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Reconstructing Memory

The Holocaust in Polish Public Debates

Series:

Piotr Forecki

The book aims to reconstruct and analyze the disputes over the Polish-Jewish past and memory in public debates in Poland between 1985 and 2012, from the discussions about Claude Lanzmann’s Shoah, Jan Błoński’s essay The Poor Poles Look at the Ghetto, Jan Tomasz Gross’ books Neighbours, Fear and Golden Harvest, to the controversies surrounding the premiere of Władysław Pasikowski’s The Aftermath. The analysis includes the course and dynamics of the debates and, most importantly, the panorama of opinions revealed in the process. It embraces the debates held across the entire spectrum of the national press. The selection of press was not limited by the level of circulation or a subjective opinion of their value. The main intention was to reconstruct the widest possible variety of opinions that were revealed during the debates. Broad symbolic elites participated in the debates: people who exercised control over publicly accessible knowledge, legitimacy of beliefs and the content of public discourse.

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Introduction

Extract

One of key achievements of the Polish political transition was the unblocking of the hitherto limited public discourse. It began to include a variety of issues that had previously been disregarded, ignored, silenced or falsified. The topic of the Holocaust and the attitudes of its Polish witnesses was one of the problems about which communist Poland did not speak, at least not in an honest way. However, it was in the last decade of the communist system in Poland that the silence was broken by Catholic and oppositionist press, although the range of these debates was certainly limited. After 1989, the problem of Polish-Jewish relations during World War II and, in general, Jewish history, culture and martyrdom, began to become a significant element of public discourse. These issues were no longer omitted by the Polish press; many important books appeared on the publishing market and Polish re- searchers, although few, gradually approached the subject and started to make amends for the lost decades.The topic of the Holocaust and Polish-Jewish rela- tions during World War II returned on the occasion of the commemorations of the Warsaw Ghetto uprising, the liberation of Auschwitz-Birkenau, the Kielce pogrom and the debate over reprivatisation. During heated debates resulting from the conflicts about the former exter- mination camp Auschwitz-Birkenau, Michał Cichy’s article “Poles and Jews: Black Pages in the Annals of the Warsaw Uprising" published by “Gazeta Wy- borcza”, became one of the most important subjects of public consideration, as well as Jan Tomasz Gross’ books:...

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