We wish to document the pioneering work of two university teachers who engaged in innovative and trendsetting Polish-German exchange activities at the time of the Cold War and the Iron Curtain. No institutionalized structures existed then for such exchanges on the European level. Andrzej Jaczewski, who died, aged 91, in October 2020, was a pediatrician and, later, a professor in the Faculty of Education at the University of Warsaw, Poland. The other teacher, Karl-Josef Kluge, worked in the field of special education at the University of Cologne, Germany, focusing on the emotional and social development of children and youth. These pioneers worked within a global context that included the Cold War and the Iron Curtain in Europe, both of which still existed at the time of their first meeting (which they locate between 1969 and 1975). These events symbolically ended during the peaceful revolutions of 1989, with the Round Table Agreements in Poland and the destruction of the Berlin Wall in Germany. For almost three decades, these two visionary academics initiated educational exchange opportunities for people from both nations long before such were institutionalized as they are today. Thus, we view them as pioneers of educational exchange between Germany and Poland, operating this whole challenging and adventurous endeavor within the context of the external conditions of the Cold War and the Iron Curtain.

In analyzing Kluge’s and Jaczewski’s attempts at educational exchanges, we applied the theories of Europeanization and educational leadership. According to the Europeanization theory, their efforts were representative of the semi-institutional Europeanization in education. Their work preceded the EU-related Europeanization of the 1990s and 2000s, which took place under the changed conditions of the European partnership and the enlargement of the European Union (Olsen 2002). The Europeanization of today builds on the foundation of experience that scholars like Jaczewski and Kluge constructed during their long-lasting cooperation. Information about the historical and political context is included here to help an international readership, particularly younger and future generations, to grasp the significance of these documented attempts.

Kluge’s and Jaczewski’s educational philosophies, as expressed in their communications, emerge as an important building block in understanding the phenomenon of anticipatory Europeanization since the 1970s. Kluge and Jaczewski were expert sources of information and opinion in helping us to understand the structure of their pioneering cooperation. Their perspective is crucial, as they are probably the only ones whose memories can help develop the full story. Also, the Europa-Kontakt participants’ perspective is represented by written recollections, with some of them available for further research projects. A review of the literature (e.g., Depta 1993; Fitting and Kluge 1989) supplements this picture.

Several research questions frame our analysis of this case—questions that are particularly crucial as we focus on the genesis of the documented initiatives. They include: With what kind of education did these men engage? Was it a form of experiential education, or was it of a more nuanced origin? The majority of skills that have been identified as resulting from their educational process are mainly social. This is significant, given that international and European identity-related aspects of this cooperation got past the major institutional and political barriers of the Iron Curtain. Our analysis identifies both drivers and barriers of this programme for both of the main actors. Over the years, researchers have already documented many of the memories (e.g., in readers edited by Bröcher et al. 1987a, b; Fitting and Kluge 1989), which are integrated here. The two leaders’ perspectives were mostly focused on structural and institutional aspects of cooperation, whereas Europa-Kontakt participants wrote about the content.

This study’s methodological approach consists of elements of case study (Flyvbjerg 2011), oral history (Shopes 2011), biographical research (West et al. 2007), narrative inquiry (Chase 2011), and document analysis (Patton 2002). The data-gathering process included sending out and reading emails, and also interviewing both key figures, Kluge and Jaczewski, in several telephone talks on many subjects during June–September 2019 and study visits in Jaczewski’s house in Ropki in January 2020. As this study’s second author participated in the activities described here, we use his memories as well. As researchers, we try to clarify and check some of the sources’ information and opinions, including via additional online research and a literature review.

This inquiry has certain limitations. The memories are mental reconstructions of events, so they should be considered limited and viewed as a starting point to ponder more deeply—not as full documentation. We could only accomplish full documentation by interviewing all of the people who were involved over the decades, which is not possible.

The second limitation is that two of this article’s authors were personally involved in Kluge’s and Jaczewski’s activities. The second author was in a teacher-education programme in Cologne (1981–1986), and directly built on these experiences as he did his doctoral studies there (1987–1989), with Kluge serving as his doctoral adviser. The first author met Jaczewski in the early 1990s, in Warsaw, when he joined his scouting team. It was Jaczewski’s last team of scouts, as he withdrew from his leadership role in scouting in 1992 and moved to Ropki, a small village in the mountains in southern Poland. They maintained contact with one another, and in 2001 the first author met Jaczewski and his classes at the University of Warsaw. They met within the individual interdisciplinary programme, where Jaczewski was still teaching part time, coming a few times a year on Fridays and Saturdays. After 2012 they also collaborated in developing Jaczewski’s new media presence and coauthored some academic publications. Thus, in both cases, there is the limitation of knowledge production, which is correlated with professional and personal encounters over the years.

The historical context: Relationship between Poland and Germany

The story unfolds against a certain background of historical, political, and cultural relationships between Poland and Germany. Contemporary Poles and Germans refer to more than 1,000 years of common history in the middle of Europe. In different periods their relationships were either peaceful or resulted in armed conflicts. Since the Middle Ages, many Germans have lived in several parts of Poland and had productive economic and cultural relationships with the Polish population. However, the conflict between medieval rulers of Poland and post-Crusaders, the Teutonic Knights, is often seen as a mythical symbol of difficult and at times warring Polish and German relationships. The hallmark for this conflict is the significant battle of medieval Europe, the Battle of Grunwald in 1410, when the Teutonic Order was defeated.

