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Reconciliation in Bloodlands

Assessing Actions and Outcomes in Contemporary Central-Eastern Europe


Edited By Jacek Kurczewski

Central-Eastern Europe, in the mid-20 th century, was a scene of Holocaust, mass killings, war, deportations and forced resettlements under the competing totalitarian invasions and afterwards. It was also the area where churches, politicians and citizens were engaged in reconciliation between antagonized religions and nations. This book presents several attempts to heal relations between Poles, Jews, Germans, Czechs, Ukrainians, Russians and Latvians as well as between Catholics, Protestants and Mariavites. Re-conciliatory practices of John Paul II and other Catholic leaders as well as Protestant churches are analysed in the first part of the book. Most of the remaining studies are focused on particular localities in Upper Silesia, Cieszyn Silesia, former Polish Livland and on the Polish-Ukrainian borderland. These detailed contributions combine sociological methods with anthropological insight and historical context. The authors are sociologists, psychologists and theologians and this leads to a fully interdisciplinary approach in the assessment of the recent state of inter-group relations in the region as well as in the proposed theory of peacebuilding and reconciliation.
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Reconciliation with the Absent: Poles and Jews in Democratic Poland


The word reconciliation does not mean an admission of guilt and a request for forgiveness. Repentance is possible, often necessary. Forgiveness is no longer possible. The victims cannot forgive, and no one alive has the right to grant forgiveness in their name. Reconciliation is something less than repentance, but more than omission. Reconciliation leads to changes in attitudes, at least as far as a comprehensive and critical understanding of the past. It must always mean a serious and honest confrontation with historically shaped collective identity.

Let us begin with an examination of the sociological analyses and the results of social research on Polish-Jewish relations.

I. The latest sociological research reveals that fewer and fewer Poles have personal contact with Jews. People do not really know who is Jewish. They know virtual Jews, Jews from Polish literature, Jews from photographs published in press coverage of, for example, visits of Hasidic Jews to the graves of their tzaddiks. This is not particularly surprising. There are very few Jews left in Poland. (Before the war, 3.6 million Jews lived in Poland, and it is estimated that between 220,000 to 250,000 survived.) According to the 2011 census, there are 7,000 Jews in Poland. In reality, there are probably more, but no one knows exactly how many. Most of all, we do not know what criteria to use in order to determine who is, was or might be a Jew. After all, the word itself causes anxiety. It...

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