, Daniel Gaede, Buchenwald Memorial, Germany

11.40 - 12.10 Reconciliation through practical solidarity: German Chernobyl initiatives in Belarus, Astrid Sahm, International Education and Exchange (IBB), Dortmund


Afternoon session, 13.30 – 16.00

Moderator: Nazaret Nazaretyan, dvv international

13.30 - 14.00 Public Art and Memory, Renata Stih and Frieder Schnock, Berlin, Germany

14.00 - 14.30 Coming to terms with the Communist Past in Germany – Political Education for Adolescents and Adults between Romanticisation and Reality, Lisa Freigang and Sascha Rex, DVV Bonn, Germany

14.30 - 15.00 Biographical Approaches in Educational Work, CD-Rom "The ‘Daily Life’ of Prisoners in the Sachsenhausen Concentration Camp 1936, Inga Hoolmans, Sachsenhausen Memorial, Germany


Youth and Adult Education approaches and methods for dealing with the past for reconciliation

In this workshop we would like to invite all youth and adult educators coming from all over the world to share experience of successful non formal settings that bridge people, ideas, beliefs, mindsets together after periods of violent conflicts, long silence or isolation for reaching understanding and bringing peace and democracy for our societies.

The workshop is focused on the various methodologies and tools that youth and adult education use when dealing with the past and reconciliation processes. It will present the expertise of dvv international and other educators from several regions and the local results that are reached so far. Each of the presenters will share individual, local, regional, country experience and will thus address the following questions:

  • How is dealing with the past/reconciliation defined? In what context?
  • What approaches/methods/tools are approbated and bring development and success?
  • What problems and challenges are faced?
  • Which partners are involved?
  • What is the position of the state on the issues and is it involved?

The cross-cutting issues will be summarized and reported. A TOOLBOX of methods, tools, approaches will be gathered and published on the conference website.

Together we would like to address and discuss the place and role of youth and adult education in dealing with past and reconciliation processes and how to make it more visible for everyone.

Morning session, 11.00 – 12.30

Moderator: Levan Kvatchadze, dvv international (tbc)

11.00 - 11.20 Fit in Contemporary German History, Kerstin Giebel, International Youth Service of the Federal Republic of Germany, Bonn, Germany

11.20 - 11.40 SovLab - Georgian Effort Towards Rethinking the Soviet Past, David Gogishvili, SovLab Project, Georgia

11.40 - 12.00 Confronting the Ghosts of the Past: Native American Education and Reconciliation in Canada, Geneviève Susemihl, Germany

12.00 - 12.20 Museum of Yugoslav History, Ivan Manojlovic, Belgrade, Serbia


Lunch break

Afternoon session, 13.30 – 16.00

Moderator: Wolfgang Leumer, dvv international

13.30 - 14.00 From Learning to Listen to Speaking to One Another: Turkish – Armenian reconciliation project, Matthias Klingenberg, Avetis Keshishyan and Zeynep Başer, Germany, Armenia, Turkey

14.00 - 14.30 Youth and Reconciliation - Cambodia and the issue of Transitional Justice and Reconciliation, Ms Sonja Meyer and Nou Va, Cambodia

14.30 – 15.00 National healing process in Zimbabwe, Lucia Manyuchi, African Community Publishing and Development Trust, Zimbabwe

15.00 - 15.30 Approaches in social and local history and work with elderly, biographical method, Olga Agapova and Mikhail Rozhanski, Russian Federation


Historical dialogue and accountability: Scholarly and advocacy perspectives

The workshop “Advocacy and scholarly perspectives on historical dialogue and accountability” will present the concept of historical dialogue and accountability. It will also feature the work of representatives of civil society from throughout the world that pursue questions of historical dialogue and accountability after conflicts and dictatorships.

Historical dialogue and accountability is a growing field of advocacy and scholarship that encompasses the efforts in conflict, post-conflict, and post-dictatorial societies to come to terms with their pasts. It is foremost a tool aimed at using historical memory for reconciliation, peacebuilding, and democracy promotion. Practitioners of historical dialogue come from a variety of professional sectors and work to: collect and provide facts about the history of particular conflicts; acknowledge the victims of past violence and human rights abuses; challenge national or ethnic memories of heroism and/or victimhood as a source of conflict; foster shared work between interlocutors of two or more sides of a conflict; identify and monitor how history is misused to divide society and perpetuate conflict; and enhance public discussion about the past and advocate for the importance of historical narrative as a tool for conflict resolution

The participants of this workshop will present case studies of their work in their respective societies. The participants will moreover look at practical challenges they encounter in their work. The workshop will be moderated by Professor Elazar Barkan of Columbia University (New York). He will add the scholarly perspective to the workshop. Aim of the workshop is to better define historical dialogue and accountability as a mechanism for reconciliation work, facilitate much needed interdisciplinary and international exchange on the topic of historical dialogue and accountability as well connect organizations and individuals globally.