Between 1772 and 1795, Poland disappeared from maps of Europe, and its territory was split between three empires: Germany, Austria, and Russia. The nineteenth century brought both modernization of the territory, often seen as occupied in Polish historiography, and brutal forced attempts at cultural Germanization. The historical period of partitions lasted for over a century, until 1918, when Poland became unified and independent again, following the end of World War I. Clearly, during the period between the world wars, political tension between Poland and Germany was constant.

The particular German-Polish relationships of the last decades are best understood in their deeper significance, but also in their ambivalence. These intertwined relationships occur during the Third Reich and World War II, followed by the Cold War period (1945–1989). The rise of Nazi Germany changed the relationship between these two countries in fundamental ways. On September 1, 1939, the Nazi government started its raid on Poland, and Warsaw surrendered on September 27, 1939, after the German military bombed it. The German military and administrative personnel perpetrated cruelties frequently on the Polish population between 1939 and 1945, the time of occupation. During this time, over five million civilians were killed; these now form the Polish national memory and martyrology.

After Germany’s defeat on May 7, 1945, the Russians pushed the Polish state to the West and, in revenge, evicted the Germans who had lived in the Eastern regions of the former Wilhelmine Germany. They drove people out of their houses by force; these displaced people could grab only a few belongings, moving west as refugees. The remaining German territory was split into four zones, governed by the United States, the United Kingdom, France, and the Soviet Union. After World War II ended in 1945, the United States and the Soviet Union maintained a confrontational relationship, with both representing completely different concepts of society. The former supported capitalism, free markets, free persons, and free thought; the latter espoused communism and supported planned economies and limited personal freedom. Hostility, mistrust, rivalry, espionage, an arms race, and periodic war threats characterized the escalating situation, known as the Cold War. Throughout the 1960s and 1970s, many people believed that a real danger existed of a third world war resulting from these tensions.

Europe was divided into two blocks, East and West. The German zone governed by the Soviet Union later became the German Democratic Republic (GDR), a part of the Eastern bloc. The Soviets also implemented a communist government in Poland, which limited human rights. The Polish population felt dependent, captured, and patronized by the Soviets, experiencing economic problems and shortages of all kinds.

Between the blocs was a highly controlled and restricted border, known as the “Iron Curtain”, where crossing was allowed only with permissions or visas. When the Berlin Wall and the Death Strip around the GDR arose in September 1961, most West Germans considered the Soviet Union and the entire Eastern bloc to be the Kingdom of Evil. Communication between the two blocs became extremely difficult. Only a few transit trains connected West Germany and West Berlin. These had to pass through the GDR with locked doors, as armed soldiers stood at each exit making sure that nobody left or entered the train. Similar measures applied to international trains that originated in Paris or Ostende, stopped in Cologne and Berlin, and then continued through the GDR to Warsaw, and later to Moscow or Leningrad. Armed soldiers at the Berlin-Friedrichstraße station supervised all passengers on the platforms and used trained dogs to sniff under the wagons for hidden passengers. Communist secret services opened letters sent between East and West; many were often confiscated or never arrived. Such correspondence, when discovered, often had negative consequences for the writers and receivers.

Despite such geopolitical conditions, there were moves toward reconciliation. In 1970 West German chancellor Willy Brandt traveled to Warsaw and extended a historic gesture in front of the monument to the ghetto heroes. He dropped to his knees to beg forgiveness for the crimes of the Nazi era. However, the general political climate between West Germany and Poland, which then belonged to the Eastern bloc, remained cold and hostile. Additionally, from the end of 1981 to mid-July 1983, Poland was under martial law; the government jailed thousands of opposition activists, without charge, in response to the nonviolent Solidarność social movement. The resulting violence led to the killing of dozens of activists. Poland became highly militarized at that time and closed its borders to visitors.

The year 1989 was historic for all three societies: Poland, East Germany, and West Germany. In the first half of that year, the Polish round-table negotiations driven by the Solidarność movement resulted in peaceful political-system change, with Poland becoming a democracy. The Berlin Wall came down on November 9, and Germany was reunified on October 3, 1990. These fundamental changes were connected with a broader process of transformation in the Soviet Union and the Eastern bloc. An enormous improvement in German-Polish relations followed the collapse of the Soviet Union and the decline of the communist regimes in Central and Eastern Europe. The era of official Europeanization began, as “United Germany has promoted itself as the foremost advocate for Poland’s accession to the European Union, whereas Poland has learned to accept Germany as the most important gateway to its return to Europe” (Spohn 2003). With Poland’s accession to the European Union in May 2004, new challenges emerged. Currently, both countries are part of a peaceful and democratic supranational, European entity of free movement, free trade, and common geopolitical interests, although significant populist anti-Europeanism can also be seen in both societies.

