On March 25th, 2000, the President of the Republic of Poland, Aleksander Kwasniewski, took part in the celebrations of the 20th anniversary of the German Institute of Polish Culture in Damstadt. The guests who arrived at the City Theatre included the President of Germany, Johannes Rau.
Taking the floor during the celebrations, President Aleksander Kwasniewski said:
"The event the anniversary of which brought us here today took place exactly twenty years ago. After year-long preparations, Das Deutsche Polen-Institut started activity at that time. One could hardly presume then that would mean the opening of a new chapter in the history of rapprochement of Germans and Poles. The creation of the institute was possible owing to the good will, understanding and support of a number of outstanding personalities of Germany`s public life, including the then Prime Minister of Rhineland-Westphalia, Mr Johannes Rau, the present President of the Federal Republic of Germany, the then Federal Chancellor, Helmut Schmidt, the then Prime Minister of Rhineland-Palatinate, Bernard Vogel, dr. Marion Countess of Doehnhoff and the then Mayor of Darmstadt, Herr Heinz-Winifred Sabais, born in Wroclaw, a poet, lyrist and author of a poem about that town. Above all, however, the merit went to dr Karl Dedecius and people rallied around him. It was due to their enthusiasm and engagement that an institution of a unique character, differing from all other institutions functioning and promoting the culture and science of other countries in Germany, was created virtually from scratch. The Darmstadt institute is the creation of the energy and initiative of a group of Germans, profoundly interested and even fascinated with Polish culture. The distance from current politics made the institute become an authority for the Germans sharing that interest. More than that. It gained the position owing to which it influences inspiringly and critically the literary life in Poland. It would not have been possible without the literary-critical and publishing work by such people as dr Karl Dedecius, Albrecht Lempp, Andreas Lawaty, Manfred Mack or Ewa Kobylinska. Pardon me for not mentioning all the names deserving it. It is to them that we owe 50 volumes of "Polish Library," "Blue Series," seven volumes of the "Panorama of the 20th Century Polish Literature," or the publishing series "Viewpoints," not to mention many other publications, on which the institute prides itself. I would like to sincerely thank them in my own behalf and on behalf of my compatriots for what they have done in this domain.
Culture, and first of all literature, perhaps, is the key to get to know and understand the traditions, history and mentality of each nation. Reapproachment, good-neighbourly relations and fruitful cooperation are not possible without mutual knowledge of one another. As it was rightly noticed by dr Dedecius "it is not enough to acknowledge the culture of Russians, Poles, Lithuanians, Hungarians or Czechs to be European and thus get rid of the troublesome duty of closer familiarisation with the particular qualities of each of these nations" . This idea is particularly topical nowadays, when the thousandth anniversary of the pilgrimage by Emperor Otton III to Gniezno reminded of the vision of Europe which does not end on the Danube or Elbe. I do believe it will also be a challenge for Germans to further enrich and develop relations not only with Poland, but with the entire region of Central-Eastern Europe as well, of which my country is an inseparable part, a region with which Germans and Germany are linked by so and diverse bonds, so deeply rooted in history. I see here not only still another plane for cooperation between our countries, but also an essential direction for action in favour of the afore-said, thousand year old and yet so contemporary an idea - the European idea.
Darmstadt, March 25th, 2000
President of the Republic of Poland Aleksander Kwasniewski participated in the ceremony of the 20th anniversary of the German Institute of Polish Culture. President Aleksander Kwasniewski`s meeting with president of the Federal Republic of Germany, Mr. Johannes Rau.