Moderator: Professor Elazar Barkan, Director, Institute for the Study of Human Rights

The workshop Historical Dialogue: Concepts, Practices, Challenges and Lessons Learnt aims to answer the following questions:

  1. What are the principles of historical we believe in and/or we want to promote and how do they relate to accountability and reconciliation? What are the challenges of the field? What are lessons learnt?
  2. What does the field of historical dialogue need?
  3. What can the Alliance for Historical Dialogue and Accountability (AHDA) do that is not already being done by any other network affiliates belong to?

The workshop will be a mix between short individual reflections from each of our contexts and group discussion of larger issues. Each participant will reflect for 5-7 minutes on the first two questions above, based on their experience in their organization: please briefly outline the core principles of historical dialogue you pursue in your work, and one challenge you face.

If you decide to use a powerpoint presentation please do not show more than three slides.

Workshop Agenda: Historical Dialogue: Concepts, Practices, Challenges and Lessons Learnt

11:00 – 11:10 Welcome and Introduction Elazar Barkan and Veronika Burget (Institute for the Study of Human Rights)

11:10 – 11:20 Building joint narratives, working with people from competing national narratives by Falk Pingel, The Georg Eckert Institute for International Textbook Research (Braunschweig)

11:20 – 11:30 Case Study Turkey: Anadolu Kultur (Istanbul) by Meltem Aslan

11:30 – 11:40 Case Study Croatia: Documenta. Center for Dealing with the Past (Zagreb) by Emina Buzinkic

11:40 – 11:50 Case Study USA: Listening between the Lines (Tampa, Florida) by Alan Lipke

11:50 – 12:30 Discussion: What are the principles of historical dialogue we want to promote? Concepts, Practices and Key Actors

12:30 – 13:30 Lunch break (Discussion continues over lunch)

13:30 – 13:40 Case Study Lebanon: Umam Research and Documentation Center (Beirut), by Rohit Goel

13:40 – 13:50 Case Study Germany: Institut for Applied History (Frankfurt Oder), by Juliane Tomann

13:50 – 14:00 Case Study Cyprus: Association for Historical Dialogue and Research (Nicosia), by Rana Celal

14:00 – 14:40 Discussion: Challenges and Lessons Learned

14:45 – 14:55 Case Study Israel: Zochrot (Tel Aviv) by Eitan Bronstein

14:55 – 15:05 Case Study Serbia: Center for History, Democracy and Reconciliation (Novi Sad), by Darko Gavrilovic

15:05 – 15:15 Case Study Assyrian History: Seyfo Assyrian Genocide Research Center (Los Angeles), by Noray Betbaba

15:15 – 16:00 Discussion: Needs for advocates of historical dialogue and how AHDA could address them

Civil Society Peace-Building: Transferring Lessons of Local Educational Initiatives of Dealing with the Past to a National Level

Learning aims

  • participants understand the relevance of dealing with the past for peace work – specifically Civil Peace Service (CPS)
  • participants familiarize with tools and approaches in a peace-building project (with youth) that deals with the past
  • participants learn to turn a small scale project on dealing with the past into a regional or national programme


  • methods and approaches of dealing with the past → highlighting the concept and approach of CPS
  • relevance for youth of dealing with the past in the context of peace building
  • comparison of educational approaches (based on projects by different implementation agencies) for youth in dealing with the past
  • integration of curricula developed on a local level into a national educational curriculum for schools → opportunities and limitations of working with state institutions
  • integrate and connect main issues of key note speech into the workshop

Didactic approach

  • presentation of a relevant CPS project (including the basic concept and approach of CPS in brief) highlighting the above issues (practical approach and strategic aspects)
  • practical exercise (developed and applied with the youth in the project) with all/some the participants of the workshop in order to give them a practical impression of the work
  • presentation of practical tools and approaches and strategic aspects around dealing with the past and peace work/lessons learnt
  • discussion round with participants of the workshop

Morning Session, 11.00 - 12.30

Moderator: Stephan Clauss, Academy for Conflict Transformation, Bonn/Germany

11.00 - 11.15 Welcome, presentation of schedule, intro of resource people

11.15 - 11.35 Dealing with the Past and non-formal education: Contributions by civil society initiatives in the region of Former Yugoslavia, Dr. Martina Fischer, Deputy Director, Berghof Conflict Research; Berlin/Germany

11.35 - 11.55 Educational Approaches to Dealing with the Past in school to oppose political exploitation of history., Albert Hani, forumZFD, Skopjie/Mazedonia

11.55 - 12.30 Discussion, insights, challenges and opportunities discovered and questioned

Afternoon session, 13.30 – 16.00

13.30 - 13.35 Welcome back/Intro afternoon

13.35 - 13.55 "Coming to terms with a violent past in Columbia: Completing History through Memory. Educational Initiatives for a better Future", Helen Rottmann (Berlin/Germany)

13.55 - 14.15 "Can dialogue and reconciliation be taught? - Lessons learned from a 15 year long reconciliation program", Steinar Bryn, Senior Advisor, Nansen Center for Peace and Dialog; Lillehammer/Norway

14.15 - 14.45 Discussion, insights, challenges and opportunities discovered and questioned

14.45 - 16.00 Presentation of practical activities

  • Dialogue Tool (Albert Hani)
  • More-dimensional Method (Helen Rottmann)

Harvesting and Way Forward / Closing and Feedback