Exploring the past: New audiences and expeditions
The German History Competition
¶ 1 Leave a comment on paragraph 1 0 In Germany, there is a veritable landscae of student competitions that allows students, to show their ability of independent working and learning, to compete, and not least to get a sustainable position in their personal vita. Besides Olympiads in the STEM-subjects there are ‘speech clubs’ and additional offers from the humanities to activate the participation of young people. In most cases, these competitions are awarded by government or foundations; in the case of private financing, the competitions are regularly subsidized by government funding or placed under the auspices of the policy. An outstanding example of an established student competition in Germany is the ‘History Competition of the Federal President’. Since 1973 the competition is tendered by the Körber-Foundation with the aim to induce students to engage with the history of Germany. Its regulation states: “The history competition of the Federal President hopes to awake, the interest for the own history, promoting independence and strengthen a sense of responsibility in children and adolescents. The methodical access is determined by the ‘research-based learning’ and the ‘life-world orientation’: young people get in touch with history, which took place right on the own doorstep – often lasting up to the present. The competition was launched by the former Federal President Gustav Heinemann and Kurt Körber, an enterpriser and philanthropist from Hamburg. In a six-month project, students trace – often guided by their teachers – a history topic in their environment. The findings and results were elaborated, for example, in a written report, an exhibition or through a movie. The principle of the history competition is called ‘inquiry learning’: pupils research in archives, consult experts, conduct inquiries with local politicians, carry out street surveys and perform oral history interviews with witnesses.
The competition and Public History – a combined endeavor?
¶ 2 Leave a comment on paragraph 2 0 It is obvious that the competition and Public History both cover the spectrum of possible topics, as well as the methodological approach and the design and presentation of any research: The definition and objectives of Public History research frequently includes phrases such as communication, engagement, cooperation and collaboration. That could be nearly phrases of the biennial competition description. Public History as well as the History Competition could be described as “the communication of history to the wider public” or “the engagement of the public in the practice and production of history” as it is proclaimed on the NCPH website. Thus, the term Public History is highly complex and deeply evocative as it attempts to construct a historic identity. Moreover, there is a compelling similarity in the time of development of competition and the Public History movement. Both of them go back to the early 1970s and endure about the last 40 years. Therefore I invite you to look back with me at this period and pursue the timeline of development of Public History and the History Competition.
A new view of the past
Public History in the United States during the seventies
¶ 3 Leave a comment on paragraph 3 0 The Civil Rights movement in the USA during the 1950s and 1960s provided a new perspective on historical study, which changed the relationship between the public and the history, in a way that the public perception and interpretation of the past were viewed as equal to that of professional academic historians. The phrase „Public History“ first formally appeared in the USA during the early seventies. Public History continued to be linked to wider socialist movements, aligned to political liberal ideals and followed democratic approaches to history, for instance with workshops and workers education programs. This period represented the public fighting for a voice beyond traditional authority. In some senses, Public History aimed to make the past more consensual, with individuals and organizations showing a range of interests in interpreting the past; this includes topics such as racial debates, feminism, and working-class histories. Historians, both academic and Public Historians, realized the active role the public could play in uncovering hidden and untold stories, that provided a more comprehensive story of the past. Subsequently, the multiple “Publics” started to play a major role in historical research.