The Iron Curtain as a major barrier ceased to exist as late as 1989 and the early 1990s. Thus, both Kluge and Jaczewski—pioneers of the documented West German and Polish exchange—acted under conditions that were tied directly to the Cold War and the Iron Curtain, though their first meeting, which they locate between 1969 and 1975, was almost synchronous with Brandt’s symbolic gesture in 1970. We have noted, above, the important role played by cultural exchange (Richmond 2003), academic exchange (Borisova and Simons 2012; Henderson 2012), and educational exchange (Bu 1999) during the Cold War. Even if the EU-related educational Socrates-Erasmus exchange programmes were in operation in July 1987, they still needed a decade and a half before they would mature into the extremely well-organized and well-funded structures for international student and faculty exchange that they are today. Further, as the German-Polish Youth Office (GPYO), in Potsdam and in Warsaw, was founded as late as June 1991, it is apparent that these programmes and institutions had little to no effect before 1990.

Thus, the field of Polish-German dialogue at that time depended mainly on the initiative of courageous and highly involved individuals, on both sides, who acted as pioneers, without regular funding and without functioning, prearranged structures. They were confronted with various challenges: political, practical, and financial. In this article, we reconstruct the philosophy of two of these leaders, Jaczewski and Kluge, with an explanation of their actions and what kind of educational programmes they developed before the enormous transformation of the societies in East and West.

The history of Kluge and Jaczewski’s cooperation: 1970s–2000s

The pioneering work began with the initiative of Kluge from the University of Cologne during the 1970s. He had known Jaczewski since the late 1960s (according to his memory), and their inclusive summer camps for groups ran from 1972 (with a special multinational scheme added in 1986–1988) for groups from Poland, Germany, France, and Hungary. The Gifted Education summer camp started in 1985 and operated regularly for about 25 years with Polish participants. The exchange of Poles and Germans resulted in 600 participants overall, according to Jaczewski’s (1990) summary for the fourteenth anniversary of international exchange cooperation. In a later article, Jaczewski (1993) by mistake gave an even higher number of 900 total for the 17 years of exchange. As Kluge said in an interview we conducted in 2019, “When we had a group of fifty (50), including those from Germany and other countries, I always added places for ten (10) from Poland”. According to Jaczewski, Germans willing to visit Poland were usually harder to recruit than Poles willing to visit Germany. It is estimated that overall at least 150 German participants visited Poland, both as participants and staff, with different levels of engagement.

On the German side, Kluge’s wife, Eva, was always involved in the activities. Jaczewski mentions Uta Sievert (also known as Uta Sievert-Przybilski) as an important leader. She was married for a while to a Polish man named Przybilski, an assistant with Kluge, and visited Poland several times with university students from Cologne. For Kluge, in his personal retrospective, her participation seems to be less important, a fact that might result from conflicts in their later work relationship. Klaus Fitting-Dahlmann served as codirector of Europa-Kontakt, and Bettina von Grandidier played a key role in the Gifted Education camp, and also in the smaller, inclusive German-Polish-French summer camp. On the Polish side, there were 450 participants who visited Germany with different levels of engagement. In the 1980s, various coworkers and students of Jaczewski were involved, and some were also participants of his scouting teams (until the early 1990s, when he ceased his scouting activity). Piotr Kurkus and Artur Sieroszewski (who died in the late 1980s) participated, being high school and first-year university students at that time.

Several close personal friendships were fostered in the framework of the Polish-German exchange. Some participants became leaders. Agnieszka Oleszkiewicz participated in 1985 and was involved in the Warsaw Youth Palace activities. She was excellent in painting and drawing and, later, was active in keeping Europa-Kontakt going. Today, Oleszkiewicz is a public leader in Poland in the field of arts and management, and met with Kluge and his wife in Poland several times. Kluge remembers her well, as they corresponded for years. Jan Piekarski is a well-remembered contact of Jaczewski (in Kluge’s words, “a soul of a man”), whose wife, Joanna Piekarska, came to Germany for three summers as a counselor at the Creative Summer Camp (1985–1987). Two psychologists from Poland served as staff, in 1986 and 1987, on the team of the Gifted Education camp in Arnsberg. Young scout Piotr Kurkus who participated in the camp, later helped Jaczewski to host German visitors in the summer of 1987 in Poland.

The collaborators of Kluge and Jaczewski, even with the uncertain possibility of attending such camps, must have experienced their first international encounters and initial hearing about Europe as a common cultural space while planning the camps. Visiting the West was expensive, and it evoked a sense of adventure. Both Jaczewski and Kluge mention the story of material goods flowing between Germany and Poland. One time they had raised money in Germany to buy two buses from the German Mail Organization and to send them as a gift to the Warsaw scouts. At the border, the Polish customs officers took control of the first bus, took out nearly everything, including the seats, and finally let it continue on its way to Warsaw. The other bus had to wait for six more hours because the customs officers stopped work, stating that their workday was over. Although events like the above happened, Kluge did not think of barriers, and avoided negative descriptions. Yet, barriers did exist: for instance, visas, permissions, and financial guarantees were required for the invited guests. Kluge received financial support from the German Ministry of Family and Youth, and an upper-level administrator there, who was involved in the scouting movement, was helpful and supportive. Further, it was nearly impossible for Polish guests to bridge the enormous rate gap between the Deutschemark and the Polish zloty, so they needed funding support.

