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Antisemitism in an Era of Transition

Continuities and Impact in Post-Communist Poland and Hungary

Edited By François Guesnet and Gwen Jones

The post-Communist transition in Eastern Central Europe has brought about democratic reform, liberalized economies and accession to the European Union, but also the emergence of political movements that revert to antisemitic rhetoric and arguments. This volume compares the genealogies and impact of antisemitism in contemporary Poland and Hungary. Leading and emerging scholars contrast developments in both countries from the last quarter of the nineteenth century to the present, analysing the roles played by organised religion, political leaders, media and press, but also by Communist Parties. They present historical analysis as well as the results of qualitative and quantitative research on contemporary public memory, the image of the Jew, antisemitic media, political constituencies and the interplay of prejudices, specifically anti-Roma racism. A topical bibliography of research on antisemitism in post-Communist Eastern Central Europe offers pathways to further research.
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Public Memory in Transition: Antisemitism and the memory of World War II in Poland, 1980-2010: Adam Ostolski


Adam Ostolski

In the rich sociological literature in Poland on the subject of antisemitism, the perspective of inter-group relations dominates: social attitudes, stereotypes and prejudices, cultural constructs of distinctiveness and alienation are studied. Less attention is paid to the way in which antisemitism is becoming part of the Poles’ memory of their own history, as well as of its transformations. In this article, I argue that in order to understand present-day antisemitism in Poland, public memory of World War II is of critical importance. Focusing on this aspect means that the emphasis is shifted from the construct of alienation to the construct of a collective ‘I’. An examination of it requires investigations and analyses of constant coordinates of public memory, as well as of its dynamic over the last few decades. Such an analysis will allow us to establish how attitudes towards Jews are formed by the place our Jewish fellow-citizens are perceived to fill in Poland’s past.

In the early 1980s, a new landscape of public memory of World War II began to emerge in Poland, born out of instabilities inherent in the older model. The democratic opposition with its alternative public sphere (samizdat) enabled people whose memories were not part of the official version of the past to name its ‘blank spots’. Two sorts of blank spots were identified. First, those relating to the forbidden memory of the Polish population’s sufferings under Soviet occupation. Second, those relating to the repressed memory of Polish Jews...

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