Formation of the History Competition in Germany
¶ 4 Leave a comment on paragraph 4 0 The German Competition had had a number of phases; precisely the preoccupation with history is closely related to the political climate and the prevailing historical culture. It would be presumptuous to ascribe him a leading role, but it would also be inappropriate not to see a mere reflection of social reality. In my opinion, the competition has certainly contributed the political and ideological consciousness of participating students and institutions. The late 1960s were a time of crisis for the cultural development of the Federal Republic. During the 1968 student revolt, a part of the intellectual youth was no longer able to share the political views and traditional views of history of their father’s generation. An ‘extra-parliamentary opposition’ stood vehemently against the government and the establishment, by stirring up public opinion with blockades and demonstrations. Politically, too, this time is against the backdrop of significant shifts: A change of government to the until then oppositional Social Democratic Party initiated a correction of German foreign policy – especially in direction to the East. At the same time, the German historiography faced a deep crisis: for young graduates traditions were expendable, older historians clung to conventional political history of states and national-conservative viewpoints. Even the newly arising social history was referred to as irrelevant. A public pursuit of history beyond school barely took place in the years after 1945: the defeat in the war, the loss of territory and the hushed Holocaust had left uncertainties, the study of past was sidelined. Federal President Heinemann required again and again a re-analyzing history, since his election in 1969. He claimed alternative developed traditions instead of prevailing the lack of history: the “German freedom movement of 1848” and the existing “democratic traditions” of the Weimar Republic of 1918 should contribute a modern and democratic image of history. Rather late, these requirements were followed in the History Competition:
¶ 15 Leave a comment on paragraph 15 0 The three competitions ‘Understanding German freedom movements’ (1974-1976) called for research about the revolution of 1848-49, the founding of the Weimar Republic in 1918-19 and the new beginning in 1945-46. After initially great success there were falls in the number of participants, so a new series of competitions was opened:
¶ 16 Leave a comment on paragraph 16 0 About the mid-70s, the crisis of the political consciousness was largely overcome; in the public debate new issues (such as the oil price shock, long-term unemployment as well as national and international terrorism) were dominant. Pressing current problems, however, has not become the competition’s focus, but its development reflects the transformation of historical consciousness and academic historiography. The competition became part of the rising new micro history. Moreover, a change in the kinds of sources took place. From formerly more assiduous study of literature tasks covered by the changing competitive topics now also the inclusion of family estates became real: letters and diaries, photo collections, newspapers, etc. The academic social history “top down” was within the sense of the Public History movement confronted with an interest in concrete people. Exploring students used the survey of the older generation as a research method, although the academic research of history had it discovered only in a few exceptional projects for themselves.
¶ 27 Leave a comment on paragraph 27 0 Bodo von Borries, a German historian was already engaged in the early competition (as a scientific advisor, in the jury and later by qualitative analyzes of competition entries), he soon realized that an unreflective Applied Oral History brought forth “nostalgic-romantic transfiguration” or even “drastically-pointed black outs” of the reference person’s youth. Fears of academics historians about borders and difficulties of oral history seemed to have come true: The operation of memory and mental function of remembering stories need to be considered carefully. On the participation of the competition the new topics had, however, a reinforcing effect. The sectors ‘Working-World’ (1977), ‘Living’ (1978) and ‘Daily Closing-Time’ (1979) picked up three key areas of life, which they historically recorded successfully. It is astonishing in retrospect, that the micro history underlying theory, the “process of civilization” by Norbert Elias (written in 1939) was successfully distributed from the mid-70s on; in the same time the ‘Annales school’ of French historiography or ,The Social Construction of Reality’ of Berger and Luckmann became a prominent status.
Consolidation of Public History and the Competition in the eighties
¶ 28 Leave a comment on paragraph 28 0 The practice of Public History expanded in the 1980s, particularly in the USA, Australia and Canada. More and more university programs became true. During this decade more than fifty universities in the USA arranged courses, integrating public outreach activities specifically linked to communicating and engaging the public in their past. Government agencies and universities came together to adopt formal approaches to investigate and communicate the history of local areas. This included working with marginalized case studies. There was a focus not just on the new research methods but also on communicating this new perspective on history. During this period, in the US the subfield of Public History was academically established as a valid part of history, although this was more a pragmatic engagement, and not theoretically grounded. In Germany the national growth of, and support for, Public History, albeit at a slower pace than in the US, whereas the theoretic grass roots and fundamentals were vigorous discussed in academic debates. But also professional historians discovered the public as their audience and wrote more and more