Assessing Actions and Outcomes in Contemporary Central-Eastern Europe
Edited By Jacek Kurczewski
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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