2020 Beyond new wave of mythologization of WWII
Academic Essay

Works that demonstrate a deep knowledge of the theoretical and public debate about the Second World War. The authors of these essays have demonstrated their independence in working with the material, their ability to present the results of their research in a lively and accessible manner.

Daria Chuprasova (Russia)
Immortal Regiment of Great Patriotic War: Postmemory and Memory Wars

Daria Chuprasova is studying for a Master in Historical Sociology at Charles University (Praha).

The dead rebelled next to the living. This is not artistic vanity;
it really happened. – Sergey Shumakov

Even before the title "Immortal Regiment" appeared, similar actions were organized in

several cities of the USSR. The earliest known event of this kind was in 1965: students of Novosibirsk school No. 121 walked through the city streets with photographs of war veterans (Rusal`skaya 2014). In 1981, a procession of mothers in black robes with portraits of their deceased sons took place in the Rostov Region (Aroyan 2016). In the post-Soviet years, such events took place both in Russia and in a number of other states. For example, in Jerusalem in 1999, citizens took to the streets with portraits of soldiers on Victory Day (Dyomin 2018).

The organizers of the Immortal Regiment project noted that over time, fewer veterans take part in street processions in honor of Victory Day, and decided to revive the Soviet tradition of bringing photos of their relatives to memorials, though modernizing it slightly. On May 9, 2012, the Immortal Regiment movement was created in the modern world: on that day a column of city residents passed through the streets of the city of Tomsk, carrying placards with photographs of their relatives who fought in the war. Traditionally, Soviet parades were held with the participation of veterans and professional military personnel. This was the first parade attended by ordinary citizens. Over 6,000 people took part in the action (O Dvizhenii 2013). The following year, on May 9, 2013, the action was held in 120 cities and villages of Russia (Ukraine, Kazakhstan, Israel also joined the parade). In 2014, the action was already held in 500 cities, across Russia and in six other countries. (Irlandiya, Prisoedinitsya 2015).

By 2020, the Immortal Regiment took place in more than 80 countries, and it has

become an important part of the celebration of Victory Day since 2015, when the parade first passed through Red Square following the Victory Parade. The president of Russia took part in this parade with a portrait of his father, which aroused concern among the organizers since a clause was added to the Charter of the action that it is not a commercial, political,media, or government-affiliated event (Ustav polka 2013). Despite this, the huge number of participants in the Immortal Regiment has become the basis of statements about the popularity of the current political regime. Opposition movements which lack visibility in this event are often portrayed as a counterforce to the face of Russian civil society (Fedor 2017).

At the same time, the widespread popularity of the action inspired other movements to develop: for example, the Immortal Barracks action, designed to draw attention to the victims of political repression. This movement also collects and stores similar forms of data on victims of repression: photographs, biographical information, sentencing, whether or not the victim was rehabilitated (O Proekte 2015).

Due to the pandemic, the government of the Russian Federation decided to cancel the May 2020 marches of the Immortal Regiment in Russia. Instead, the procession went online, and anyone could participate simply by uploading a photo of their relative and information about him/her to the site. In total, about 2.7 million applications were received (Slobodyan 2020). Of these, a filmstrip from a series of portraits and stories was edited and aired for almost two weeks. Additionally, in an interview with the Proshloe (Past) project, the author and main organizer of the Immortal Regiment noted that if the situation with COVID-19 would permit, the Immortal regiment 2020 would nevertheless be held in the fall, along with the official Victory Parade (Bessmertnyj Polk Onlajn 2020).

Some countries simply cancelled the action, while others, like Russia, held it online: Spain and Andorra (V Ispanii, I Andorre 2020), the Netherlands, and Italy. In Germany, the film Immortal Regiment - The Global Movement was released on YouTube. In Brussels, the online exhibition Feminine Face of Victory was held (Yakovleva 2020).

Post-memory and Memory Wars

Marianne Hirsch, who first used the term post-memory in her work The Generation of Post-memory (Hirsch 2012), analyzes the lives of children whose parents became victims of the Holocaust. Hirsch believes that other people's memories can be our memories. The traumatic XXth century led to descendants of survivors (and non survivors) of the Holocaust, world wars, civil wars, revolutions, etc., considering the memory of a prior generation to be their own. In this case, we can say that "memory" is not formed due to real experience, but with the help of imagination. In her book Family Frames: Photography, Narrative, and Post-memory, Hirsch says that post-memory is a powerful form of memory precisely because it refers not to memories, but to "imaginative investment and creation" (Hirsch 1997; 20).

That is why the elements of post-memory are often found in art and media: films, literature, art. Historically, there was a separate and popular genre of cinema in Russia— military-historical cinema. Most often these are films about the Great Patriotic War (Erohina 2017). However, Hirsch points out that she does not consider post-memory a valid source for research, formulating ideas, or fuelling a movement. In her opinion, the mechanics of post-memory transfer accumulated experience between generations. However, it is important to avoid extremes and excessive identification when accepting other people's memories and integrating them into one's personal memory (Hirsch 2012).

For the Russian commemorative practice of the Great Patriotic War, separation into two camps is characteristic. The research group Monitoring of Contemporary Folklore, in its study "War for War", divides the Internet audience into two "imaginary communities", linked by shared language, symbols, and political position. Participants in both communities consider themselves descendants of the veterans, but one group identifies with the victors and the other with the victims of war (Vojna za vojnu 2016).

"Let the enemies of Russia remember the day of May 9!" read one slogan of a participant of the "Immortal Regiment" in 2016, held in St. Petersburg. For many, memories affiliated with this holiday recall the glorious past, as Victory Day also became an affirmation of military power and glory in the present. There is another, most popular slogan, "We can repeat", aimed at those who question the present reputation and economic losses. Others are not satisfied with this "victorious" commemoration of the war, but they are largely dismissed by the political establishment. In 2016, the former Minister of Culture of the Russian Federation, Vladimir Medinsky, said in an interview that the country had reached a consensus on history, which is expressed in the action of the Immortal Regiment. "The Great Patriotic War and the generation of winners are canonized by society - this is sacred that is not subject to any discussion at all" (Bezbelyh I Krasnyh 2016).

