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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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Polish Youth Confronting the Jewish Past: Antagonistic History and Pathways to Reconciliation


Antagonistic history – based on polemical social representations of the past (Moscovici, 1984) – pertains to be one of the most frequent sources of ethnic conflicts and animosities. Such polemical social representations often occur within large societies, but also between societies that have their identities build on different historical narratives (group charters, Liu & Hilton, 2005). This situation creates an implicit conflict that might engage both sides even without any eruption of blatant, explicit forms of conflict. Contemporary Polish-Jewish relations are good examples of such implicit conflict based on different perspectives on mutual history.

Poland was once a very ethnically diverse country inhabited, according to the 1931 census by 65% of ethnic Poles, 11% Ukrainians, 5,5% Belarusians as well as by a significant Jewish minority constituting almost 10% of the total population (Cała, Węgrzynek, & Zalewska, 2005). In many small towns Jewish people outnumbered other ethnicities. The Second World War and the Holocaust brought an end to that diverse society. Almost 3 millions of Polish Jews perished (more than 90% of Polish Jewish population was murdered during the Holocaust), leaving behind material remnants of their presence, i.e. houses, synagogues, and cemeteries which are there to this day but in most cases are not recognized as being a part of the Jewish heritage. Even though some 200,000 Jews were still living in Poland after the war, most of them left in subsequent years and in the large waves of emigration around 1956 and after the antisemitic campaign...

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