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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 IV: “Fear” after Jedwabne.The debate that almost didn’t happen


Chapter IV “Fear” after Jedwabne. The debate that almost didn’t happen. 1. “Fear” in Poland and in the eyes of historians. In January 2008, almost eight years after the release of “Neighbors”, Jan T. Gross’s new book, “Strach. Antysemityzm w Polsce tuż po wojnie. Historia mo- ralnej zapaści” [English: “Fear; Anti-Semitism in Poland just After the War. The History of Moral Collapse”] appeared on the Polish book market.735 Unlike “Neighbors”, which was first released to Polish readers, “Fear” was originally published in the USA and with a slightly different title: “Fear; Anti-Semitism in Poland after Auschwitz: An Essay in Historical Interpretation”.736 Thus, due to the author’s decision, his critics were prevented from formulating concerns of what could happen to the good name of Poland and Poles after foreigners read the book – concerns which had already been manifested in the debate over the massacre in Jedwabne. Jan Tomasz Gross’s new book started a debate in the Polish media at the time of its publication in the USA. As a result, before it was released in Poland, “Fear” had already been “promoted”, particularly by the national-Catholic press, reporting the ‘deceitful’ and ‘anti-Polish’ contents of the book. However, other comments and reviews also appeared, including academic texts. Therefore, in the first days of January 2008, when various newspapers announced Jan T. Gross’s new book, “Fear”, to be published by “Znak”, the title was already fa- miliar to many readers and the author’s name well known, particularly after the controversy over the...

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