for an interested group of non-professionals. These new public pressures required history to justify its wider role in society. Nonetheless, in Germany the concept of Public History was still an activity principally performed by local history groups (‘Geschichtswerkstätten’), private historians without an academic background, and individuals, usually within the working class. Non-professionals – sometimes instructed by professional historians -, were given the chance to work on a local history project. Academic historical science animadverted these non-professionals because of their theoretical shortcomings and their uncritical identification to the explored objects. Coming back to the History Competition: In January 1979 the TV-event ‘Holocaust’ provoked a national interest for history and the German responsibility in the World War II. Even German pupils were confronted with their grandparent’s conceivable guilt. The generation of young people did not impeach their grandparents in the confrontational way their own parents did it some years ago. They asked their grandparents about the personal mistakes during the National Socialism and the war in a composedly manner. This opened the opportunity for a clarifying conversation between the generations. But even in the historical research it came to a new development. The personalization and demonization of Adolf Hitler changed to questions for the structure and the function of the regime. Who was promoter, who was beneficiary of the system? The competition reacted quickly. The next themes dealt about everyday life during the National Socialism:
¶ 39 Leave a comment on paragraph 39 0 It is obvious, the numbers of participants tripled compared to the last competition about ‘daily closing time’ in 1979. This great number of contribution brought the modification that from now on the yearly competition was changed to a biennial duration. The Nazis in former history lessons were the ‘others’, the different people. Now, it came to the surface that even neighbors and own family members were integrated in the ‘machine’ of Nazi Germany. After years, again the number of participants was declining. During the 1980s a deep pessimism came up in the society: Ecologically disasters, increasing armament and impoverishment in the ‘third world’ were currently problems in the public discussion. The new series of competitions asked legitimate questions, but admonished to reflection and foundation. In a way the series of ‘Social history of everyday life’ (1977-1979) was completed. The competition was year for year related to the most obvious public theme:
¶ 50 Leave a comment on paragraph 50 0 In the year 1986 the catastrophe of Chernobyl shocked the European society and vitalized the increase of the Green party in Western Germany. Pollution and the anti nuclear movement were their salient topics in this time. Or another example: At the end of the 1980s the large number of late repatriates and immigrant workers that established in the country caused a short time of right-wing violence. Even to this unpleasant development the competition reacted. The competition of 1988/89 animated to work about homeland and strangers. To the Körber-Foundation it was important to set an example against xenophobia and for integration. Again that topic led more than 5,000 participants to join in the competition. It would lead to far to mention all competitions from that point on. Just let me give an overview to the topics from 1992 on:
¶ 54 Leave a comment on paragraph 54 0 Monuments: reminder – annoyance (1992-93) | East-West History – teenagers ask for (1994/95) | From the workhouse to addiction counseling. The history of helping (1996/97) | Rebellion, Action, Change – Protest in the Past (1998/99) | Animals in our history (2000-01) | Leaving-Arrive: Migration in history (2002/03) | Avoid a painful? Working in the history (2004/05) | Together – Against each other? Young and old in the past (2006/07) | Heroes: adored – misunderstood – lost (2008-09) | Nuisance, Outrage – Scandals (2010/11) | Foreigners – Neighbors (2012-13) | Being Different – Outsider in the past (2014/15)
¶ 55 Leave a comment on paragraph 55 0 Remarkable is the point that the competition’s topics changed to an anthropologic manner: The issues have been opened in the course of the development of a historical culture of a collective memory and memory handling. In times of rapid change, the resolution of traditions and self-evident employment with past seems to be an almost anthropologic human requirement.
- ¶ 57 Leave a comment on paragraph 57 0
- It gained topics to the center stage that would not have been considered in that dimension by media, school and research.
- The competition promoted methods of research (like Oral History, street surveys and so on) being determined by the “research-based learning” and the “life-world orientation”.
- As a part of the Public History movement the competition supported local perspectives on the past that were unconsidered by the academic history research.
- Social and micro history became a new significance.
¶ 59 Leave a comment on paragraph 59 0 I will not declare the competition only as a part of the Public History movement although it had great overlapping with the history of Public History. Anyway, the competition as well as the Public History movement were part of public interest and depended on political trends and progress. Both brought the privacy of history to the public and followed one common aim: Even the local and private is of interest. In that sense it was not only a coincidence that both had overlapping in its progress. It followed a new public orientation to anthropological questions and interests. I will close with the finding that there is already a way of Public History education in German schools. It is of significance for a broad acceptance of Public History results in society. The History Competition supports to understand the basic principles of historical thinking and the perspectivity of any narration proposed by Public History.