The authors of the "War for War" study also talk about the disintegrating connotations of modern Victory Day: the clash of two communities (believing that "we can repeat" and believing that "this should never happen again") destroys the established tradition of the holiday (Vojna za vojnu 2016). Russian historian Alexei Miller notes that the next anniversary of the end of the war should be an occasion to revise the antagonistic policy of memory, which emphasizes the victor vs. victim dichotomy,) to gain freedom in discussing the lessons of the war (Miller 2020).

Thus, we can say that the Immortal Regiment as an action became an occasion to rethink the meaning of victory, Victory Day, as well as questions of the relationship between family and national, personal and collective memory. Some researchers believe that the Immortal Regiment is a union of family and state memory (Fedor 2017). The most significant example here is the fact that the Russian President in 2015 walked along with the parade participants, carrying a photograph of his father as the son of a soldier, and not the leader of the country (Putin vozglavil 2015).

In his speech on the Proshloe (Past) project, the founder of the Immortal Regiment action noted that in the history of Russia of the XXth century there are three key dates when family information and mementos (especially photographs) were lost: 1917, 1937 and 1941. This means that almost every Russian citizen has to conduct a real investigation to find out about his/her relatives, find their photos, data, burial places (if this information is available; many soldiers of the Great Patriotic War are still reported missing) to walk with a photograph around the city as part of the procession of the Immortal regiment.

Participants in the parade, not only lifting photographs of their relatives above their heads but also wearing a soldier's uniform during the war, directly identify themselves with a generalized historical figure. We see a specific substitution: the carried portrait becomes the "representative" of the deceased in the war, not only for participants in the procession but also for those outside it. The self-identification that the participants in the Immortal Regiment seek to demonstrate is confirmed by external observers (Vojna kak prazdnik 2017).

For many people, it becomes insufficient to simply remember or to say "we remember," "we are proud". For them, there is a need to demonstrate clearly their involvement in this event— not just to attend with a photograph, but to dress in the uniform of war, put the sticker "Trophy from Berlin" on their cars (most often German), etc. And the action the Immortal Regiment itself becomes a ritual, as anthropologists understand it: there is a need to perform a certain set of actions dedicated to the holiday in order to show their involvement.

According to the results of the surveys, it can be concluded that Victory Day and its corresponding events are reborn from the day of mourning and sorrow to the day of national unity (the ratio of "joy" and "sorrow for the millions of dead" is 3 to 1 for the older generation and 5 to 1 for young) (Levinson 2015).

The famous Soviet poet Robert Rozhdestvensky once wrote: "It is not for the dead (people), it is for the living (people)" (Rozhdestvenskij 1970). Based on this phrase, we can say that the participation of people in the Immortal Regiment is due to the need to extend their memory, to make the personal collective in part, and to be sure that it will be preserved.


1. "Bessmertnyj polk" onlajn (2020) Proshloe. Radio. URL: https://music.yandex.ru/album/10254203 (Retrieved: 26.05.2020).

2. Aroyan I. (2016) Bessmertnyj polk. Vpervye portrety frontovikov pronesli na Donu v 1981-m // Argumenty i fakty URL: https://rostov.aif.ru/society/persona/bessmertnyy_... (Retrieved: 24.05.2020).

3. Bez "belyh" i "krasnyh" (2016) RG.RU. URL: https://rg.ru/2016/06/29/vladimir-medinskij-liuboe... (Retrieved: 26.05.2020).

4. Dyomin V. (2018) Po sledu «Serogo». Avtobiograficheskaya povest'. Litres.

5. Erohina T. (2017) Fenomen pamyati v massovoj kul'ture: kontrpamyat' i postpamyat' v otechestvennom kinematografe // YAroslavskij pedagogicheskij vestnik.

6. Fedor J. (2017) Memory, Kinship, and the Mobilization of the Dead: The Russian State and the "Immortal Regiment" Movement. In: Fedor J., Kangaspuro M., Lassila J., Zhurzhenko T. (eds) War and Memory in Russia, Ukraine and Belarus. Palgrave Macmillan Memory Studies. Palgrave Macmillan, Cham

7. Hirsch M. (2012) The Generation of Postmemory: Writing and Visual Culture After the Holocaust. — Columbia University Press.

8. Hirsch, M (1997) Family Frames: Photography, Narrative, and Postmemory. Harvard University Press.

9. Irlandiya prisoedinitsya k vserossijskoj akcii "Bessmertnyj polk" (2015) TASS URL: https://tass.ru/obschestvo/1879814 (Retrieved: 24.05.2020).

10. Levinson A. (2015) Vojna kak proshloe i budushchee // Neprikosnovennyj zapas. № 101(3). C. 89–92.

11. Miller A. (2020) Vojny pamyati vmesto pamyati o vojne // Novaya gazeta. URL: https://novayagazeta.ru/articles/2020/05/05/85240-... (Retrieved: 26.05.2020).

12. O dvizhenii (2013) Bessmertnyj polk. URL: https://www.moypolk.ru/letopis-polka (Retrieved: 24.05.2020).

13. O proekte (2015) Bessmertnyj barak. URL: https://bessmertnybarak.ru/rubric/o_nas/ (Retrieved: 26.05.2020).

14. Putin vozglavil "Bessmertnyj polk" (2015) Dni.ru. URL: https://dni.ru/polit/2015/5/9/293191.html (Retrieved: 26.05.2020).

15. Rozhdestvenskij R. (1970) Rekviem. — M.: Hudozhestvennaya literatura.

16. Slobodyan E. (2020) Kak stat' uchastnikom akcii «Bessmertnyj polk onlajn»? // Argumenty i fakty. URL: https://aif.ru/society/75_victory/kak_stat_uchastn... (Retrieved: 24.05.2020).

17. Ustav Polka (2013) Bessmertnyj polk URL: https://www.moypolk.ru/ustav-polka (Retrieved: 24.05.2020).

18. V Ispanii i Andorre projdet «Bessmertnyj polk onlajn» (2020) Izvestiya. URL: https://iz.ru/1007175/video/v-ispanii-i-andorre-pr... (Retrieved: 24.05.2020).

19. Vojna kak prazdnik, prazdnik kak vojna: performativnaya kommemoraciya Dnya Pobedy (2017) Antropologicheskij forum. № 33. S. 84-122

20. Vojna za vojnu (2016) Uroki istorii. URL: https://urokiistorii.ru/article/53357 (Retrieved: 26.05.2020).

21. YAkovleva I. (2020) Festivali, konkursy, fleshmoby. Ekspaty prazdnuyut Den' Pobedy // TrendZEurope. URL: https://www.trendzeurope.com/den-pobedy/l179c3 (Retrieved: 24.05.2020).

