chapter  8
12 Pages

The banalization and the contestation of memory in postcommunist Poland


While postwar Europe was built upon deliberate forgetting, since the end of the Cold war, Europe, and especially Eastern Europe, has been constructed “upon a compensatory surplus of memory; institutionalized public remembering as the very foundation of collective identity” (Judt 2005: 16). Poland’s communist period (1945-1989) provides proof that the first type of order, that is, the system based on the politics of forgetting, is unsustainable. The transformation from communism to postcommunism has been accompanied by discoveries of many “blank spots” and attempts to settle wrongs that were committed during the communist era by the state and its agents. Yet, according to Judt (2005), this second type of order – one based on remembering – is also not without its own problems because some amount of forgetting is the necessary condition for civic health. Difficulties of such politics of memory are already visible in Poland’s attempts today to deal with the communist past and to challenge the old taboo on any serious discussion of Polish-Jewish relations.