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Poland and Polin

New Interpretations in Polish-Jewish Studies


Edited By Irena Grudzińska-Gross and Iwa Nawrocki

The contributions in this volume reflect discussions and controversies during the Princeton University Conference on Polish-Jewish Studies (April 18–19, 2015). The debates examined the politics of history in Poland, as well as the scholarly and pedagogical need to move beyond national and diasporic narratives in researching and teaching Polish-Jewish subjects. They focused on the role and meaning of the POLIN Museum of the History of Polish Jews.
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Polishness in Practice


I live in the United States and frequently encounter the promotion of Poland by Polish state institutions – something along the lines of “Poland for foreigners.” Since 1989, this promotion has been very intense; Polish diplomatic and cultural institutions have been intently changing Poland’s “brand.” The first stage of this campaign, spanning the years 1990–2004 approximately, was “transitological”: Poland was “in transition,” a “normal” country, just like any other European country, returning to its usual, pre-Soviet-dominance way of being, ready to join the European family as a full and rightful member. This stage began right after the legislative election of June 1989, and had as its objective Poland’s entrance into the European Union and Atlantic institutions. “Normalcy” was the keyword.

Around 2004, when Poland became a member of NATO and major European bodies, the projected image of Poland started to change. This second stage turned the politics of normalcy into the politics of trauma. The Righteous Among the Nations – people involved in saving Jews during World War II – were projected as the face of Poland, with the life stories of Jan Karski and Irena Sendler being the most energetically promoted. Poland was not a country just like any other anymore; it became a country of suffering.

Two Kinds of History

In historical politics, select historical events are used as symbols of an unchangeable national identity. It is a simplified history, mythical and therefore ahistorical, because it does not contain unique facts, a...

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