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World War II and Two Occupations

Dilemmas of Polish Memory


Edited By Anna Wolff-Powęska and Piotr Forecki

This anthology presents the work of several authors from different academic disciplines. Film and literature experts, sociologists, historians and theatrologists analyse the Polish memory of the Nazi and Stalinist occupations, which are key components of Polish collective identity. Before the political turn of 1989, the memory of World War II was strictly controlled by the state. The elements of memory related to the Soviet occupation were eradicated, as well as any other elements that did not fit the official narrative about the war. Unblocking the hitherto limited public discourse resulted in the process of filling the blank pages of history and the development of different and frequently conflicting communities of memory.
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Bartosz Korzeniewski - World War II in the Politics of Memory of the Polish People’s Republic 1944–1970


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Bartosz Korzeniewski

World War II in the Politics of Memory of the Polish People’s Republic 1944–1970

World War II occupied a particularly important role in the politics of memory of the authorities of the Polish People’s Republic from the very beginning of the creation of the state. The war was a traumatic experience for all Poles. The immensity of the destruction and loss it brought was unimaginable. Thus, one should not be surprised that, based on this authentic trauma, the communists who seized power with the assistance of the Soviet Union attempted to build a system of social representations that would increase the chances of acquiring popular support. A suitable interpretation of the war that had just ended carried great symbolic capital and the use of this capital offered a chance to consolidate power. The attitude to World War II was, in principle, the only area where the new power could hope to develop some form of agreement with the general public. In later periods, particularly after 1956, an official tradition of celebrating Polish struggles for independence was developed around the events of World War II. It served to give meaning to the efforts of the war generation and was deftly used by the state propaganda to create national legitimation of the communist power that would replace the previously used class legitimation.

The politics of memory related to World War II were completely in line with the propagandistic activities of...

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