European Remembrance - Symposium of European Institutions dealing with 20th Century History

2012 Gdansk

The 1st symposium of European institutions dealing with 20th century history was held in Gdansk on 14-15 September 2012. It was attended by more than 100 specialists representing 66 institutions from 14 European countries and Israel.
Markus Meckel - Introduction to the conference

Symposium's goal

The symposium inaugurated a cycle of annual international meetings of scholars and representatives of institutions dedicated to the study and promotion of 20th century history, with a particular focus on dictatorships.

The goal of the annual meetings is to exchange experiences and establish methods and forms of cooperation between institutions from different countries.

Day 1

The symposium was opened by representatives of the organising institutions. The first day’s proceedings, held in the historic Artus Court in Gdańsk, started with a lecture by Markus Meckel. Historians and journalists from Poland, Italy, France and Germany took part in the discussion that followed. Among them were:

  • Dr. Łukasz Kamiński, President of the Polish Institute of National Remembrance;
  • Prof. Georges Mink, Research Director, College of Europe;
  • Luigi Spinola, journalist, Radio3mondo and Euronews;
  • Prof. Stefan Troebst, Vice Director, Centre for the History and Culture of East Central Europe in Leipzig, and member of the ENRS Scientific Council;
  • Dr. Robert Żurek, Vice Director, Historical Research Centre at the Polish Academy of Sciences in Berlin.

Day 2

The second day’s proceedings were held in the historic BHP room of the former Lenin Shipyard, where Solidarity was established. The debate was attended by representatives from Poland, Hungary, Slovakia and Germany:

  • Zbigniew Gluza, Karta Centre Foundation;
  • Dr. Anna Kaminsky, Federal Foundation for the Reappraisal of the SED Dictatorship;
  • Dr. Mária Palasik, Archive of the Hungarian Intelligence Service;
  • Peter Jašek, Nation’s Memory Institute, Slovakia;
  • Rüdiger Sielaff, Office of the Federal Commissioner for the Stasi Archives in Frankfurt/Oder;
  • Dr. Paweł Ukielski, Warsaw Rising Museum; and Dr Olaf Weißbach, Robert Havemann Society, Berlin.


Summing up the two-day discussions in Gdańsk, Prof. Jan Rydel and Prof. Matthias Weber, both representing ENRS, stressed the need for further joint discussion on difficult historical subjects by scholars and representatives of civic institutions. They went on to say that European culture of remembrance can only be created through free exchange of opinion, which should be based on values such as objectivity, solidarity, mutual respect and understanding, respect for principal human rights and individual freedom. The task of institutions such as those represented at the symposium should be to influence society, media and politics in a way that fosters factual, open and inclusive historical dialogue. An important goal should be to disseminate knowledge of historical events in various countries, in particular among the younger generation. The speakers remarked on the difference between remembering and memorising facts, and advised against aiming for one universal historical narrative, or one common representation of history. They spoke of the diversity of historical narratives being the sign of a common perception of European history – our national and supranational heritage. Referring to the importance of developing sensitivity to and acceptance of different historical narratives and readings of past events, the speakers noted that this especially concerned future generations, which have no direct experience of 20th-century suffering, cruelty and dictatorship. They also spoke of supplementing one’s own understanding of history by the experiences of others. Recapitulating, they said that the multiplicity of opinions should take account of neighbours’ points of view and be connected with a will for understanding and dialogue, respect towards the sacrifices incurred by other nations, and refrainment from general and detrimental judgments.