¶ 60 Leave a comment on paragraph 60 0 Arndt, Melanie. Verunsicherung vor und nach der Katastrophe. Von der Anti-AKW-Bewegung zum Engagement für die ‘Tschernobyl-Kinder’. Zeithistorische Forschungen/Studies in Contemporary History 7, no. 2 (2010): 240-258.
¶ 64 Leave a comment on paragraph 64 0 Borries, Bodo von. Ein Übungsfeld für Selbsterprobung und Geschichtserkundung. Grundgedanke und Wandlungen des Schülerwettbewerbs. In Geschichte, wie sie nicht im Schulbuch steht. Der Schülerwettbewerb Deutsche Geschichte um den Preis des Bundespräsidenten, edited by Jörg Calließ, 45-72. Rehburg-Loccum: Evangelische Akademie Loccum, 1991.
¶ 68 Leave a comment on paragraph 68 0 Etzemüller, Thomas. Sozialgeschichte als politische Geschichte: Werner Conze und die Neuorientierung der westdeutschen Geschichtswissenschaft nach 1945. München: Oldenbourg, 2011.
¶ 69 Leave a comment on paragraph 69 0 Frei, Alfred and Michael Wildt. Hirsebrei und Seifenblasen. Die Geschichtswerkstätten und ihre Kritiker. L’80. Zeitschrift für Literatur und Politik 39 (1986): 64-72.
¶ 71 Leave a comment on paragraph 71 0 Grotrian, Etta. Geschichtswerkstätten und alternative Geschichtspraxis. In History Sells! Angewandte Geschichte als Wissenschaft und Markt, edited by Wolfgang Hardtwig and Alexander Schug, 243-253. Stuttgart: Franz-Steiner-Verlag, 2009.
¶ 72 Leave a comment on paragraph 72 0 Heinemann, Gustav W. Die Freiheitsbewegungen in der deutschen Geschichte, Ansprache aus Anlaß der Eröffnung der Erinnerungsstätte in Rastatt, Rastatt 26. Juni 1974. In Allen Bürgern verpflichtet. Reden des Bundespräsidenten 1969-1974, Reden und Schriften 1, edited by Gustav W. Heinemann, 36-44. Frankfurt a.M.: Suhrkamp, 1975.
¶ 73 Leave a comment on paragraph 73 0 Heller, Wilfried, Hans-Joachim Bürkner, and Hans-Jürgen Hofmann. Migration, Segregation und Integration von Aussiedlern – Ursachen, Zusammenhänge und Probleme. In Aspekte der Zuwanderung, Akkulturation und emotionalen Bindung, edited by Hartmut Heller, 79-108. Erlangen: Verlag der Friedrich-Alexander-Universität, 2002.
¶ 76 Leave a comment on paragraph 76 0 Körber-Stiftung. The eligibility requirements of the competition. Accessed March 18, 2016. www.koerber-stiftung.de/fileadmin /user_upload/bildung/geschichtswettbewerb /pdf/2016/Teilnahmebedingungen.pdf.
¶ 80 Leave a comment on paragraph 80 0 Niethammer, Lutz. Fragen – Antworten – Fragen. In “Wir kriegen jetzt andere Zeiten”. Auf der Suche nach der Erfahrung des Volkes in nachfaschistischen Ländern, edited by Lutz Niethammer and Alexander von Plato, 392-445. Berlin: Dietz, 1985.
¶ 85 Leave a comment on paragraph 85 0 Wolfrum, Edgar. Geschichtspolitik in der Bundesrepublik Deutschland. Der Weg zur bundesrepublikanischen Erinnerung 1948-1990. Darmstadt: Wissenschaftliche Buchgesellschaft, 1999.
¶ 86 Leave a comment on paragraph 86 0  An overview of in Germany advertised student competitions can be found on the side of the ‘Arbeitsgemeinschaft bundesweiter Schülerwettbewerbe’ (consortium of nationwide student competitions), which has set itself the goal to promote the participation of pupils in pedagogically worthwile and learning supporting competitions, accessed March 18, 2016, www.bundeswettbewerbe.de/wettbewerbe.html.