With regard to finances, Jaczewski mentions: “Here is the fundamental role of Kluge. I know that he was judged differently. There were accusations that he did not use the funds very elegantly. There were even minor quarrels. But I defended him and I would like his role to be appreciated. Without him, there would have been nothing!” Indeed, in the end, all these projects came to life through Kluge and his pragmatic style of pushing things forward.

Personal trust and cooperation between Kluge and Jaczewski

Kluge and Jaczewski differently remembered the date of their first meeting: either 1969 or 1974/1975. Certainly they were mature adults, as Kluge was born in 1933, and Jaczewski in 1929. During the cruelest period of relations between Germany and Poland (1939–1945), they were just boys entering their adolescence. Importantly, starting in 1942, Jaczewski participated in the Polish scouts’ resistance movement against the German occupation. A paradox can be seen in Jaczewski’s biography when we consider that he grew up and was educated during the Second World War, and that, as a scout, he was involved in the anti-German resistance movement in the 1940s. Less than 30 years after the war, he got involved in the work of improving relations between young Poles and young Germans.

In 1968, the year of pan-Western and pan-European academic and social protests, both Kluge and Jaczewski were in their thirties and had earned certain academic career and postdoctoral statuses. In the first part of his career, Kluge had worked as the principal of a residential institution for youth with social and emotional difficulties in Viersen, North-Rhine Westphalia. In 1968 he was appointed to a professorship at the University of Cologne, in the faculty of special education. The focus of his work was teaching youth with social and emotional difficulties. Jaczewski was a children’s doctor and high school doctor, with his research interests centered on medical and psychosocial sexology (Jaczewski 1984); he moved his academic activities from the medical university to the faculty of education at the University of Warsaw in 1970.

According to Kluge, he met Jaczewski during a conference in Haus Sonnenberg when he was 36 and Jaczewski was 40. Jaczewski (1990, 1993, 2015) mentions the location but sets the meeting in 1974 or 1975, which would mean that they were, respectively, even 42 and 46 years old at that time. This house was in the Harz Mountains, the frontier region of East Germany. The conference, hosted by some political institution in West Germany (Kluge does not remember the name), focused on the dialogue between East and West. Kluge recalls that he liked the way Jaczewski contributed to the discussions. It is likely that Jaczewski gave a speech or presented his thoughts in front of a larger audience. They talked with each other and found they had similar perspectives—both suggesting that people from Poland and Germany should meet and exchange, regardless of the political situation.

After their conversations, Kluge invited Jaczewski to come to Germany. As Jaczewski remembers (2009, 2018), Kluge sent plane tickets to Jaczewski without earlier notice, apparently unaware that the procedure for getting permission to travel to the West was extremely complicated. Finally, Jaczewski arrived for the first time in Viersen, and also visited Cologne. Then, shortly after, Kluge visited Jaczewski at his university in Warsaw. There, he met other professionals who worked in the field of education. Thus, a lively dialogue between the two scholars began, leading to the initiation of international youth summer camps crossing the Iron Curtain. They had a focus on inclusion, with participation targeting educational and intercultural learning, on the one hand, and having the goals of special needs integration, creative thinking, developing gifts and talents, and building leadership skills, on the other.

Eventually, Kluge invited his Polish partner to teach classes in his university department in Cologne, as Jaczewski was fluent in German, and he had both academic and pediatrician’s depth of background. He could share his professional knowledge and experiences with university students who were focusing on the emotional and social development of children and youth and who, in their own work, would later face all kinds of behavioral challenges when, for instance, counseling youth and families. Kluge integrated Jaczewski as an adjunct professor in his Cologne department, and Jaczewski gave seminars there for decades.

Kluge remembers that Jaczewski at times was confrontative when dealing with the rebelliousness of some German university students during the 1980s. A majority of special education university students in Germany at that time came from working-class backgrounds, and they had limited or no experience with some cultural events, like opera, that were not part of their socialization. He used to challenge these students by asking questions about cultural participation in his seminar: “When did you attend the opera for the last time and which opera did you see?” Then the students shook their heads because they had never attended the opera. Jaczewski’s response was: “Come back when you have been to the opera”. As Kluge explains: “For Andrzej, it was always important that educators, including special educators, have a broader cultural background and interest”. When the interviewer said to Kluge, “This style is somewhat confrontative”, the latter replied, “Andrzej was always confrontative”. Also in Poland, students agreed that Jaczewski taught in a different, more engaging way than most academics.

In the 1980s everything was controlled by the authorities, particularly on the Polish side, but Jaczewski managed to deal with his delicate position between East and West. Kluge said, “The communist regime in Poland used Andrzej’s reputation to brighten up their image. Andrzej was both for the communist regime: well-acknowledged and suspicious”. Kluge mentioned that Jaczewski spoke on the radio in Poland for many years concerning educational questions; he gave families his counsel and advice, such as on bringing up their children. This made him well known throughout Poland. Once, when Kluge and his wife were traveling by train to Poland, the customs officer began examining his papers. When he read the invitation letter signed by Jaczewski, he said, full of emotion, “Oh, Professor Jaczewski! He is the man who brought me up! My mother, who was facing the challenge to parent me as a single mother, regularly listened to the radio programs with Professor Jaczewski. I owe him so much! I am so happy that my mother picked up his ideas and counseling”.

