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The Construction of European Holocaust Memory: German and Polish Cinema after 1989

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Malgorzata Pakier

Is a common European Holocaust memory possible? The author approaches this question by analyzing Polish and German cinema after 1989, and the public debates on the past that have surrounded the filmic narratives. Of all media, cinema has exerted the broadest impact in the formation of collective memory regarding the Holocaust. Despite the distance in time, and especially since the fall of communism, this traumatic chapter in European history has come into ever sharper focus. Film makers have refracted evolving public awareness and in turn projected the dramas and images that inculcate mass opinion. This work examines these dynamic trends with regard to selected Polish and German feature films. The author shows how cinema opened hitherto taboo aspects to discussion. She reveals both a deep divide between the two countries, as well as significant similar trends in the memory of events.

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Acknowledgments

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This book is a result of five years research that was made possible by a generous doctoral grant from the European University Institute in Florence, and a postdoctoral fellowship at the Center for Advanced Holocaust Studies, United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, DC. I want to express my gratitude to the professors who inspired and supported me over the years of my PhD studies, and who provided their feedback at various stages of the research: professors Bo Stråth, Jay Winter, Gerhard Haupt, Philipp Ther, Maria Todorova, Ulrike Weckel, Anna Cichopek, Frank Stern, and Włodzimierz Borodziej. I am also grateful to professors Joanna Tokarska-Bakir, Anna Zeidler-Janiszewska, and Jacek Leociak who helped with their valuable comments. I would like to very warmly thank the Center for Advanced Holocaust Studies, USHMM which provided an intellectually stimulating and very friendly environment for completing the research and preparing it for publication. My fellowship there was made possible by the Charles H. Revson Foundation. Special thanks to these colleagues and friends: Suzanne Brown-Fleming, Brett Kaplan, Raye Farr, Martin Dean, Michael Gelb, Steve Feldman, Jacek Nowakowski, Emil Kerenji, and Vincent Slatt. Last but not least, I am forever indebted to my husband, who participated in every stage of production of this book, reading, correcting, and discussing it with me. Małgorzata Pakier

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