¶ 87 Leave a comment on paragraph 87 0  In most cases, this assignment is executed by the Federal Ministry of Education and Research, the ‚Kultusministerkonferenz’ (assembly of ministers of education of German states) – and not least: by the German Federal President.
¶ 88 Leave a comment on paragraph 88 0  The eligibility requirements of the competition, accessed March 18, 2016. www.koerber-stiftung.de/fileadmin /user_upload/bildung/geschichtswettbewerb/pdf/2016/Teilnahmebedingungen.pdf.
¶ 90 Leave a comment on paragraph 90 0 The first competition was the result of a conversation between Kurt A. Körber and the former German President Gustav Heinemann. They talked about Heinemann’s desire to bring the democratic traditions of Germany into the public awareness. Heinemann argued that there “the benefits of Democratic pioneers of the nineteenth and early twentieth century could bring political self-confidence” to the German public. The reflection of the roots of German democracy should lead to a positive identification with German past and promote the social understanding that a broad study of history is indispensable to establish democratic traditions.
¶ 93 Leave a comment on paragraph 93 0  In its simplest meaning, the definition of Public History refers to an use of historical method outside the academia. See. Robert Kelley, “Public History: Its Origins, Nature, and Prospects,” The Public Historian 1, no. 1, (1978): 16-28. Nonetheless, one thing is clear: Public History aims to convey a view of past through narrative communication in a concise, clear form; in a perspective addressed to the public.
¶ 97 Leave a comment on paragraph 97 0  Edgar Wolfrum, Geschichtspolitik in der Bundesrepublik Deutschland. Der Weg zur bundesrepublikanischen Erinnerung 1948-1990 (Darmstadt: Wissenschaftliche Buchgesellschaft, 1999). In the decade from the mid-sixties to 1974 Wolfrum states the establishment of a separate state of historical consciousness and a left-wing “Sonderweg” (special path) thesis for the Federal Republic of Germany: Historical consciousness based no longer upon ritualizations but on “political discourses” (p. 353).
¶ 98 Leave a comment on paragraph 98 0  Thomas Etzemüller, Sozialgeschichte als politische Geschichte: Werner Conze und die Neuorientierung der westdeutschen Geschichtswissenschaft nach 1945 (München: Oldenbourg, 2011), 190; 262-267.
¶ 100 Leave a comment on paragraph 100 0  Heinemann, Gustav W., “Die Freiheitsbewegungen in der deutschen Geschichte, Ansprache aus Anlaß der Eröffnung der Erinnerungsstätte in Rastatt, Rastatt 26. Juni 1974,” in Allen Bürgern verpflichtet. Reden des Bundespräsidenten 1969-1974, Reden und Schriften 1, ed. Gustav W. Heinemann (Frankfurt a.M.: Suhrkamp, 1975). For Heinemann was the manner in which a society pursues its tradition of education, essential for its future. He looked for a way off a primarily representative orientated historical culture towards “fostering history … in front of ones own door.” [p. 40].
¶ 101 Leave a comment on paragraph 101 0  All statistics values are taken from the website of the Körber-Foundation, accessed March 18, 2016, www.koerber-stiftung.de/bildung/geschichtswettbewerb/portraet/historie.html.
¶ 102 Leave a comment on paragraph 102 0  Bodo von Borries, “Ein Übungsfeld für Selbsterprobung und Geschichtserkundung. Grundgedanke und Wandlungen des Schülerwettbewerbs,” in Geschichte, wie sie nicht im Schulbuch steht. Der Schülerwettbewerb Deutsche Geschichte um den Preis des Bundespräsidenten, ed. Jörg Calließ (Rehburg-Loccum: Evangelische Akademie Loccum, 1991).
¶ 104 Leave a comment on paragraph 104 0  The main scholarly outlet of the Annales-School has been the journal Annales d’Histoire Economique et Sociale (“Annals of economic and social history”), founded in 1929 by Lucien Febvre and Marc Bloch, which both broke radically with traditional historiography by insisting on the importance of taking all levels of society into consideration and pointing out mentalities as a part of historical interest. In Germany, the Annales-School was of little interest until the political upheavals 1968; an enhanced reception began only in the 1970s.
