Jubiläum: 60 Jahre Deutsches Historisches Institut Paris

Rede des Parlamentarischen Staatssekretärs beim Bundesministerium für Bildung und Forschung, Thomas Rachel MdB, anlässlich des 60jährigen Jubiläums des DHI Paris am 19. Oktober 2018 in Paris.

Es gilt das gesprochene Wort.

Madame Banat-Berger (Leiterin des franz. Nationalarchives)

Ambassador Meyer-Landrut

Professor van Ess (Präsident Max Weber Stiftung)

Professor Maissen (Direktor DHI Paris)

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Je suis très heureux de fêter aujourd’hui avec vous le soixantième anniversaire de la création d’un Institut historique allemand à Paris. Je souhaite vous adresser à cette occasion les félicitations les plus vives et les salutations les plus cordiales du ministère fédéral de l’Éducation et de la Recherche.

Last week, I held a speech at the Bundestag on the topic of the European Education Area. I stressed that today we take many of Europe’s accomplishments for granted that were unthinkable just 60 or 70 years ago. Accomplishments such as democracy, rule of law, separation of powers, free movement of workers and also the freedom to study abroad. I emphasized that we very much welcome the plans at EU level to support stronger cooperation and linkages among European universities. And I also underlined how much we value the Erasmus Plus programme and that we are looking forward to an even stronger Erasmus programme as of 2021. I believe this will contribute not only to a true European Research and Education Area but will also strengthen our European identity.

After the catastrophe of two world wars, it is by a stroke of historical luck that we have the privilege today to consider how we can jointly ensure the best possible educational opportunities for young people in Europe. A stroke of luck which we would do well to remember, despite all the arguments and differences of opinion. It's also a chance which is closely related to the history of this Institute, whose anniversary we are celebrating today.

On the 10th of November last year, the memorial at Hartmannswillerkopf (ein im 1. Weltkrieg umkämpfter Berg im Elsaß) was opened to commemorate the fierce battles between German and French soldiers and the tens of thousands of lives lost there during the First World War. In the presence of President Macron, Federal President Steinmeier aptly said in his speech at the opening ceremony: The European Union united in peace is our response to the devastation of two World Wars.

Responding to the horrific events of the past with such a tremendous and visionary effort is an outstanding achievement, which I believe is without parallel. We associate it with statesmen like Robert Schuman and Charles de Gaulle, and in Germany particularly with Konrad Adenauer. Former enemies have become friends. This also bears reference to the history of your Institute. A German Historical Research Centre was founded in Paris in 1958. This was the starting point. And one year after the Elysée Treaty had been concluded in 1963, the German Historical Institute was established.

In the meantime, the Institute has achieved some impressive milestones. You have the numbers to prove it: 1999 scientific events, 320 publications. And I would like to add one more number: 55 million. This is the amount of funding in euros which the Institute has received from the Federal Government since 2002, the year when the Max Weber Foundation was established. Ladies and Gentlemen, this shows that we attach great importance to the study of our shared history.

Today the Institute offers excellent working conditions. It provides a forum for German and French researchers to meet and work jointly. You have meanwhile broadened the scope of your work. Today, you are also studying African history together with partners from Germany and Africa.

I have mentioned the favourable turn of events in European history after the war. We must keep reminding ourselves of this valuable asset and appreciate the advantages of life in our liberal-democratic society. This includes the freedom of science and research. We are aware of the importance of freedom and autonomy in this field. Limiting the freedom of researchers would affect all of society and its prospects to ensure openness and progress: An independent judiciary, free press and, of course, free research are important prerequisites of our liberal society. Article 5 of the German constitution provides for the freedom of the arts and sciences. Creativity and research excellence depend on free and unrestricted thinking. I believe that no society will be successful in the long term if its research community cannot operate freely. Working to ensure the freedom of research therefore means strengthening our entire liberal democratic system. However, we are experiencing developments in Europe and in democratic societies in general, which interfere with this fundamental principle. We see mass media becoming weaker and public debate polarized due to populist campaigns. Social media make it easier to find people who affirm your own opinion – and this all too often includes biased opinions. But it is precisely the capacity to reach compromise through public discourse which distinguishes the success of a democratic society.

And for this, Ladies and Gentlemen, we need historians and, more generally, we need the humanities and social sciences. These disciplines study social developments and structures and help us to understand them – to reflect about our own way of life and also to understand the culture and the way of live of our neighbours. They generate knowledge about our societies which provides us with orientation for action to shape the future. This is why I would like to see the Institute celebrate many more anniversaries. Your role in German-French relations and in helping us to better understand each other and to think more globally is very important to strive for a better Europe.

Let me therefore once again express my sincere congratulations on this anniversary. Be assured that the Federal Ministry of Education and Research will provide you with further support. And above all, please continue to enjoy your work and share your results with us!

For now, let us all have a pleasant evening and let us enjoy a cheerful atmosphere.

Thank you for your attention.