Looking back: Dealing with the Past in Germany and Japan - Peace Boat in Cooperation with the University of Tübingen, Germany

Jun 5, 2020

Since 2005 Peace Boat has been organizing joint study programmes with the Department of Political Sciences at the University of Tübingen. Established in 1477, Tübingen is one of the oldest and most prominent universities in Germany in the fields of social sciences and international relations. This programme is carried out in cooperation with the Berghof Foundation.

Students from the Peace Research and International Relations Masters’ programme join a segment of a Peace Boat voyage. Having completed their theoretical studies, this is an opportunity for praxis, on themes including institutions of international justice, human rights, media trends, non-violent conflict resolutions, politics and religion, and actualities in international politics.

The highlight of the programme is the students’ presentation “Dealing with the Past” organized for the general audience onboard. The German students prepare for months prior to the journey to research and rehearse, and share with participants their perspectives on how Germany dealt with its own war past and war crimes during World War II. Directly, honestly and deeply thought out, the students talk about the Nazi past, the responsibility for the Holocaust and war crimes, how the younger generation learns about it in the German educational system. In dialog sessions and workshops following the presentation, students discuss dealing with the past with Japanese participants onboard, making parallels and examining differences between these two countries in relation to their war past.

One of the most valuable discussions often takes place with Peace Boat participants, including Global University students, who have visited Auschwitz as the ship travels through Europe. After returning to the ship, they discuss with the students from Tübingen what happened in the concentration camps during the war, and how memory of these atrocities are preserved today for the coming generations.

According to Jasna Bastic, coordinator of the programme since it was launched, "although we have organized programmes with more than 100 students from Tübingen, every time is like the first time. You never know how things will be discussed and what impact it will have on the students. Once we had students from Germany, Israel and Palestine together at the same time. You can imagine how much history was involved in their talks! I was amazed by how the Israeli and German students were at ease when talking about the past, and how the Palestinian youth would always interrupt this dialogue to bring a reality check of the situation today. During the most recent programme, in 2019 on the 102nd Voyage, it was rewarding to hear one of the students from Tübingen saying after the sessions on dealing with war past with Japanese participants, "Maybe we didn't do so bad job in Germany after all'. I have never heard such a thing before."

The students’ time onboard is not only occupied by lectures, workshops and discussion sessions. They also enjoy many cultural events, such as Japanese tea ceremony, German music night and sports programmes, with fun activities to bring diverse cultures together.

The voyage onboard Peace Boat is an official part of the curriculum for the MA in Peace Research and International Relations at the University of Tübingen, and students are granted credits their participation and completion of the programme.

We hope to see students from the University  of Tübingen onboard Peace Boat again in 2021!