How was Jaczewski’s style of teaching and counseling parents different from that of others? According to Kluge, “He was more open, also in sexual questions. He fostered and allowed a more open discussion of the issues involved”.

Schemes of inclusion, participation, and intercultural learning: Europa-Kontakt and multinational camps


Around 1972, Kluge founded Europa-Kontakt, a 12-day summer programme, locating it near the border of the Netherlands, not far from Viersen, where Kluge has his family home. During its first years, he operated the programme in close cooperation with Jaczewski. They started small, during these first years, with groups from Germany and Poland. Beginning in 1977, as many as 60 youth and young adults, with and without special needs, came from Poland, Germany, and other European countries to participate. At its peak, Kluge’s university students from Cologne served on a team of 20 counselors, and, in cooperation with Jaczewski, he invited staff from Poland to work on this team. Polish youth with diverse special needs, coming from several regions of Poland, participated in the programme over the decades, and Polish educators, university students, teachers, and researchers were involved as well. Europa-Kontakt had a strong focus on intercultural learning and participation, with attendees cooking and eating together, and engaging in cooperative games and creative arts. When Jaczewski and Kluge retired (circa 2001) Europa-Kontakt is called “EuroContact”, and has continued as a well-known, highly thought-of project.

Beginning already in 1981, Klaus Fitting-Dahlmann, Kluge’s research assistant from the University of Cologne, became the programme’s director, while Kluge acted as its overall leader and supervisor. Jaczewski facilitated the continuation of the German-Polish exchange, and maintained a constant Polish network, connecting Polish schools and other educational institutions with Kluge and Klaus Fitting. The German partners sent invitations to all eligible people in Poland, and raised money in Germany to pay for them to attend. The Polish partners organized visa documentation and permissions, with Jaczewski’s support. During the summer of 1983, the second author worked as a 22-year-old university student on the Europa-Kontakt team in Baunatal, near Kassel, Hesse. This location is very close to the GDR border, and, at that time, both the Berlin Wall and the Iron Curtain were extant. The whole group traveled to this experience from a variety of European countries, including Poland, and they visited the region around Fritzlar. The participants saw the Death Strip between the two Germanies, with its high fences, watchtowers, guard dogs, and military personnel in their jeeps, driving up and down.

The German-French-Polish summer camp

In the summer of 1986, Kluge established a second inclusive summer camp program. It was called the German-French-Polish summer camp because participants regularly came from those three countries. This camp ran for three summers, until 1988; during the last year, a group from Hungary also participated. The group size was approximately 25–30, so it was smaller than Europa-Kontakt and had a staff of around 3–5; the second author and Bettina von Grandidier served there as codirectors and counselors. This camp focused on hands-on and experiential learning, creative arts, and field trips. Participants had diverse mental and physical abilities, with some presenting very severe challenges.

The Europa-Kontakt camp participants worked and lived on a farm in Eichendorf, Niederbayern, near Passau. The farmer at this site had restructured the building into a school camp. The staff created and displayed posters with the most important words and short phrases in German, Polish, and French, and posted them in the dining hall. While the camp community communicated at the dining table, they could integrate these words and phrases into their conversations. There were youth and young adults in wheelchairs, and during the summer of 1988 some blind participants from Hungary joined the camp. The staff developed special programme activities in the creative arts for them, using music and also tactile concepts, such as work with stone, plaster, and clay. The Polish staff, who arrived with a group of physically diverse participants, had musical backgrounds and brought their instruments, including an accordion. In the evenings, they shared both their melancholic and their lively folksongs. Occasionally, the participants went collectively to an outdoor pool on a warm day and had much fun there. For their refreshment, campers in wheelchairs were carefully lifted into the water by several others. As they could not swim, they were moved slowly through the water.

This camp’s limited funding forced the staff to improvise. The second author remembers that, in the summer of 1986, Bettina von Grandidier and he gathered working materials for the camp in the city of Cologne. They then drove the material to Bavaria in an old car, which they had borrowed from a friend. On their lengthy journey to South Germany, they had to stop every 50 kilometers throughout the journey to feed water into the car’s radiator. After they arrived in Bavaria, they drove around and asked shops, stores, and factories to donate and sponsor materials, like paper, paint, wood, chicken wire, plaster, etc. A factory that made roofing tiles drove them into their production hall and then filled their car’s trunk with a huge chunk of clay, which they used for all kinds of creative work.

Gifted education, creativity, and building leadership skills inspired by the HighScope model

The second important field of documented German-Polish cooperation was the Creative Summer Camp (also known as Creative Gifted Education Camp, and later SkyLight Campus). This project ran for 25 years—from the summer of 1985 until 2010. This was a camp for highly motivated, gifted children and youth from Germany, Europe (e.g., Poland, France, Netherlands), and other regions of the world (primarily, the United States and Israel). Jaczewski made connections with the Warsaw Youth Palace, which was part of the quasi-Soviet symbolic social-realist Palace of Culture and Science. This body facilitated the education of gifted students in Poland. The second author and Eva-Maria Sassenrath-Döpke served as codirectors of the 4-week summer programme, in the years 1985–1988 (with 1 staff-training week). The group size was approximately 75–80, including a 20-person staff.