¶ 105 Leave a comment on paragraph 105 0  See Peter L. Berger and Thomas Luckmann, The Social Construction of Reality: A Treatise in the Sociology of Knowledge (Garden City, NY: Anchor Books, 1966). The social constructionist approach of Berger and Luckmann points out that the social order in which people live, can not be referred to an objectively constructed past but as a communicative process produced by humans themselves. By this it is evident that history contributes an reciprocal influence of cultural knowledge resources. “The symbolic universe also orders history. It locates all collective events in a cohesive unity that includes past, present and future.” [92-104].
¶ 110 Leave a comment on paragraph 110 0  Etta Grotrian, “Geschichtswerkstätten und alternative Geschichtspraxis,” in History Sells! Angewandte Geschichte als Wissenschaft und Markt. eds. Wolfgang Hardtwig and Alexander Schug (Stuttgart: Franz-Steiner-Verlag, 2009).
¶ 111 Leave a comment on paragraph 111 0  Frei, Alfred and Michael Wildt, ”Hirsebrei und Seifenblasen. Die Geschichtswerkstätten und ihre Kritiker,” L’80. Zeitschrift für Literatur und Politik 39 (1986).
¶ 112 Leave a comment on paragraph 112 0 see also Lutz Niethammer, “Fragen – Antworten – Fragen,” in “Wir kriegen jetzt andere Zeiten”. Auf der Suche nach der Erfahrung des Volkes in nachfaschistischen Ländern, ed. Lutz Niethammer and Alexander von Plato (Berlin: Dietz, 1985), 426. Niethammer, one of the most popular Oral Historians in Germany, delimitates to overstate the oral history results, especially to generalize without reflection.
¶ 113 Leave a comment on paragraph 113 0  The series tells in four parts the story of the Holocaust from the perspective of the (fictional) Weiss family of German Jews. Produced in 1978 the US-miniseries aired in Western Germany in January 1979 and led to an increased public interest for the crimes committed during the Nazi era. Watched by twenty million people (about 50% of West Germany’s population) it first brought the matter of the genocide in World War II to a widespread public.
¶ 114 Leave a comment on paragraph 114 0  At the beginning of the 1980s it were mainly the historians Martin Broszat and Hans Mommsen who shifted the perspective of historical research away from a all overlapping person of Adolf Hitler towards the structures and apparatuses of the Nazi regime. Mommsen has forcefully contended that the Holocaust cannot be reduced to Hitler alone, but was instead a product of a process of “cumulative radicalization” in Nazi Germany which led to the Holocaust. This ‘functionalist’ Nazi research also asked about the responsibility of individuals in the Nazi dictatorship, whereas many conservative historians emphasized the role of Hitler and a handful of vassals as instigation for all political and social developments, and thus concentrated the fault to a few prominent members of the political, military, and economic leadership of Nazi Germany. See Martin Broszat, “Soziale Motivation und Führer-Bindung des Nationalsozialismus,” Vierteljahrshefte für Zeitgeschichte 18, no. 4 (1970). and referring to the “cumulative radicalization” see Hans Mommsen, “Die Realisierung des Utopischen. Die ‘Endlösung der Judenfrage’ im Dritten Reich,” Geschichte und Gesellschaft 9, no. 3, (1983).
¶ 115 Leave a comment on paragraph 115 0  Melanie Arndt, “Verunsicherung vor und nach der Katastrophe. Von der Anti-AKW-Bewegung zum Engagement für die ‘Tschernobyl-Kinder’,” Zeithistorische Forschungen/Studies in Contemporary History 7, no.. 2 (2010).
¶ 116 Leave a comment on paragraph 116 0  Wilfried Heller, Hans-Joachim Bürkner, and Hans-Jürgen Hofmann, “Migration, Segregation und Integration von Aussiedlern – Ursachen, Zusammenhänge und Probleme,” in Aspekte der Zuwanderung, Akkulturation und emotionalen Bindung, ed. Hartmut Heller (Erlangen: Verlag der Friedrich-Alexander-Universität, 2002).