German-Polish relations - an exchange on the Figurenfeld near Eichstätt

Studentengruppe auf dem Figurenfeld
© Rüther

Learning spaces like the new Outdoor Campus open up new perspectives and change the forms of learning. In this spirit, a German-French student group now visited the Figurenfeld near Eichstätt together with Dr. Mariusz Kozerski (University of Wroclaw) and Dr. Christina Rüther. For three months, Dr. Kozerski teaches and conducts research as part of the DAAD project "Democracy/ies in Motion: Germany and Poland in Comparison" at the Chair of Comparative Political Science at the KU.

The Eichstätt artist Alois Wünsche-Mitterecker erected a total of 78 stone figures in the special Jura landscape of the Altmühltal from 1958 to 1975. For the artist, the Figurenfeld became his life's work. The figures are scattered across the entire field. They stand for soldiers falling, crawling or lying on the ground and depict the futility and horror of war. There are no winners, no defeated – only losers.

© Rüther

Following the field trip, Dr. Mariusz Kozerski held a lecture on German-Polish relations and gestures of reconciliation after 1945. He recalled the unprecedented gap between Germans and Poles that had opened up after the Second World War. According to the Polish Institute of National Remembrance (IPN), 5.6-5.8 million Poles, mostly civilians, had lost their lives in the war. Polish territory would shrink by 20 percent as a result of the shift to the west. Poles from the eastern territories – among them also Dr. Kozerski's family – were resettled westward to the former German territories. Poland was founded, according to Dr. Kozerski, as an anti-German state, as communist propaganda always emphasized.

The gestures of reconciliation made by Chancellor Brandt in Warsaw in 1970, Carlo Schmid during his lectures at Polish universities, Chancellor Kohl and Prime Minister Mazowiecki in Kreisau in 1989, or Federal President Rau with his Polish counterpart Kwasniewski in 1999 were important for rebuilding trust. For the first time, the presidents of Poland, Israel and Germany jointly commemorated the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising 80 years ago in April 2023. Has reconciliation been achieved today? As the ensuing discussion among students about the current German-Polish relationship showed, there is no end point, but a foundation on which both sides can and must build.