In the early 1960s in the United States, David P. Weikart and his wife Phyllis founded HighScope, an international programme, and operated it in the countryside near Ann Arbor, Michigan. HighScope was an 8-week (later, 6-week) camp that included a highly structured week of staff training. David P. Weikart’s team—with whom the second author worked for one summer—focused on experiential learning, the project pedagogy of John Dewey, and the building of leadership skills. HighScope camp became a model for the original design of the German Creative Summer Camp (Broecher 2015), and this US influence also affected the German-Polish exchange.

The programme of the Creative Summer Camp centred around technological subjects (physics, computer science) and creative arts (dance, theater, music, painting, drawing, creative writing, poetry writing), as well as sports, excursions, and field trips. The camp’s curriculum also included emotional and social learning activities. In the summer of 1985, the camp took place in Wegberg/Niederrhein, North Rhine Westphalia, near the border with the Netherlands. In 1986 and 1987, the camp was located in Arnsberg, Hochsauerland, North-Rhine Westphalia. In the 1990s, the camp moved to South Tirol, Italy; after 2000, to Schloss Rohlstorf, near Lübeck, Schleswig-Holstein; and, later, to a high school campus in Herchen, North-Rhine Westphalia. When leaders from the Warsaw scout organization appeared for a week in Arnsberg, the German staff were unsure how openly they could talk with them. This tentativeness resulted from Jaczewski’s absence—staff could not consult him as to whether they could trust the Polish leaders, whom they supposed might have come to observe and control them. However, they met some of the Polish leaders again during the field trip to Poland in 1987, when they went sailing on the Masurian lakes for one long, beautiful day. These Poles received their German visitors with the utmost hospitality.

Polish youth (and educators, university students) participated in the camp in Germany each year. The university teachers and researchers from Poland were involved as staff and counselors in programme development, camp management, and programme evaluation. The documented material shows that the summer camps provided a significant learning space for one’s own beliefs concerning what a good education looks like. They also show that ideas about what to take home in the sense of inspiration and what, not—ideas that are often experienced as too different—were differentiated. However, the details remain general, often expressed in a diplomatic style. For example, one educator, who had come from Warsaw to Arnsberg in 1986, wrote:

The time we have spent in the creative summer camp was a very interesting social and educational experience for us. We had the chance to compare our daily work in the Youth Palace in Warsaw with the experiment in Arnsberg. The variety of learning fields and the relative freedom in choosing learning activities satisfied the artistic and scientific learning motivations of the camp participants. That the methods with regard to the development of creative abilities differ from our own methods inspires us to reflect about this issue, even if some methods remain unacceptable for us…

(Letter from Joanne Gonezpin, Sept. 15, 1986; documented in Bröcher, Griffel, and Kluge 1987b, p. 311)

In this intercultural learning space, the participants’ preconceptions about each other’s country could be questioned and adjusted. As a psychologist who worked on the Arnsberg team in 1986 affirms: “Before I came to Arnsberg, I asked myself, in which way my German colleagues would align the rigid principles of German culture with the warm atmosphere which is necessary to foster creativity. So my opinion was that the German culture contains mainly rigid principles for those who come from other cultural backgrounds”. In his account, which contains many detailed observations of the daily learning processes, he later writes:

Some counselors invited me to participate in their workshops. Thus, I had the chance to observe the fascinating relationships which developed between counselors and campers when working in fields like arts, chemistry, biology etc. These counselors practiced exactly the necessary warm-hearted style. They helped the campers with their research questions and provided an open space for exploration and thinking… (Final report by Adam Borowicz, documented in Bröcher et al. 1987b, pp. 312–13)

Because not a single person chose freedom—that is, no participant or staff member escaped and asked for political asylum—Jaczewski assesses that they considered what was done within the project as important, “worthy”, and full of dignity. Whereas, during the Cold War period, some Poles visiting West Germany or other democratic countries decided to stay in the West and sought asylum.

Partial continuity of pioneering schemes

Europa-Kontakt, now EuroContact, exists today, after more than 45 years. It is now sponsored by a charitable society, in cooperation with the University of Cologne. However, its website does not mention Kluge’s and Jaczewski’s names. The second scheme of cooperation, the gifted education camp—under the names Kreatives Sommercamp or SkyLight-Campus—stopped operating around 2010. This is similar to what happened to the HighScope camp after David Weikart died.

Kluge, the founder—in close cooperation with Jaczewski—of these successful, trendsetting inclusive European programmes, is now retired and no longer actively involved. He continued with his projects for many years after his official retirement; however, he began having more and more difficulty recruiting staff from the University of Cologne, since he had retired. Jaczewski retired from the University of Warsaw around 1999, at the age of 70; during the early 1990s he was less involved in organizing and leadership roles. He passed his responsibilities to his university colleagues, and the cooperative work ended. Both Jaczewski and Kluge continued, in a limited capacity, with their university teaching.