Photo https://www.moypolk.ru/
Adam Woźniak (Poland)
WWII and biopolitics in Józef Mackiewicz's novels

Józef Mackiewicz was a writer who made a name for himself outside Poland mainly as an author of the first book on Katyn massacre. He also wrote numerous novels set in conditions deemed "normal" in Europe in the first half of the 20th century. The novels revolve around war developments, preparations for them or their immediate aftermath. His works can hardly be referred to as masterpieces of the art of writing. While they are correct with respect to the writing proficiency they are far from formal greatness. His books are marked with a reporter's attention to detail; that detail can be a lens that shows issues of key importance to the 20th century politics. The most interesting are the fragments where the writer captures a phenomenon widely covered by the 20th century theoreticians, namely the intrusion of politics upon what ancient Greeks called oikos (the house, the household) which is the opposite to politikos. I briefly discuss these fragments here. In my analysis, I have focused on the fragments pertaining to WWII and have explored the theory about the anti-heroic nature of the biggest conflict in the 20th century. To accomplish this, I have used the results of contemporary research into biopolitics. The research questions that I would like to present, however briefly, are: why a representative victim of a modern war is more reminiscent of an anonymous, camp-based Muselmann[1] than Odysseus or Heracles, equipped with wartime virtue (arete) and individual dignity (tîmê)? How does the structure of totalitarian terror work that it will not (or should not) be immortalised in songs, religious rituals or fashionable T-shirts? How were these anti-protagonists without a biography created and limited to a zoological form of life? How is a community of free individuals transferred into a "population" – a resource expressed in the account of potential wartime energy?


It seems that Mackiewicz's novels provide at least a seed of answers to the above questions. The novels are testimony to the mark left by modern biopolitics on conducting and understanding the war. By referring to Michel Foucault's findings, biopolitics can be defined as abstaining from a model where biological life (zoe) remained apolitical and organised in oikos (the household). The crisis accompanying the division between zoe and bios, taking place in polis and capable of political existence, is among the most frequently covered elements of the world as we know it. Within modern politics, biological life itself becomes a political issue. One of the protagonists of Nie trzeba głośno mówić (One is Not Supposed to Speak Aloud) novel noted aptly that "today's politics are a component of private lives". In the late 19th and the early 20th centuries, biopolitics were reflected in the growing number of eugenics movements, societies propagating hygiene, race-related (and racist) discourses, birth control etc. Some of these phenomena can be evaluated as ethically neutral or even positive. However, as a whole, they prepared the ground for conducting war and getting embroiled in politics in the first half of the 20th century. These discourses were aimed at transforming a nation into a collective tissue; the state would take care of its health and resilience to "pest" (including sexual and ethnic minorities, genetic disorders etc.).

Importantly, in Greek literature that "naked life" (zoe) is bereft of individual traits. This is in accordance with a trend of creating a mass human, recognised by the 20th century totalitarian systems, and in stark opposition to the lately observed cult of war heroes. Owned by pop culture, they frequently replace former saints. Images of "stars" adorn building walls and have become fashionable elements of clothing. Sometimes, in the form of tattoos, they become inherent parts of the supporters' bodies. The semi-mythical war heroes are worshipped in line with general remarks of Roland Barthes on mythology. By producing signs (of honour, pride, courage), mythology removes actual biographies or rewrites them for the benefit of ideology. The phenomenon is accompanied by most creative hagiography. While this is nothing new under the sun, the first shot fired during a war typically kills the truth. All this, however, is branded by a fundamental error which blurs a significant part of an intellectual task which is supposed to result in understanding the hard legacy of the former century. This is because cult of personality diverts attention from the fact that the 20th century politics were largely mass "bio-politics" i.e. they shifted towards controlled life not only in the meaning of bios (the individual, political) but also zoe (the naked, biological, indistinguishable).

In this context, war heroes would really be saints but rather in the light of the concept of Homo sacer referred to by Giorgio Agamben i.e. someone excluded from a political community: a human body which can be killed but cannot be sacrificed. In ancient Rome, oblations were of religious nature while the sacrifice of WWII would rather be made on the altar of patriotism.


How can Mackiewicz's novels provide particularly good material for analysing the above phenomena? There are at least two reasons for it. Firstly, because they take place mainly during a war: a time when biopolitical efforts are intensified. Secondly, this is because of the location: the Vilnius area, Belarus or areas inhabited by Russian Cossacks. These territories experienced subsequently communism and fascism: two regimes which most invaded the area referred to by Greeks as oikos.

Nearly every novel by Józef Mackiewicz has a protagonist who could be deemed a Homo sacer, and events that could be interpreted as part of the bios-zoe/oikos-politikos opposition. The war stories present by Mackiewicz start with WWI and the Polish-Soviet War in which the writer fought as a teenaged volunteer. Leszek, the main protagonist of Karierowicz (Social Climber) novel becomes a soldier as a result of complicated social pressure. It did not stem from the government's administrative order. Rather, it was a combination of the expectations of educators, patriotic books and disdainful looks cast by girls who would rather love a veteran than a coward. Therefore, the hero was under pressure of how he agreed to shape his biography in time of war. All this was arranged into a network of tanatological and political orders which tell you when you should stop to protect your life and sacrifice it in the name of collective life. By paraphrasing Michel Foucault, one could say that at the same time, Leszek was sentenced to a specific (wartime) style of life and was allowed a certain (war) type of death. Just like in Lewa wolna (Clear on the Left) whose protagonist volunteered to fight against communists, this is a case of what Polish artist Krzysztof Wodiczko calls the culture of war. It is a network of meanings, powers and orders. They organise thinking about war in a way that creates room for very valuable types of life and death.

Consequently, the order to mobilize the body to fight is no longer institutional violence. On the contrary, it turns on its considerable charm. It may bear a mark of "sacrifice" for the mother country, however it is valued. All this takes place within classical political decisions. However, Leszek's story after joining the army heralds and focuses on the issues of key importance to comprehending the idiosyncrasies of a fling between military management techniques and the accomplishments of biomedical sciences. The sick protagonist ends up in a field hospital and is embroiled in an apparatus of what may have been the most important alliance of the 20th century, an alliance between the army and medicine. His body becomes state property. His flight from the hospital is interpreted as an act of desertion. All this is topped by the distribution of sexuality; it is blocked in the case of a lesbian nurse and stimulated in Leszek who receives doctor's orders to visit a brothel to "keep the blood running". Polis seizes his body for the army, makes his health a public matter and rations sex. This is modern politics as seen by Foucault on a single picture.

