What should the Germans know about Poland?

Germany and Poland / Germans and Poles

a short summary.

From May 2004 Poland will also be one of the EU member states. But what will change in the way of opinions and views about the residents on both sides of the Oder from this date - and - what about the mutual opinion at all? After reunification, the residents of both countries moved to their respective neighboring countries. Partly simply out of curiosity, partly out of economic interests.

But what did or do we Germans even know about our eastern neighbor? As a Westerner, the population of the new federal states probably less so, since they had known "small border traffic" among themselves for years and at times also maintained it very intensively. also always depended on the respective head of state. It is known, for example, that the heads of state Ulbricht and Gomulka could not "smell" each other and thus the contacts also had an effect on the overall political situation. But at least - only the Oder actually separated the two peoples. Hardly anyone from West Germany came to the ' Embarrassment 'to plan a vacation in Poland. What should you do there? The country is poor. Nobody speaks the language - and besides, everything that lay behind the Iron Curtain was actually almost Russia, already Siberia, cold and unreal.

But a lot has happened with reunification.

You read more and more about Poland. The television shows these "newly discovered" neighbors in colorful and graceful pictures in numerous programs. The marvelous lake landscape of the Masuria is shown, the lovingly and technically masterfully recreated old town pictures of Gdañsk, Stettin (Szczecin), Warsaw ( Warszawa) or Breslau (Wrocław) and you actually feel like planning to visit these landscapes and cities once. The areas that are still in the border area do not make any effort to visit by car on a day or weekend tour. What is still unknown country is the eastern parts of Poland, the ones that are often economically disadvantaged - but are just as interesting from a landscape point of view.


And what about the people? I was not the only one who got to know and appreciate the Polish population as extremely friendly and courteous residents. Even the general, earlier opinion about the "lazy Pole", who is work-shy and prefers to just let everything go along, has largely changed in the opinion of Germans today. On the contrary, one has to say that the Pole is more than business-minded and with ideas quickly at hand. However, one must not forget that, unlike in Germany, there is high unemployment in many parts of Poland and it is amazing how people manage to cope with their everyday life. Here too there are complaints and complaints that they are doing badly - but we do that in Germany too - and we are definitely doing better, especially since the financial security here is better than with our eastern neighbor.

If you come into a house as a guest, you will still be treated as a "guest" and what will be served in the house in terms of food and drink, even if you don't have much yourself. This old tradition has largely been preserved.

Unfortunately, the thefts that have come to light, especially the car thefts, are still a flaw that clings to the country. It is actually only an insignificant percentage of the population who give themselves up for this criminal activity. But those few percent ruin the reputation of an entire people. However, this should not prevent us from visiting Poland as a holiday destination, because in many tourist resorts today great importance is attached to safety and the hotel and pension owners invest in the safety of their guests. The price / performance ratio is really extremely positive. And the different regions of Poland offer a suitable variety for every visitor. In the north the beaches of the Baltic Sea offer something for the beach holidaymaker, the already mentioned Masuria invite water sports enthusiasts or cyclists and in the south there are ideal winter sports areas.


What fears are there on both sides? With Poland's entry into the EU, many Germans fear that the German labor market, especially in the border area, will be inundated by low-wage Polish workers. But on the one hand there are contractual transition periods that are intended to prevent the immigration of Polish workers for the first few years and on the other hand the situation on the German labor market is by no means so promising that the change would definitely be worthwhile. Rather, I see that the Polish economy will grow faster and that it will be easier to find work in one's own country than in the “golden west”, which has not existed for a long time anyway. Perhaps, conversely, one can even imagine that German workers could find employment on the Polish labor market as skilled workers. Shouldn't the Polish population be frightened here too? The much-mentioned “upswing” that our politicians have been predicting for a long time, when will it come?

In history, Poles and Germans have always - and often justified on the Polish side - fear of their neighbors in the west. It actually started with the Knights of the Teutonic Order and this fear of the Germans has continued like a red thread through to recent history. Only after the signing of the treaty to recognize the Oder-Neisse border as the final western border of Poland and eastern border of Germany, in 1990, was it possible to breathe a sigh of relief in Poland that the larger neighbor had finally given up on the territorial claim originally anchored in the Basic Law. The displaced persons associations still protest in their annual association meetings. But these people should also think seriously about the course of history and about the people in both countries. Wasn't it the Germans who initially tried, in often inhuman ways, to influence the history of Poland? In response to their approach came the eviction. And the Poles, who today live in the areas in the houses of the expelled Germans, are themselves expellees from their ancestral homeland, who were expropriated in the areas of former eastern Poland annexed by Stalin and driven out of their homeland in just as inhuman actions. Often they had less time and opportunity to take their belongings with them than the Germans, who could still go by horse and cart or by car and handcart.


And the generations who determine life and the economy in Poland today, they only know a lot from the history books and the stories of their grandparents. For these generations, today's Poland is their Poland, their home. The youngest generation is now even more open to the West. Many young people learn the German language because they study here and maybe later want to live and work. But the national pride of Poles is just as great that everyone will say: Poland, this is my home!

I have seen this myself from many conversations with young Poles who were with us. In my opinion, young Polish people are more open to the world than our German youth. They want to learn, see and take with them a lot of experiences for their new life, a life in a new world that is moving ever closer together with the growing EU. Old enemy images are actually alien to them. Sure, there are still reservations and resentments; maybe given by the parents on the way.

But I say, we can be happy that history has changed so much that we have moved together from west to east, from north to south. Serious conflicts are no longer to be feared and we and our descendants can finally live together in a peaceful Europe. And everyone - no matter how much national pride they have of their own - should respect their neighbors with dignity and with due respect for the respective culture. We can all only learn from each other and so we will be able to draw on the full economically and socially. We all have a responsibility for this common future.



© Rainer Gütschow-Buczyñska, Berlin, 03/2004