Körber History Forum, May 2018

The value of Europe with a view to history

The conflicting relationship between politics and history was the focus of this year's Körber History Forum 2018. The list of speakers included Erkki Tuomioja, former Finnish Foreign Minister and Chairman of "Historians Without Borders", sociologist Eva Kovács from the Hungarian Academy of Sciences, political anthropologist Esra Özyürek from the London School of Economics, historian Philipp Ther from the University of Vienna as well as Turkish historian İlber Ortaylı.

"All over the world, we see that a free and democratic community is something very fragile," said Thomas Paulsen, member of the Executive Board of the Körber Foundation at the opening of the two-day conference in Berlin, which brought together international scholars, journalists, politicians, intellectuals and mediators of history for the third time. "Democracy is not a given, it has to be nurtured and fostered, it has to be defended against its enemies, but it also has to evolve, it has to be re-established and renegotiated time and again."

Detailed Report


Speakers and Moderators

Agenda (PDF)

List of Participants (PDF)

Migration: a contentious issue

What are the reservations expressed about immigration in the EU based on, and how have fears about integration been approached throughout history? On the sidelines of the Körber History Forum, historian Philipp Ther, from the University of Vienna, and Gergely Prőhle, Hungary’s former ambassador in Berlin, explain their positions in the debate.

Philipp Ther is convinced that migration permeates European history. However, he emphasises the need to differentiate between refugees, labour migrants and other forms of migration. Ther also stresses fear and rejection as central motifs that have always been associated with migration in Europe. Moreover, he emphasises that history shows that host countries have almost always benefitted from migration in the long term.

read opinion of Philipp Ther

Gergely Prőhle explains the reservations expressed by Central and Eastern European countries when it comes to accepting refugees. Prőhle maintains that these countries have yet to make the same positive experiences that the West has made with migration. As such, he argues that the parliamentary majority, as an expression of the will of the Hungarian population, should be able to decide who can live in the country. Prőhle and Ther vividly discussed these issues at the 2018 Körber History Forum in Berlin and they set out their views in more detail in the following.

read opinion of Gergely Prőhle


  • Marianne Birthler, former Federal Commissioner for the Records of the State Security Service of the Former German Democratic Republic    
  • Suat Kınıklıoğlu (2nd from right), Institute for Security & Development Policy in Stockholm, with fellow panellist Eugene Rogan of St. Antony’s College, University of Oxford (1st from right)    
  • The interactive exchange between participants is a core aim of the Körber History Forum    
  • Nora Müller, Körber-Stiftung, and Styopa Safaryan, Armenian Institute of International and Security Affairs    
  • Thomas Paulsen, Körber-Stiftung, former Ambassador of Hungary Gergely Prőhle, Gabriele Woidelko, Körber-Stiftung, and Lotte Leicht, Human Rights Watch (f.l.)    
  • Panellist Erkki Tuomioja on the legacy of World War One and the work of his organisation Historians Without Borders    
  • Historian Sven Beckert, Harvard University, discussed as panellist the history and present state of global capitalism    
  • The audience - in this case Gurminder K Bhambra, School of Global Studies, University of Sussex, - was encouraged to add critical questions after the panel debates    
  • Lunch debate with moderator Miriam Rürup (1st from left), Institute for the History of the German Jews, and Stefanie Schüler-Springorum (2nd from left), Director of the Center for Research of Anti-Semitism in Berlin    
  • Carlos Collado Seidel (2nd from right), University of Marburg, and journalist Veronica Frenzel (2nd from left) took their lunch-debate from the separatist movement in Spain to autonomous movements and the impact of individual identity throughout Europe    
  • Photos: David Ausserhofer