The second author, after a long career as a teacher and school principal, is now a university professor himself. He tried to recruit university students from his own campus in East Germany to support Kluge in his endeavor to continue the camp. However, this attempt was only partly successful, because Gifted Education and Leadership Education, as well as close transatlantic cooperation with the United States (Broecher et al. 2014), collided with the left-wing ideology of that campus. The second author’s attempts resulted in at least two students from this East German university going to the SkyLight campus as counselors for two summers.

At the same time, other agencies and institutions came up with summer camp programmes, gifted education programmes, and summer schools. It became clear that the time was over for pioneering programs as the field now was institutionalized. The Erasmus program and the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD: Deutscher Akademischer Austauschdienst)—as well as some other bilateral and other official government-level programs—had overtaken the German-Polish academic exchange. On June 3, 2016, at the University of Cologne, Jaczewski was recognized and honored with the Human Award, a university-affiliated Kluge family foundation award. Anna Radzik, a past participant of the Europa-Kontakt camps as a teen from Poland, and now a university lecturer in German philology, received the award on Jaczewski’s behalf, as he could not travel due to his age and overall health.

The philosophy behind the encounter: Scouting, Korczak, Rogers, HighScope

Kluge described his philosophy during an interview with the authors like this:

The work undertaken was not so much logical or analytical, it was more in the sense of mutual trust. It will never be understood in detail, who triggered what exactly, and which ideas formed the endeavors in which ways. It was all built on generosity and hospitality, following the principle that politics is not decisive, but human encounter is.

Jaczewski was unaware of some of the background mentioned in this article, and he probably did not talk to Kluge about their theoretical inspirations in detail. Jaczewski certainly referred to scouting and to Korczak’s ideas through both his academic and socialwork careers. Kluge, also, sometimes seemed to simply swallow ideas and concepts from others and then treat them as his own. He sometimes referred to his sources and sometimes not; from our perspective as the next generation of scholars, this is a critical point. For instance, he refrained from talking about HighScope, although it was an important starting point, and he was silent about Carl Rogers as well. Kluge did not engage in his work as an author as one who puts his own thoughts, experiences, and insights on paper in an attempt to think it all through, sort it out, turn it around, and look at it from all sides. He never looked backward pondering, reflecting, and thinking, but rather saw one direction: forward. Kluge would usually say: And how will you move forward from here? What is your next move? For this reason, no final text summarizes his broad educational experiences, as he probably was impatient to get on with the work. Doctoral students within his closer circle, who know him best, completed some of this work. Additionally, when we look at his Polish-German exchange activities as a whole, Kluge must be regarded as an activist who pushed things forward, who made things possible—and not as a researcher who mainly focused on thinking and writing.

Thus, what were Jaczewski and Kluge’s collective philosophy? Our attempt here is to reconstruct briefly some of the main ideas and sources of inspiration behind their cooperation. During the initial years of their cooperation, German academia was highly focused on developing a very specialized special-education pedagogy for segregated institutions. Inclusion, in contrast to today, did not play an important role in the German educational landscape of the 1970s and 1980s. It has become more important in recent decades, having been pushed higher on political agendas. For this reason, what Kluge established in cooperation with Jaczewski and with stakeholders from France and the Netherlands was highly innovative and groundbreaking.

Kluge and Jaczewski had not only designed inclusive educational programmes and learning opportunities for representatives of the most vulnerable populations, they had also enabled professionals from Germany, Poland, France, Hungary, and other countries to work together and to learn from each other. Establishing a positive cooperative climate, Jaczewski discouraged escapes and asylum-seeking despite the conditions enabling such acts. The programme, to some extent, overcame the pressure of the Iron Curtain. The camp allowed participants to Europeanize: to overcome the border not only as a political and physical phenomenon but also as a psychological barrier. Jaczewski and Kluge organized and facilitated meetings and encounters with great focus on our collective roles as humans, and moved beyond all kinds of separating fences, walls, and even ideologies. They did not view their work as serving their professional careers; they saw it more as a human encounter. They hoped that their initiatives had an impact on the younger generations on both sides of the German-Polish border. The encounter groups were a medium of Europeanization, extremely interdisciplinary and innovative, which adds to the theory. Forming the building blocks of the foundation of these ideas, Kluge’s background was a perfect match with Jaczewski’s experiences, even though they both never mentioned some of the references. They seemed to share the move-forward attitude, so not much conceptual description of Europa-Kontakt has been left in their published works.

Robert Baden-Powell’s scouting tradition

The scout philosophy and codes of conduct strongly shaped and connected Kluge and Jaczewski. Jaczewski’s engagement in scouting started during the Second World War and almost never stopped until his retirement. In the 1970s and 1980s in his circle in Warsaw, sailing scouts went out in boats on the lakes and rivers under his leadership. As Kluge explained during a phone interview with the authors, the scouting programme taught values such as helpfulness, mutual recognition, good acts (at least one every day), enduring hardships, resetting one’s own needs, and building friendships in uncomfortable camp conditions.

