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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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Małgorzata Hendrykowska - War Films After 1989. A Dialogue Among Three Generations


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Małgorzata Hendrykowska

War Films After 1989. A Dialogue Among Three Generations

The experience of World War II and the German and Soviet occupations is an extremely important component of the historical memory of several generations of Poles. It has been an impulse for academic research and artistic ventures and a source of inspiration for contemporary culture, and even popular culture. After 1989, interest in the German and Soviet occupations did not actually increase, but rather changed direction. The reason for this change was very simple. Postwar Polish cinematography, particularly war film, was until the political transition inextricably linked with politics. Dependence on ideology and current historical policy, of which the audience was not always aware, affected the collective memory and the image of years of war and occupation.

Since 1945, Polish cinematography has produced over two hundred feature films and documentaries about the war. Decade after decade, the war film genre was in constant flux. It evolved by distancing itself from dramatic war events and necessarily changed with the passing away of eyewitnesses and general changes in cinematic style. It was also significantly influenced by political and social changes in the country such as the tightening or easing of censorship. In retrospect, the films produced before 1989 under the watchful eye of censors and politicians are not only an important record of the evolution of artistic forms and changes in the approach to the subject of war, they are also...

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