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Reconstructing Memory

The Holocaust in Polish Public Debates


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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Chapter II: “Poor Poles” look at “Shoah”: Recovery of the memory of the Holocaust in the country of witnesses


Chapter II “Poor Poles” look at “Shoah”: Recovery of the memory of the Holocaust in the country of witnesses 1. Reconstructing the memory of Jews and the Holocaust in the last decade of the People’s Republic of Poland In the middle of October 1980, a group of Polish intellectuals issued an open letter to the editors of “Polityka” weekly, in which they attempted to reclaim the memory of the victims of March ’68. In particular, they demanded that a spade be called a spade and that the anti-Semitic campaign organised by the state in 1968 be publically condemned. The first words of the letter, however, did not refer only to this single event: “The deeper the moral renewal we go through, the more beneficial the effects of the current breakthrough will be. This renewal should include an explanation of hypocritical, seemingly outdated cases that cast a shadow on the atmosphere of our community, such as the issue of Polish- Jewish relations. The history of Polish Jews is an integral part of Polish history. A Jewish minority lived on this land for at least 700 years and made a lasting and valuable contribution to the nationwide culture. Of the occupier’s will, this land became a collective tomb of millions of Jews from Poland and other coun- tries. Therefore, the so-called ‘Jewish question’ should not be understood as concerning only Jews, who, by the way, are very few in Poland. It is in fact a matter of great social importance; the matter...

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