The contemporary Homo sacer is a typical Mackiewicz protagonist: an individual pushed to the margin of society by communities ravaged by the war, an individual who cannot be sacrificed in patriotic fighting but can be killed. Bereft of a face and individuality, limited to the role of bacteria threatening the state's immunity system, this individual is not good material for a fashionable T-shirt or a patriotic monument. One of them is a political prison fugitive Henryk. They include POWs killed in Katyn, Jews chased down the streets of Vilnius, and Cossack refugees from Italy. One of them is Paweł, a protagonist of Droga Donikąd (Road to Nowhere), a coachman, member of the pre-war intelligentsia who branched out to avoid repressions of the communist authorities. He was an outcast because he failed to ornament his house with a red flag during a workers' day. Then he became an outlaw in his own home; now he knew that every disapproving glance at a neighbour might end up with denunciation and, consequently, death. So he fled, sealing his fate of an exile, taking with him his complicated oikos (a wife and a lover) and vanished into thin air. The circumstances in which the hero met his lover can also be interpreted as an act of subversion against the omnipresent politics. In the course of the political wedding - the USSR absorbing the body of Lithuania - Paweł and Weronika cleaved themselves from the crowd, taking care of their individual bodies.

Acts of crossing the limit of the household (oikos) are covered in Mackiewicz's novels also during wartime transports to concentration camps. The authorities invade households in a very literal way. Production of human mass: segregation, valuation and possible disposal are typically preceded by a strategic and symbolic breakup of oikos. Here, the father (the head of the family) is separated from the other family members. This is the story of Cossack POWs described in Kontra and inhabitants of the Lithuanian villages from Droga donikąd. The preceding destruction of the political community is topped with a broken home. This is conducive for making creatures referred to by Giorgio Agamben as Homo sacer: they can be killed without any consequences but cannot be sacrificed. Primeval violence, unleashed as a result of the great advantage of officials over the semi-human victims, is nothing like Hobbes' "war of all against all". It takes place within the polis but, perversely, on the bodies which no longer qualify to being called bios. Rather, they are in the zone of indistinguishable zoe and bios. Of course, there have been attempts at preventing this state of events. The Cossacks in Kontra want a transition within this relation for the benefit of bios – they want to write their own wartime biography by joining Hitler in his fight against the Soviets. However, the dictator could only responded in one way: "no Asians!". His reply triggered off a bacteriological discourse which Roberto Esposito attributed to the foundation of the Nazi regime. The immune system of the German army could have been seriously affected by foreign bodies. Here, a junction of biological sciences and army management comes out – a junction incomprehensible to the officers who graduated from traditional army schools. In One is Not Supposed to Speak Aloud, one of them says that according to all the old rules, the participation of Russians in the war against Soviets should have been conducive to the German propaganda. However, that participation was carefully concealed from Hitler as well as the public. Of course, this specific political bacteriology is an element of many Mackiewicz's novels, both in the Soviet version where it is related to the "elimination of enemies of the people" and in the descriptions of the Nazi "cleansing of the living space". Interestingly, this discourse has so strongly permeated the social tissue that the author himself used them equally eagerly when referring to the "Bolshevik pest". Therefore, the issue itself and an attempt at literary subversion have the same roots as it often happens.


In The Question Concerning Technology, Martin Heidegger stated that in the 20th century, in the Western civilisation nature was a resource from which energy was released and, later on, channelled while its course was safeguarded. Human lives are treated in a similar way in Mackiewicz's novels. In Road to Nowhere, Soviet officials are reprimanded for deporting only 25% of the planned population; in One is Not Supposed to Speak Aloud, dr. Mende's opinion is quoted on the requirement to "make use of Asian peoples" in the fight against Russia. In a description of the Russian preparations for the defence of Moscow, information appears about summoning "40% of all the disposable living forces, 35% of all the tanks …" etc.

All this highlights a certain outlook on the world, politics, war or simply human life. It was probably originated where various processes met. Piotr Madejczyk, a Polish researcher into biopolitics, defined them as "medical and gardening-related". Managing the health of collective tissue and digging the weeds, getting rid of bacteria lay the foundation on which an important part of WWII takes place. In the 20th century, the discourse of exact sciences, with the inherent tables, charts and percentages, made an alliance with politics and caused shifts affecting not only the decision-makers' field of vision but also something that can be dubbed typical "casualty profile" during WWII. Pondering the essence of this profile leads to questioning the validity or even the ethical acceptability of the heroic discourse on the biggest conflict in the history of humanity. Reflection on WWII cannot be tasked with expanding the local pantheons with more heroes. As a result, the mass nature and anonymity of the victims are blurred because the latter does not stem only from the huge numbers. It is a consequence of complicated socio-technological procedures. As they get blurred, perhaps we lose an opportunity for fundamental consideration of the issue and, consequently, chances that "never again" will not be an empty slogan.

[1] (German, obsolete: Muslim)


Clara Friedrichsen (Germany)
Forgotten Jedwabne. Forgetting and Remembering in Polish Collective Memory: The Jedwabne Massacre as a Case Study
The scene from 'Aftermath' film (2012)

Clara Friedrichsen is currently finishing her bachelor degree in Integrated European Studies at the University of Bremen, Germany. During her studies in Bremen and St. Petersburg she developed a passionate interest in cultural, political and social movements in Eastern Europe.

All of us have our own concept of personal memory from learning things throughout our whole lives. But memory is a very abstract concept, which we cannot always get a hold of. The psychologist Jens Brockmeier gave us a theory on how our collective memory works. While what is remembered manifests in commemorations, anniversaries, monuments and other societal places of memory, the forgotten usually does not find its place. Nevertheless, it shapes our memory and has an important and mostly undervalued impact on how we view the past, present, and future. The remembered connects individuals, forms their feeling of collective memory and cultural sense of belonging and defines what they see as the goal of intellectual knowledge – knowing the whole truth. Yet memory can be seen as a process with two sides: remembering and forgetting, which work together to shape experiences, thought and imagination (see Brockmeier 2002).

