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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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CHAPTER V. Conclusions

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CHAPTER V Conclusions Based on contemporary cinema, what can be said about how the Holocaust is remembered in Germany, Poland, and Europe in general? What kinds of tensions appear in how World War II and the Holocaust are represented and discussed in Germany and Poland? What new and common interpretations have been developed in the German and Polish debates on the past? Finally, what might the “Europeanization” of Holocaust memory possibly mean? What does this process mean for Europe – and what does it mean for Holocaust memory? The question of cultural memory can usually be divided into three more specific questions, namely, what is remembered, who is the remembering agent or collective, and how do they remember. With the change of generations, the cultural and political atmosphere changes and new topics are brought to public attention. The author of the classic study on collective memory, Maurice Halbwachs, taught us that present concerns determine what of the past we remember and how we remember it (1992). The collapse of communism and the re-unification of Germany have resulted in a new framework of political and symbolic concerns in Europe. The year 1989 meant an end to the kind of friend- enemy thinking characteristic of the Cold War, and to constraints on memory imposed by the needs of ideological legitimation. The creation of European identity and a European mnemonic community which are associated with the processes of European unification, and which seem to be the new objective for many among the European political...

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