Janusz Korczak’s pedagogy

The second point of reference for both men was the life and work of Janusz Korczak, as Kluge explained during an interview with the authors. Central for them both was Korczak’s appreciation and respect for each individual child. Kluge received a medal from the Korczak Association, and in his Cologne office a huge portrait of Korczak stood on the floor next to a table and chairs, where he used to have conversations. For Jaczewski also, Korczak was an inspiring person. Jaczewski taught and wrote about him during his career at the university (Jaczewski 2009, 2018). Thus, both pioneers of Polish-German exchange acknowledged Korczak’s influence on them.

Carl Rogers’ humanistic psychology

The third point of reference for Kluge was humanistic psychology, as Carl R. Rogers (e.g., Rogers 1961, 1969, 1970) had developed it. Rogers’ texts became the main theoretical framework for Kluge’s educational work at the University of Cologne in the 1980s and for the three summer camps. One cannot say that Rogers had the same impact on Jaczewski. However, despite the fact that he was less familiar with Carl Rogers’ approach, Jaczewski supported the mechanisms of person-centred work and encounter groups in his role as a director of the famous Nowogrodzka counseling center in Warsaw.

German adaptation of HighScope

The fourth reference would be the HighScope camp, in the US state of Michigan. As noted above, HighScope’s pedagogy was a fundamental pillar of the early design of the Creative Summer Camp in Germany, and also influenced that camp during the years 1986–1988. At the beginning, HighScope was the only model, and the German camp’s team followed that model closely. Kluge relied on the second author’s Michigan experience when he began his camp, in Wegberg, Niederrhein, in the summer of 1985. This was his sole plan for operating such a camp with 75 youth and 20 staff. These influences can be viewed as a post-WWII, Americanized transformation of German reform pedagogy of 1900–1933, from which the Nazis had picked up only the aspects of adventure and outdoor groups, and had rejected the aspect of freedom. After 1933, educators in the United States further developed a reform pedagogy; John Dewey’s project pedagogy played a key role in the HighScope camp—and the influencing and sharing continued, coming back again to Germany and Europe.

The tight structure of the Creative Gifted Education Camp was questioned by Israeli youngsters, who even said openly during a discussion in the dining hall that the camp structure reminded them of a “concentration camp”. Regarding the issue that provoked this comment, these youths had wanted to stay late into the night at a nearby camp where they had met other youth, youngsters not belonging to the camp community. Kluge sent the second author to discuss it with them and bring them back to the camp, frightened that the Israeli girls might get involved in difficulties.

Although Israeli participants gave their feedback describing the camp as regimented, the structure was not as tight as the structure of the original HighScope camp. The Creative Summer Camp was more holistic; it included some body-work and used therapeutic touch. The 1980s were the time of the psychotherapeutic culture rise in West Germany. This was a challenge for Kluge, who favored more verbal, reflective experiences. However, he sympathized with the Puritan philosophy of HighScope, and accepted these holistic, body-based approaches, which the younger generation of staff represented, and he supported them. In the HighScope camp, closer relationships were absolutely taboo, as the leadership tried to channel participants’ energy into their creative work and sports. In contrast, although the small, inclusive German-Polish-French camp had a solid programme, its feeling was Mediterranean: that is to say, more relaxed in all questions of structure and time.

The youngsters from Poland had not experienced the kinds of challenging discussions that the Israeli youth had. Poles were considerate, sensitive, and showed softness and empathy; they understood the camp staff’s responsibility, and supported them where they could. These types of processes and insights experienced by camp participants were what they took home to Poland. However, exactly what the Polish youth did learn from their experience at the camps appears never to have been researched.


Europeanization in education had some non-obvious roots. With influences such as Carl Rogers and HighScope on Europa-Kontakt, the postwar path of German and Polish exchange clearly was influenced by concepts travelling intercontinentally from North America through West Germany, across the Iron Curtain to Poland. Some others, such as scouting and Korczak’s pedagogy, were born in Europe and Europeanized without American cultural mediation. But what additional knowledge do we gain by analyzing the documented projects and experiences about the role of educational exchange in the context of Europeanizing? Polish-German history is the history of a long-term macro-process of Europeanization, leading to a more coherent Europe. Such major processes have their actors. Both exchange pioneers—born before World War II, witnessing the EU accession of East Germany and Poland—contributed substantially, through personal encounters, to the process of European transformation by bringing together people from both sides of the Iron Curtain. They made the hostile times of the de-Europeanization of the Cold War more human. Although other periods of European history share this trait of de-Europeanization, social and cultural forces may exist that lead to a counter-process; such macro-processes have their micro-dimensions. The encounter, as evidenced here, full of exchange, acceptance, and development, is a micro-process face of the larger macro-process.

After the nonviolent revolutions of 1989 in Poland and in Germany, Jaczewski and Kluge continued with their educational exchange programs and work. Their activities were embedded in an international setting, with a strong focus on German-Polish cooperation. Their programming centred on inclusion for the most vulnerable populations, and their creative learning and leadership-building also served highly motivated and gifted youth. Some of these participants would later take leadership positions in both countries and would shape the common future of a united Europe. Others simply experienced cross-border European contact, which certainly contributes to mutual understanding and cooperation between European nations and facilitates the political integration of Europe.