As of 2020, the Jedwabne massacre is a well investigated historical event. On the 10th of July 1941 the Jewish inhabitants of the small town of Jedwabne in the North of Poland were killed by their neighbours, Poles. They were herded into a barn, which was set on fire, burning them alive. As Prof. Shevah Weiss puts it in the documentary Two Barns: "It was a mass murder in every sense. Masses murdered and masses were murdered." (Haim 2014). The publishing of Jan T. Gross' Neighbors: The Destruction of the Jewish Community in Jedwabne, Poland in Polish in 20001 was the first to challenge the canon on a national and international level. But what happened during the memory process? The massacre in the Polish canon was, for a long time, attributed to Nazi-Germans, who weren't directly participating, according to different witness reports in Gross' book (see Gross 2001). Since then, especially among Polish and non-Polish historians, the topic gained popularity. For 59 years there was no public discussion of the events, and the first book on the subject written in Polish is titled "Sąsiedzi: Historia zagłady żydowskiego miasteczka" (lit. Neighbors: The History of Destruction of a Jewish Town) was published in 2000. The English translation used as a reference for this essay was published in 2001.

The Jewish population of a small town was murdered. How is that possible and what happened in those years? This essay will give a chronological overview on the memory of the Jedwabne massacre. The official narrative of the event had been shaped by memories, which were created to portray Poland, and especially the Polish inhabitants of Jedwabne, as innocent. The narrative stated that Nazi-Germans committed the murder. Nonetheless, the massacre was remembered by locals and Jewish survivors from the region, who had difficulties in maintaining their own memory. This 'true' memory shed a light onto Polish antisemitism and Polish perpetratorship and hence couldn't find its place in the canon of the post-war communist era and the post-soviet time. It couldn't find its place in the official and collective image of a nation of victims, martyrs and heroes. This changed drastically, when Jan T. Gross published his book Neighbors in 2000 and the national and international debate around the 'true' happenings aroused not just the recollection and investigation of events in Jedwabne but also challenged the self-perception of Poles and their part in the Holocaust and the Polish-Jewish relations during the war.

The debate created space for the memories of survivors and their relatives. There were examinations of the massacre directly after the end of the Second World War, which were immediately silenced. The reworking of the Polish narrative during the Communist era was needed to establish a Communist national idea inside the historical canon, but didn't leave space for any critical memory culture, because Polish suffering was centred. The official narrative described Poles as victims, martyrs and heroes and encouraged pride among the Polish nation. In the late 1960s the Partisans Party even expanded anti-Jewish narratives, including anti-Semitic elements which established Jews as a threat and portrayed the West as anti-Polish, while equating the Polish and Jewish fate. The event was also commemorated with an official monument in Jedwabne in 1963, which stated "The site of torment of Jewish people. The Gestapo and the Nazi police burnt alive 1,600 Jews on 10 July 1941." (Wolentarska-Ochman 2006: 155).

Initiated by a solidarity movement that emerged in the 80s, the first self-critical approach to Polish-Jewish relations also provided the first forum for a re-examination of the collective memory (see Michlic 2002: 5). The political transformation in the late 1980s brought some smaller debates with it, which couldn't change the collective attitude on a broad societal level (see Michlic 2012: 74). In 1988 the Polish filmmaker Agnieszka Arnold interviewed inhabitants of Jedwabne, which resulted in two documentaries on the massacre. In the 90s historians started a discussion about rethinking the memory of the 'dark past' of Poland. Still, the publication of Jan T. Gross Neighbors in 2000 marked the beginning of a broad discussion of Poland's collective memory of the Holocaust and Polish-Jewish relations on a national and international level.

Michlic argues that "political stability that permitted public reckoning, as well as the acceptance of self-criticism within a particular collective culture" is prerequisite for such a debate (Michlic 2012: 67). In the years 2000 to 2002 the debate triggered by Neighbors, led to a general debate about Polish perpetratorship, Polish-Jewish wartime relations and a general new critical view on the collective memory. In September 2000 the Institute of National Remembrance (IPN) started an official investigation on the massacre. On the 59th anniversary of the massacre an official commemoration took place in Jedwabne, where the mayor and inhabitants of Jedwabne took part. As Wolentarska-Ochman puts it: "In summer 2000 everything appeared to be on the right track." (Wolentarska-Ochman 2006: 158).

In the years leading up to 2020, there was an ongoing debate on the real course of events and the memory of it. To understand how a nation's and society's memory is constructed one has to look into memory theory. About 100 years ago, Maurice Halbwachs defined the term "Mémoire collective" – the Collective Memory, as the memory of the individual, which is developed in its social surrounding, is socially mediated and constituted by communication. Within his/her social environment each individual forms views on the past, at the same time the collective memory of the environment gets formed (see Assmann & Czaplicka 1995: 126). Jan Assmann expanded this concept with the idea of "Cultural memory", which is not attached to the everyday life, but to events in the past, which is carried forward in "cultural formations" such as monuments, texts and rites, and "institutional communication" such as recitations, practices and observances (Assmann & Czaplicka 1995: 129). Especially relevant for this analysis is the concept of 'Counter memory', a memory which stands in contrast to the collective memory. The memory of the Jedwabne massacre can be seen as a counter memory in 2000, because it challenged the collective memory in its roots.

Focussing on psychologist's Jens Brockmeier's explanation of how every individuals mind gets influenced by the surrounding discursive and cultural environment (see Brockmeier 2002: 21), it strikes that during the suppression of the Soviet era the individual mind surely had difficulties remembering particular information. Every individual selects memory of "cognitive and emotional relevance" (Brockmeier 2002: 22), which means it chooses memories of personal significance. With this in mind, one could argue that the murder of Jews is such a memory. Yet every individuals mind is just one element of the collective memory, of social remembrance and commemoration, which also make a comparable selection on a collective level. By selecting information, other information is excluded and hence forgotten. By excluding this information, the previously selected information is linked in a new order and then new coherences are created. The information is now organized in new scheme. In the case of Polish society's collective memory of the Second World War and the actions of Poles, this scheme is a memory of victimhood, heroism and martyrdom. In this scheme the remembrance of Polish perpetratorship could not find its place.

