The first meeting of the German-Polish Textbook Commission was held in Warsaw between 22nd and 26th February 1972, in the presence of historians and geography experts from both countries. Since the Cold War and the lack of diplomatic relations between the Federal Republic of Germany and the People's Republic of Poland had made official dialogue impossible for many years, this meeting was preceded by years of informal contacts and efforts between academics.
The pioneer of the German-Polish textbook discussion in the post-war period was the Oldenburg grammar school teacher, Enno Meyer (1913-1996), who had been a soldier in the Wehrmacht during World War II. After the war Meyer's experiences on the Eastern Front persuaded him to explore Polish history. His aim was to achieve the widest possible presentation of German-Polish topics in school books without them having a one-sided, national perspective. Meyer discussed his thoughts with Polish academics who lived in exile at the time. As a result, in 1956 the International School Book Institute in Braunschweig published 46 theses. Amongst others, Meyer warned against German school books excessively glorifying the Teutonic Order, and against Polish textbooks highlighting its military role. He also pointed out that Germans had focussed on the suffering of the Jewish population during World War II, whilst overlooking the injustices inflicted on Poles and other nationalities under the German occupation.
Although Meyer's theses led to major controversies, they were met with a tremendous response from academics in Germany and the People's Republic of Poland. They formulated the core problem, although it had not been possible for a long time to establish an official dialogue. On the German side the educationalist, ethnologist and historian Georg Eckert (1912-1974), who had been the President of the German UNESCO Commission since 1964, made an equally important contribution to setting up the German-Polish Textbook Commission. He established contacts in Central and Eastern European countries and joined forces with them to establish bilateral textbook commissions.
The first meeting of academics in the context of the German-Polish Textbook Commission was preceded by a noticeable improvement in relations at government level. On 7th December 1970, the "Warsaw Treaty” was signed between the Federal Republic of Germany and the People's Republic of Poland on the basis of the normalisation of their mutual relations, and the Federal Republic of Germany recognised the western border of Poland on the Oder and Neisse rivers. In addition, the governments of both countries committed themselves to working to expand their mutual economic, cultural and scientific relations. On that day of Willy Brandt's genuflection before the Monument of the Heroes of the Ghetto in Warsaw, it also came to commemorate the murdered people. This historical gesture was to become a symbol of his policy of understanding with the East.