German History Competition Celebrates Prize Winners – and Its 50th Anniversary
On 14 November, the five first prize winners of the German History Competition received their awards at Bellevue Palace, the office of the German President. This year, students were asked to research the history of homes, houses and apartments: "More Than a Roof Over Your Head. The History of the Home" was the topic. How did people live throughout history? And what do differences in housing say about society? These were just some of the questions addressed in the competition.
The 1,600 entries covered a wide range of topics and time periods: Students looked at Viking villages, their towns in the Middle Ages, but also housing for workers in the post-war period. While half of the entries were essays, the other half were more creative formats: Podcasts and films were submitted and students also created guided tours. Some even built models of apartments or entire villages.
One of the five first prizes went to the fifth grade of the Leonore-Goldschmidt Schule IGS Hannover-Mühlenberg. The children produced a music video, including lyrics, choreography and post-production, about the history of their district of Hannover-Mühlenberg. Two works dealt with housing during and after the Nazi period: Hoang Long Daving Duong investigated the history of a Polish displaced persons’ camp in north-west Germany. Elias Vollmer, Jeremias Loghis and Paul Mai investigated the history of a local housing association between 1933 and 1945. Valérie Raillon focused on the housing of workers in the Ruhr area. Mohammad-Taha Abollahnia tackled a more contemporary issue: His research focused on the restitution of houses in a village near Berlin during German reunification.
This year's edition also set a new record for participation by tutors: Some 800 teachers supported their students in their research. Federal President Frank-Steinmeier, patron of the German History Competition, expressed his special thanks to them: "Without them it would not be possible: the many tutors who, as I know, motivate the students and, if necessary, encourage them to keep going when their ambition wanes a little, when they get bored or are afraid of not finishing."
The awards ceremony also marked the end of the fiftieth anniversary of the history competition, which was first launched in 1973. More than 156,000 children and young people have taken part in the competition since its launch. But what role does a 50-year-old competition play in today's world of turmoil and disinformation? Thomas Paulsen, member of the board of the Körber Foundation, the organisation behind the competition, emphasised the importance of historical competitions: "The more people are prepared to question preconceived notions of history, the more difficult it will be to misuse history as a political weapon. The more people who are prepared to study facts instead of accepting opinions, the less fertile ground 'fake news' will find. This applies not only to Germany, but to the whole of Europe.”
The “Spurensuche” magazine introduces all fifty federal prize winners: Spurensuche 37 (in German only)