Connecting this with Maurice Halbwachs' idea of how memory is organized, every individual remembers and forgets according to their personal cultural 'frames' (religion, politics, etc.) (see Halbwachs, cited by Brockmeier 2002: 23–24). According to Halbwachs, the collective memory is organized by such societal structures, and aspects that do not fit into this structure are forgotten. Jens Brockmeier also states that an individual's cultural worldview is always rooted in social rules, values and the "shared memory of a commonly inhabited and similarly experienced past" (Brockmeier 2002: 18). Aleida Assmanns's theory on the "Dynamics of Cultural Memory" adds 'psychological pressures' to the reasons, why individuals forget by saying that "painful or incongruent memories are hidden, displaced, overwritten, and possibly effaced." (Assmann 2008: 97). According to her there are two cultural forms of forgetting: 'active forgetting' and 'passive forgetting', being intentional and non-intentional.

While material and immaterial memories can actively and intentionally get trashed, recycled or censored, they can also get passively and non-intentionally lost, hidden, dispersed, neglected, abandoned or left behind, if they fall out of the frame of attention, valuation and use (see Assmann 2008: 97–98). In the case of the memory process of the Jedwabne massacre, it could be argued that the remembering of the course of events was censored for such a long time, and by that 'actively forgotten', that the collective memory non-intentionally abandoned the memory of the murders, because it fell out of the frame of attention, valuation and use. After the publishing of Neighbors, those collectively forgotten memories suddenly reappeared in the cultural memory and found a place to be actively restored and remembered.

"Cleansing the memory", one of the first articles on the topic by Andrzej Kaczyński, gave the debate a title which provoked the debate's most important questions concerning remembering and forgetting: "Can memory be cleansed? Whose memory exactly should be purified?" (Wolentarska-Ochman 2006: 153). This raises the question of what 'cleansing' means? Is there a will to reach reconciliation or to reach the goal of knowing the whole truth? Since the suppression during the Soviet time, the discussion has now developed into a more democratic debate, in which critical rethinking of the canon could take place. As Wolentarska-Ochman argues in regard to Halbwachs theory of remembering and forgetting within frames, "the cleansing of memory could be identified with its reshaping." (Wolentarska-Ochman 2006: 153). In order to reshape the memory, the postcommunist nation had to develop new viewpoints and attitudes.

After 2000, the 'new' democratic Poland reshapes its collective memory to match the current needs and aspirations, meaning a different set of values and ideas is the basis for the new relevant memory (see Wolentarska-Ochman 2006: 154). Since the memory is closely connected to values and national traits, it is a critical and sensitive topic for society, because it can become "an instrument of exclusion and an impulse for war." (Wolentarska-Ochman 2006: 154). She draws the conclusion that the reworking and commemoration has to take place on a communal societal level, which is not connected to an official position of power. She analyses the local effects of the debate in Jedwabne and discovers that the locals struggle to find their place in the new collective memory and the commemoration policies, which have been 'forced' upon them.

While the memory debate on the Jedwabne massacre could finally take place on a national level in the 2000s, leading to a rethinking of national values and the democratic movement towards the EU, the debate on the local level showed the complexity of the memory. Many Jedwabnians had and have personal connections to the victims and murderers. The main intimidating question in the room was, which family had Jewish blood on their hands. For the Jedwabnians it is not just a question of collective memory, it is a question of very personal remembering. While the Poles on a national level had to rethink their attitude and perception towards and of Polish history, many Jedwabnians had to rethink their personal history. Not just their worldview or 'nationview' got contested, but how they see their personal surrounding.

The inhabitants of Jedwabne showed different patterns of behaviour when confronted with the debate: being defensive, adapting historian's and public's arguments or general refusal to face the debate. Wolentarska-Ochman sees the reasons for those behaviours in the media hunt, the national pressure and the lack of a working communal commemoration project. Different political actors used the debate as a stage for the ongoing election campaign and for antisemitic propaganda. Even the apology by the Polish president surprised them, while many still weren't convinced of the new description of the event. She describes the Jedwabnians as isolated from the rest of the population and consequently missing the 'good spirit' needed for a reworking process (see Wolentarska-Ochman 2006: 159–161). This resulted in them not showing up at the 60th anniversary of the massacre in 2001 and founding "The Committee for the Good Name of Jedwabne". This failure of memory policies, as well as other factors resulted in a lack of an adequate local commemoration, which would have been possible in the eyes of the town's mayor, if it could have its own space and pace (see Wolentarska-Ochman 2006: 171–172). While parts of the society started reworking their memory, other parts held onto the Soviet narrative of a nation of victims.

The findings of this essay display how the massacre was forgotten, which should not be confused with why it was forgotten or excuse any of the actions. Antisemitism was and is present in Polish society and politics (see Winiewski & Bulska 2020). This essay is trying to understand how the false narrative of a massacre could stay alive for 59 years. It describes, based on theories, how the Polish Collective memory excluded such a drastic event and struggles to restore the memory of it. In Poland the debate on the Jedwabne massacre provoked a discussion on the history of the Holocaust and brought a "return of the memory" with it, and as Slawomir Kapralski puts it, also "(…) divided various sectors of Polish society and caused a backlash that hampered the reception of the Holocaust discourse." (Kapralski 2017: 183). In the following years the debate is still ongoing in the discussion on history education in Polish schools, and also made it into the fictional movie Aftermath in 2012 by Władysław Pasikowski. The history of the massacre also found its way into museums like the POLIN museum in Warsaw dedicated to the History of the Polish Jews.

While the 'new' findings of the massacre reveal a terrible part of history, the discussion triggered a rethinking of the self-perception of Poles and their role in the Holocaust and the Polish-Jewish relations during the war. This led to a more diverse and open ground for future debates, and possibly to a healthier and truer image of nationhood. The debate can hopefully also be seen as an example for future discourses in other nations, where the past was and is suppressed. Especially for survivors and relatives of victims, the process is important and contains the hope for a more open, sympathetic and inclusive image of Polish Jews in memory and in the present.

Photo https://www.wienerlibrary.co.uk/Blog?item=453&returnoffset=0


Assmann, A. (2008) Canon And Archive. In: Young, S. (ed.) Cultural Memory Studies: An International and Interdisciplinary Handbook, 8th edn. Walter de Gruyter, Ber lin, pp. 97–107.

Assmann, J. & Czaplicka, J. (1995) Collective Memory and Cultural Identity. New Ger man Critique (65), 125–133.

Brockmeier, J. (2002) Remembering and Forgetting: Narrative as Cultural Memory. Culture&Psychology 8 (1), 15–43.

