The Robert Bosch Stiftung

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Photo: Susanne Kern 
The Robert Bosch Stiftung has supported German-Polish relations since 1974. In this photo, Ulrich Bopp (right), former member of the Foundation’s Board of Management, meets the former Polish foreign minister Władysław Bartoszewski and translator Karl Dedecius (left).

German-Polish Relations

In 1974, the Robert Bosch Stiftung began actively supporting German-Polish relations. What today seems obvious was truly a pioneering achievement at the time. Many people in the Federal Republic of Germany simply could not imagine establishing direct contact with the communist nations behind the Iron Curtain. The Foundation’s leaders, however, viewed Germany’s relationship with Poland and France as the key to reconciliation between the nations of Europe.

Over the following years, the Robert Bosch Stiftung developed into a key intermediary between Poland and Germany, with the Foundation having either initiated or supported nearly all German projects carried out with Poland until the 1990s. This multitude of projects and partnerships resulted in a close-knit network of personal contacts between Poland and Germany that remains intact today. This network includes foundations such as the Polish Children’s and Youth Foundation, NGOs like the Center for International Relations, as well as key intellectual and influential figures such as Władysław Bartoszewski, the former Polish ambassador to Germany Janusz Reiter, and the current Polish ambassador to Germany, Jerzy Margański.

 

Center for Polish studies in Germany

In 1974, the Foundation first supported a project in Poland – a scientific publication. In this publication, researchers from Germany and Poland evaluated German-Polish relations and identified ways to normalize the relationship between the two neighbors. In addition to exchange programs for academics and a total of fifty study trips for experts from agriculture, culture, and universities, an important component of German-Polish relations was the establishment of a guest professorship with a “focus on Poland” at the Johannes Gutenberg University of Mainz in 1982. This department quickly developed in a center of academic studies of Poland in Germany.

 

  

Establishing contact with the people in communist Poland was initially difficult for the Robert Bosch Stiftung. This is why the Foundation’s activities "are not geared toward spectacular, publicly visible progress, but toward information and awareness over the long term," as former German president Richard von Weizsäcker wrote in a celebratory publication in 2000. "In a rather silent and simultaneously unique manner," the Foundation concentrates on bringing together people from the worlds of culture, science, and education as well as counteracting the ideological politics of division between East and West.
 

A privately supported youth organization

By the fall of the Iron Curtain, 28,000 German and Polish high school and college students had traveled to the other country. Looking back, one can almost speak of a privately supported youth organization without East Germany’s involvement. The primary focus was becoming acquainted with and having interactions with the neighboring country. As such, the Robert Bosch Stiftung also supported 150 school partnerships, until the German Polish Youth Association took over this role.

The German Institute of Polish Studies in Darmstadt, which was founded in 1981 with the Robert Bosch Stiftung’s support, focuses on the cultural dialog between Germany and Poland. In 2003, the Foundation began awarding the Karl Dedecius Prize, named after its founder, which honors Polish translators of German-language literature and German translators of Polish-language literature. A very special compliment was paid to Polish culture with the publication of the 50-volume “Polish Library,” published by the Suhrkamp Verlag publishing house. This is the first collection of important Polish literary works in German.

In order for people to communicate, they must possess the necessary language skills. This is why in the late 1970s, the Robert Bosch Stiftung established an advanced training program for German teachers and university lecturers from Poland, which approximately 1700 Polish students of German language and literature have now benefited from. After Germany’s reunification, the Robert Bosch Stiftung expanded the program to include all Central and Eastern European nations, and in doing so founded the “Internationale Deutschlehrerkolleg” (International Training Program for Non-Native German Teachers).
 

Model for activities in Central and Eastern Europe

The Foundation developed key formats in Poland that now shape the Foundation’s activities throughout Central and Eastern Europe. Established programs were expanded to include other countries, often in cooperation with Poland. These include the Theodor-Heuss-Kolleg, which the Foundation uses to support young people’s civic engagement, the Carl Friedrich Goerdeler-Kolleg, which it uses to train tomorrow’s leaders in the field of international cooperation, and the Lectureship Program, which it uses to bring university graduates from Germany to East European universities. A positive development is that over the years, this engagement has developed a momentum of its own. For example, former Bosch lecturers founded the MitOst association, a strong network which is continuously expanding its role as a mediator in the region. At the present time, the association has 1,300 members from 40 different countries.

Today the Foundation’s activities in Central and Eastern Europe are primarily focused on supporting the development of a strong civil society – and with Poland’s help, directing attention further east. In addition, active citizens from Poland are a part of Europe-wide programs like “Actors of Urban Change,” in which active citizens from culture, government, and business work together on their city’s development.

 

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A Bridge to the East: 40 Years of Support for German-Polish Relations

The Robert Bosch Stiftung has supported German-Polish relations for 40 years. Originally a pioneering achievement, the Foundation’s work has created a close-knit network that remains intact today. An exploration of a long friendship.
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Projects in the field of international relations

German-Polish relations is a focus area of the Foundation
in the field of international relations.