Meeting on 10 April 2013 was a true culmination of Why do we need history? series. The subject of the lecture was time of reign of Kin Federick the Great and „Prussian issue in the history of Polish-German relations”. The speaker, as usual impressively presented by the inventor of the cycle, professor Edmund Kizik, was Hans-Jürgen Bömelburg, professor of history of central and eastern Europe at the University of Gießen, member of Common Polish German Schoolbooks Commission, and in the past employee of German Historical Institute in Warsaw.
Captivating the audience with his extremely vivid language, professor Bömelburg resurrected in the Manor of Sierakowscy European, and in particular German-Polish history of the 18th century. The protagonist, Frederick the Great –last German ruler enjoying the privilege of wearing such a glorious nickname – was an original character for his time, and even today still raises controversies, not only in the circles of professional historians. In a clever manner professor Bömelburg presented interesting codependency of opinions on Frederick in Germany and in Poland: the higher estimate of the ruler in his country, the worse his reputation in our country, and vice versa.
It seems that only today, in the period of working through mutual complexes, both parties are able to judge him in a balanced, unambiguous way. Yet contemporary times are also when Frederick the Great became – in particular in Berlin – historical icon, a simple emblem, a silhouette from souvenirs. Times when he was associated with contemptuous motto Polnische Wirtschaft that so well reflected his disrespectful attitude to Eastern territories inhabited – in his view – by grim barbarians, are over.
Numerous quotes from Frederick’s letters presented by the author of Polish historical thought and humanistic national history, allowed us to better understand mentality of Europeans of that times and to measure distance between us and that epoch.