Gross, J. T. (2001) Neighbors: The Destruction of the Jewish Community in Jedwabne, Poland. Princeton University Press, Princeton.

Haim, H. (2014) Two barns, Israel.

Kapralski, S. (2017) Jews and the Holocaust in Poland's Memoryscapes: An Inquiry Into Transcultural Amnesia. In: Sindbæk Andersen, T. & Törnquist-Plewa, B. (eds.) The twentieth century in European memory: Transcultural mediation and reception, 34th edn. Brill, Leiden, Boston, pp. 170–197.

Michlic, J. (2002) Coming to Terms with the "Dark past": The Polish debate about the Jedwabne Massacre. Working paper. The Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Jerusa lem.

Michlic, J. (2012) The Jedwabne Debate: Reshaping Polish National Mythology. In: Wistrich, R. S. (ed.) Holocaust Denial: The Politics of Perfidy. Walter de Gruyter, Berlin, Boston, pp. 67–84.

Winiewski, M. & Bulska, D. (2020) Antisemitismus in Polen. https://www.bpb.de/poli tik/extremismus/antisemitismus/308451/antisemitismus-in-polen. Accessed 9/14/2020.

Wolentarska-Ochman, E. (2006) Collective Remembrance in Jedwabne: Unsettled Memory of World War II in postcommunist Poland. History&Memory 18 (1), 152– 178.

Marcin Ogrodnik (Poland)
Poland's turn to history

Marcin Ogrodnik - a Student at Jagiellonian University in Krakow, Ethnology and Cultural Anthropology

When communism was drawing to an end in Eastern Europe, Poland and the other countries in this part of the Old Continent faced a problem of disorderly historical heritage. After the time of an undemocratic rule in the Polish People's Republic following WWII (1939 -1945), 50 years of Polish history waited for critical revision and orderly narrative that could achieve a desirable status against the general European narratives of predominantly WWII. It comes as no surprise then that since day one of the III Republic of Poland (1989), the issues of history and memory have surfaced in political life and the social debate. Undoubtedly, Poland and its citizens had to face modernity and the processes typical of system changes referred to by Koselleck (2009); the country had to handle the burden of history getting lost in the modern time regime (Assmann 2013, 19).

It has been 31 years since the system changes in 1989 and it would be desirable to say that the Polish society, the government, the intellectual elite etc. made an effort to revise the past jointly, objectively, by referring to documents and respecting the different stances of the various groups of the society. Lamentably, despite all the declarations and attempts made primarily by the subsequent ruling parties, the process has never been completed. Despite the relative consensus about the need of revising the times of the Polish People's Republic and WWII, motivated by the interest of the citizens looking for their identity in a modern society and the need to reinforce the country's internal and foreign politics, since the early days of the III Republic of Poland, history and remembrance have become a bone of contention between various political parties. For 31 years, disputes over history and remembrance, the way of conceiving them and their role in the political and intellectual lives have divided the Polish society. They have been accompanied by a desired vision of the historical process and the state's involvement in propagation thereof. The divide does not result from the various interpretations of historical events which by their very nature can divide communities; rather, it is an effect of turning history and remembrance into a tool of political fight which, in turn, halts the emergence of Polish historical that would take account of facts.

In this essay I would like to analyse two approaches to history and remembrance prevailing in Poland. By 1989, the Polish political arena and society were divided into the defenders and critics of the achievements of the III Polish Republic (Machcewicz 2012: 172–176), into the successors of the tradition of the II Polish Republic (patriots) or liberals and traditionalists (terminology used in this article as existing in the Polish political debate).

Drawing a line under the past

The major assumptions of the liberal approach to history and remembrance were made back at the end of the Polish People's Republic, following the activity of a part of the democratic opposition, defined as the secular left wing by Adam Michnik (a Polish historian, journalist and propagator of a liberal approach to history and remembrance). An essay by Jan Józef Lipski from 1981, "Two motherlands, two patriotisms. On Poles' national megalomania and xenophobia", has been regarded a manifesto of the political group and its followers. The essay includes the author's warning that cultivation of false national myths and silence about the dark episodes in a nation's history is a source of contemporary and future evil. Lipski addressed Poles to be alert and to treat any new "patriotic" offensives with suspicion if it is an act of uncritical copying of the favourite slogans of the national megalomania (Lipski, 1992, pp. 139 -164).

After 1989, a liberal approach to the past prevailed in the public debate and social life due to a need of restoring the country's economy and a specific power structure in the world of politics, media and culture. The need to "draw a line" (Mazowiecki, 1989) that would separate Poland from the communist past and WWII for the benefit of economic growth, stabilising Poland's relations with the neighbouring countries, coupled with a need to approaching the West by joining the European Union and NATO, has transformed into the country's official neutral attitude towards shaping Poles' historical awareness.

Zdzisław Krasnodębski, a Polish sociologist and social philosopher, justified the situation by saying that A liberal and democratic state needs to remain neutral about history; otherwise, it would violate its own rules: freedom of conscience and a neutral world view. In a democratic country, the legislative and judicial authorities cannot decide about the official truth about the past (Krasnodębski, 2005). Undoubtedly, the liberal and democratic governments of 1989–2005 and 2007–2015 honoured their promises and assumptions about not getting involved in resolving historical disputes. By leaving to historians the moot points related to WWII (for example, the Polish-Jewish and Polish-Ukrainian relations), the governments united Poland with the EU members and encouraged a constructive debate with the neighbouring countries, especially Germany, Ukraine, Lithuania and, to a slight extent, with Russia.

However, two can play that game: the act of the governmental institutions cutting themselves off from the past and banning it from internal and foreign politics has aggravated the Polish people's identity crisis which started with the system revolution. What is more, the crisis deepened when Poland accessed the European Union and led to a situation where Poles focused more on their identity, tried to find out who was to blame for the crimes in the past, the difference between facts and the historical narrative of other nations, for example Russia and Germany. Disappointment with the developments, the relative revision of communist Poland and completion of the economic and systemic changes led Poland to a crisis of history and remembrance. The situation ideally connects with Koselleck's analysis (2009). In his opinion, in the time regime of modernity, time keeps accelerating while the future becomes the present more and more quickly (Koselleck, 2009, p. 235). This, in turn, makes the future increasingly difficult to predict as it becomes a source of uncertainty rather than hope while the old crisis comes back. Perhaps the crisis should be overcome by looking for stabilizers rooted in the long history of humanity. Potentially, that this issue can be approached not only historically and politically but also theologically (Koselleck, 2009, p. 235). In Poland, the year of 2015 marked the beginning of the renaissance of history and remembrance based on traditionalists' assumptions and their offensive political history.

