Timeline: War and Peace in German-Polish Relations | Europe | News and current affairs from around the continent | DW | 23.08.2006

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Timeline: War and Peace in German-Polish Relations

DW-WORLD.DE has compiled a timeline of important events in the German-Polish relationship to better understand the context of the recent developments.

People say, time heals all wounds and children are the future

People say, time heals all wounds and children are the future

1410: At the Battle of Grunwald, Germanic knights are defeated by subjects of the united Polish-Lithuanian-Byelorussian kingdom near the present-day city of Olsztyn. In World War I, German troops fight Russian soldiers at the same site in the Battle of Tannenberg as a kind of symbolic undoing of Grunwald.

1919: Upper Silesia is divided through the Treaty of Versailles between Germany and the newly independent Republic of Poland. The city of Danzig is made a free and independent political entity.

Sept. 1, 1939: Nazi troops invade Poland. The country is subsequently divided between Stalin and Hitler and occupied by the Red Army and Nazi troops, respectively during fall of 1939.

Holocaust Gedenktag Auschwitz

Auschwitz, located outside Krakow, was the Nazis' largest death camp

1939-1945: Deportation, forced labor, and ultimately mass murder is carried out by the Nazis on Jews, but also Gypsies, homosexuals, Slavs (particularly Poles) and communists. Poland loses six million citizens and 20 percent of its territory as a result of the war.

World War II: Some have commented that Nazi propaganda was successful in infecting the Poles with racism. Poland, however, already has its own history of anti-Semitism. Just as in Germany itself and the other occupied countries, many Poles cooperate with the Nazis, even to the point of assisting in the extermination; many others actively or passively resist.

1945: With the end of World War II and the rise of communism, Poles and East Germans become politically connected in the same "Red Empire." Communist propaganda was therefore quite positive toward the "brothers" in East Germany (and vice versa) and, naturally, more negative toward West Germany and other Western countries.

1950: The Görlitzer Treaty recognizes the Oder-Neisse border between Germany and Poland.

Willy Brandt kniet in Warschau

Willy Brandt apologized for Nazi atrocities on the anniversary of the Warsaw ghetto uprising

1970: While in Warsaw for a commemorative service honoring the participants of the Warsaw ghetto uprising, German Chancellor Willy Brandt kneels spontaneously in front of the monument -- a controversial gesture of apology and reconciliation.

1970s: West Germany gains respect in Poland due to its phenomenal postwar economic recovery. Poles are experiencing economic frustrations, dissatisfaction with the regime and an increased awareness of the material inequality between the East and the West. East and West Germany exchange images in the eyes of the Poles. The Historikerstreit, the first sincere effort to face the Nazi past in Germany, also helps to rehabilitate West Germany in Polish opinion.

1980s: The struggle, endurance and ultimate success of the Solidarity movement in Poland is observed with much interest and respect in West Germany, East Germany and the rest of the world.


The Solidarity movement, born in the shipyards of Gdansk, helped bring down communism in Poland

1989-1990: The Berlin Wall falls and West and East Germany are reunited.

1990: Poland becomes an independent republic after 45 years of communist rule.

1994: German President Roman Herzog attends the remembrance of the Warsaw Uprising, where he asked for forgiveness on behalf of his country.

1997: Germany and Poland sign a bilateral cultural agreement.

2004: Conflict with the Prussian Trust organization over reparations from the World War II. The so-called Preussische Treuhand, supported by the Polish parliament, calls for reparations from Germany. Both the Polish and the German governments are in opposition to reparations.

April 30, 2004: German President Rau is invited as guest of honor to a special session of both houses of Polish Parliament to discuss the EU accession on the following day.

Polen feiern EU Beitritt in Warschau

Cheers to Poland's EU membership on May 1, 2004

May 1, 2004: Poland joins the European Union, along with nine other states, seven of which had been members of the Soviet bloc.

July 2004: Poland is the first country that German President Horst Köhler visits upon taking office.

Aug. 1, 2004: Chancellor Gerhard Schröder is invited to participate in the Polish memorial events honoring the 60th anniversary of the Warsaw Uprising.

December 2005: German Chancellor Angela Merkel visits Warsaw on her first official trip abroad.


1. Polen: Land und junge Leute. Series Ed. Iwona Kotelnicka and Ingrid Müller. Deutsch-Polnisches Jugendwerk. Warsaw, Potsdam: 1998.

2. Schäfer, Markus, Ed. Heinrich Böll und Polen. Heinrich-Böll Stiftung. Berlin, Cologne: 2004.

3. www.auswaertigesamt.de.

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