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Last Updated: Friday, 5 May 2006, 08:49 GMT 09:49 UK
Franco-German textbook launched
French Education Minister Gilles de Robien (left) and Saar region prime minister Peter Mueller present new history book
The book is another milestone in Franco-German reconciliation
The first joint French-German history textbook has been unveiled in France.

The book, by French and German authors, covers modern history since 1945 - the year when World War II ended.

But it still deals with some sensitive topics, such as the French Vichy regime which collaborated with the Nazis and Hitler's popularity among Germans.

In 2005, China was hit by anti-Japanese rallies following Tokyo's approval of school books which critics said whitewashed its wartime past.

Thursday's launch of the French-language history book, called Histoire-Geschichte, took place at a World War I museum in the northern town of Peronne, near the site of one of the bloodiest battles of that war.

Nothing is permanent

Speaking at the event, French Education Minister Gilles de Robien said "the great lesson of this story is that nothing is set in stone - antagonisms that we believe are inscribed in marble are not eternal".

French President Jacques Chirac and former German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder. File photo
Mr Chirac and Mr Schroeder backed the project in 2003
The book will be on the curriculum in French and German schools.

The German version is expected to be unveiled in July in the city of Saarbrucken.

The next textbook - covering the 18th Century to 1945 - is planned to be published next year.

The idea of the manual was born after French President Jacques Chirac and the then German Chancellor, Gerhard Schroeder, met a group of high school students from both countries, said Bernard Kampmann, spokesman for the German embassy in Paris.

"It was not easy, because of the complexity of the German and French school systems, but both leaders really threw their weight behind the project," the spokesman said.

'Heated discussions'

The 10 authors did not encounter major difficulties, according to France's Le Figaro newspaper.

Paradoxically it was not World War II which provided the main topic of debate, but the US role in the world since 1945, the newspaper said.

It quoted Guillaume Le Quintrec, co-director of the project, who said "the French found the Germans to be pro-American and the Germans found our viewpoint anti-American".

Heated discussions, in which each word was carefully considered, resulted in a text which both sides judged to be "balanced".

Another stumbling block was the German historians' desire for a more critical approach than the French one towards the former people's democracies in Central Europe, Le Figaro reported.




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