The Federal Institute for Culture and History of the Germans in Eastern Europe (Bundesinstitut für Kultur und Geschichte der Deutschen im östlichen Europa) was founded in Oldenburg in January 1989. On the basis of its academically independent documentation and supplementary research, the Institute has the task of advising the Government of the Federal Republic of Germany on questions related to the research, presentation and further development of culture and history of the Germans in Eastern Europe. The Institute forms a part of the portfolio of the Federal Government Commissioner for Culture and Media (BKM). The Institute´s work is supported by an interdisciplinary advisory board.
The Institute´s publications, research and other activities focus on regions, periods and themes related to the history and culture of the Germans in Eastern Europe. This includes research into the history of particular regions, as well as the treatment of minority issues, comparative studies and detailed cultural historical research.
The Germans in Eastern Europe were not a uniform group, whether in a political, economic, cultural or social sense. The region between the Baltic and Adriatic is characteristic for its diversity, which has arisen not only from fruitful exchange, but also from conflict ridden encounters between different cultures, confessions and languages over the centuries. Numerous areas of Eastern Europe have historically belonged to many ethnicities, nations and states, and often enjoy double or even multiple cultural identities. Most regions have also been culturally and historically influenced by the Germans since the High Middle Ages. These Germans migrated from a range of different regions, belonged to different confessions and social strata, and whether nobles or clergy, burghers or farmers, lords or subjects, they left traces of their work and influence behind them.
This cultural heritage is truly noteworthy due to the variety of historically changing relationships in Silesia, Pomerania, East and West Prussia, Bohemia and Moravia, in the Baltic region or Transylvania. The cultural heritage serves to create identities both in the regions themselves and in the context of a common Europe. Research into and preservation of this heritage is therefore both historically relevant as well as an important challenge in today´s Europe.
Any dealing with the centuries-long history of settlement of the Germans in Eastern Europe must also include its ultimate end: the Nazi-Dictatorship and the Second World War started by Germany. In the context of the World War, this settlement history also comes to include the subsequent resettlements, the refugee movements and forced migrations, as well as the integration of refugees, expellees or displaced persons and emigrants into society in the two post-war German states.
The Institute, which has been attached to the Carl von Ossietzky University of Oldenburg since 2000, undertakes its research and teaching activities in co-operation with the University and by working closely together with scholars and institutions in the states of Eastern Central Europe. Collaborative research into the historical German settlement areas in Eastern Europe can make a valueable contribution toward European integration, especially when this research addresses themes that have previously been controversial in national historical research. The Institute´s concept of academic work is based on the concept that views of history can only be balanced when the discourse is able to rise above national borders, when the results of historical research are collated, and when they are made genuinely accessible.
Since May 2004, the Institute Director has been Professor Dr. Matthias Weber.
The Institute is divided into four specialist areas: History, Literature and Language, Ethnography and Art History.
- The focus of work in the field of History is the transmission of knowledge about relevant archival collections in such countries as Poland and Romania, as well as the translation and publication of recent works from Eastern Central Europe.
- Literature and Language focuses primarily on the production of documentation about German language authors in and from Eastern Europe, and critical editions of relevant works of literature.
- The main tasks in Ethnography include the development of museum and other collections, within and outside Germany, and the historiographical analysis of 20th century "folk culture research" (Volkskulturforschung).
- Art History focuses on the documentation, analysis, conservation and presentation of all kinds of artistic works - architecture, painting, sculpture and crafts - in and from the regions of Eastern Central Europe.
Since 1992, the Institute has published an interdisciplinary academic series of research papers (Schriften des Bundesinstituts) and a yearbook (Jahrbuch des Bundesinstituts). Both series are open to German and international authors.
The yearbook includes academic essays and annotations of important publications in the countries of Eastern Central Europe. The yearbook aims to strengthen the exchange of information and knowledge across borders. The development of sources in the archives of Eastern Europe will be continued through the Institute´s own research as well as through acquisition of editions and translation of collection catalogues.
Under Online Publications, bibliographies, dictionaries, overviews of archives and monographic contributions to research can be accessed.
The Institute takes a foreward-looking approach to conducting international, co-operative research into the diverse national and transnational culture and history of Eastern Europe.