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The Warsaw Voice » Other » September 30, 2009
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Book Charts Neighbors' Troubled History
September 30, 2009 By W.Ż.    
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The official launch of the book Obraz Podwójny/Doppelbild (Double Image), on the history of Polish-German relations 1939-2009, took place Sept. 4 at the Primate's Palace in Warsaw.

The bilingual publication is an unprecedented project. Its main part consists of extensive interviews with two people-a Pole and a German-born in September 1939. Both, each in his own way, experienced the horror of the war years, and both subsequently achieved spectacular success in life.

The German is Norbert Rethmann, born Sept. 14, 1939, today the owner of a group of companies employing more than 50,000 people all over the world. The group's leading companies are Remondis, specializing in waste disposal and recycling, Saria, which deals with post-slaughter waste management, and Rhenus Logistics. Rethmann, who is now transferring the running of the companies to his four sons, developed the family business from a small local transport firm into a global giant.

Rethmann has had links to Poland since the 1970s, first in connection with his involvement in the charity work of Catholic organizations, later as an active participant in delivering aid to Poland during martial law, which was imposed in 1981, and finally-after the collapse of communism in 1989-as a businessman with wide-ranging operations in Poland, chiefly in public-private partnerships with Polish towns and communes. In the interview, he shares his thoughts on the thorny issue of Polish-German reconciliation, overcoming mutual prejudice and jointly building a new Europe free of divisions.

The Polish viewpoint is presented by Prof. Andrzej Jacek Blikle, familiar to Varsovians as the owner of the famous family cake shop on Nowy ¦wiat Street, established in 1869. A mathematician by education, a scientist specializing in IT and quality management, after many years in academia he took over the family business and has been vigorously developing the company ever since.

Born Sept. 24, 1939 in Warsaw as it was being bombed by the Luftwaffe, Blikle, who comes from a family with German roots, talks about how Poland has shifted over the years from hostility and fear to a normalization of relations with its western neighbor.

The remainder of the book comprises essays by two historians, again a Pole and a German, as well as a timeline tracing relations between the two countries. The introduction was written by Janusz Reiter, former Polish ambassador to Germany, one of the leading experts on these issues in Poland.

The publisher of Obraz Podwójny/Doppelbild is the Laetitia Foundation, a Polish-German nongovernmental organization whose mission, according to its statute, includes working for reconciliation between nations, and in particular to preventing any conflicts, through education about mutual history, customs and national traditions.

Marian Mazurek, who is the chairman of the board of the Laetitia Foundation and who came up with the idea for the book, said at the launch that its task was to "teach the young generation about the past 70 years of difficult relations, during which period the two nations-Poles and Germans-experienced times of aggression and hatred, and times of forgiveness and reconciliation, right up to the time of the joint building of a united Europe."
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