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World War II and Two Occupations

Dilemmas of Polish Memory


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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Kaja Kaźmierska - Between Biographical and Collective Memory: The Experience of War in Narratives from the Kresy


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Kaja Kaźmierska

Between Biographical and Collective Memory: The Experience of War in Narratives from the Kresy1


In 2014, seventy-five years had passed since the outbreak of World War II, and in May 2015 the seventieth anniversary of its ending was commemorated. Important anniversaries related to this event always give cause for reflection and consideration of whether and how the war is present in collective memory. Publications on the subject usually start with similar observations. World War II is defined as the most traumatic event of the last century. It also ‘remains a central element of historical memory for most of the societies that participated in it’2 and remains central to the memory present in public discourse as well as biographical memory, which is rooted and communicated in private, particularly family discourse.3 Naturally, the dynamics of memory have varied over time. A significant turning point was hectic dealing with the past as a result of democratic processes in the 1990s. It is interesting that while the countries of Central and Eastern Europe could only then openly create a multifaceted image of the war and confront difficult subjects (e.g. Jewish relations in each nation), the countries of Western Europe also raised difficult issues in the last decades of the 20th century. In both cases, dealing with the memory of the war remains an unfinished process and its specificity in particular societies is a subject on its own. ← 117 | 118 →

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