A line drawn above the III Republic of Poland

Since the very beginning, the attitude of liberal parties towards history and remembrance was criticised by conservative parties. The opponents were accused of indulgence in treating communist and war crimes as well as deforming Polish people's historical awareness which should have been reinforced, especially at the time of accessing the European Union. Among the numerous postulates put forward against the liberal governments, the need to separate any achievements in revising the past by politicians and the intellectual elite of the III Republic of Poland was very clearly emphasized. As a result, the conservative parties have strived to create the IV Republic of Poland, based on history and tradition.

The discussion of the required new approach to history and remembrance intensified in 1996 when the Warsaw Club of Political Criticism started operation. Its members - intellectuals, social and political activists - discussed the relevance of consistent political history in Poland. Owing to their involvement in the political debate and the growing political popularity of the club's members (especially the founders and members of Law and Justice, a political party established in 2001), the concept was transferred to Polish politics but was also party-biased. Building up the image of Poland and the historical narrative based solely on the positive historical events has been the main assumption incorporating all aspects of the internal policy (education, culture, patriotic upbringing, national identity, attitude to national minorities) and the foreign policy (the form and range of promoting Poland in the world, the attitude towards the neighbouring countries and the historical legacy, reparations). Andrzej Nowak captured this idea very well in his text "Westerplatte or Jedwabne" (Nowak, 2001) in which he stated that a national community should not be based on remembering shame (the Jedwabne case[1]) but rather, on remembering moments which are testimony of cherishing the highest values (Westerplatte) (Łuczewski, 2016, p. 221).

When in 2015, Law and Justice party enjoyed a large majority of votes in national elections, and their candidate was elected president of Poland, it was the beginning of domination of a conservative approach to historical issues, in accordance with the programme of political history. In the main political, media-related and self-government narrative, to the foreground came historical events and figures ( the "cursed soldiers") which are the reason for pride and, according to the ruling party, the basis for creating a new identity of Polish people. What is more, many books have been published and exhibitions organised with the intention of showing only glorious facts from the history of Poland[2] while any disturbing historical facts revealed by some historians, NGOs or artists touching upon poorly recognised aspects of specific historical events[3] have been heavily criticised and referred to as anti-Polish, liberal and, in extreme cases, communist. As a result of engaging history to achieve political goals, the government have used historical events and remembrance thereof to gain support for its decisions and as a means to seize power. An excellent case in point is a discussion of the ideological assumptions of the LGBT movement, accompanying the 2020 election campaign. In order to gain support among the elderly who prevail in the Polish society and who store in their individual and collective memories the events of WWII and communism, the LGBT ideology has been compared to Nazism and communism and accused of aiming to destroy the Polish, conservative and Christian identity.

Political history vs. the truth

Undoubtedly, both the liberal and conservative attitudes towards history and remembrance have many benefits and drawbacks alike. Cutting off from the past for the benefit of the present and economic development has led the Polish society to a crisis of national identity. This phenomenon has largely affected the country's internal and foreign policies and has put a stop to the development of civil society that could have played an important role in examining and propagating historical facts. On the other hand, projects financed by the government and aimed at surveying the specific events of 1939 – 1989, offered scientists and citizens autonomy in the research process while the results of the analyses were not subjected to censorship of state institutions. The slow changes taking place by means of a dialogue with conservative circles (e.g. the establishment of the Institute of National Remembrance (IPN) and settling up the time of communist Poland) have led to a slow yet effective process of explaining the mysteries of history and an emergence of documented, historical narrative based on the truth.

The conservative approach to history and remembrance, prevailing in Poland since 2015, can be presented in a similar way. The actions instigated since 2001 by the conservative party have contributed to Poles' growing interest in history. What is more, the government's strong involvement in historical issues has resulted in establishing numerous memorial sites, publishing many books and organising remembrance days related to WWII and communist Poland. On the other hand, the act of owning historical remembrance, committed by the ruling party, definitely limits the process of establishing historical truths. When in January 2018, the Polish parliament enforced an amendment of the act of the IPN (ultimately repealed in June 2018) to introduce imprisonment for attributing the crimes of the III Reich to the Polish nation or the Polish state, it was clear that the steps taken by the government in the name of political history were not aimed at the truth or critical reflection about history. Any political narratives aiming at national minorities and other groups and a negative attitude towards the European Union state members show that the traditionalists are on a tract to building a clearly nationalist country. This also leads to curtailing freedom of carrying out scientific research aimed at discovering historical truth which includes also shameful acts of crimes committed by Polish citizens, e.g. on Ukrainians and Lithuanians.

What next?

As I have presented it here, since 1989 history and remembrance have been a subject of disagreement between two political fractions. The situation has also contributed to the division of the Polish society that has sustained until today. Attempts at healing it and taking the middle path in approaching the past (transition from political history to the culture of memory), made by the central parties, over time have not brought about the desired effect. What is more, a non-existent, active civic society has largely affected political history as we know it today, created by traditionalists.

While Poland definitely needs to carry out a critical revision of the past, this will only be possible when history and remembrance are bereft of the party's involvement and when politicians use their capabilities to support historians and other researchers in the process of arriving at objective facts on the events of WWII and communist Poland. Both fractions, liberal and conservative, and their attitude to history and remembrance, have their benefits and drawbacks. However, finding a golden means would be a desired solution as it would allow to review the past, at the same time providing a sense of national identity, so important to the state's operations. The golden means would allow Poland to leave the vicious circle […] stop referring constantly to the Catholic faith, the crowned eagle and the barricades of the martial law (Tusk, 1991). As a result, aware of our mistakes and merits, as a nation we will be able to re-unite and stand in truth. As members of a global community, we will also be able to sit at a table with the other European and world countries, getting involved in a constructive debate on the shared historical burden in the form of WWII and communism.


Assmann A. 2013. Ist die Zeit aus den Fugen? Aufstieg und Fall des Zeitregimes der Moderne, Carl Hanser Verlag.

Koselleck R. 2009. Dzieje pojęć. Studia z semantyki i pragmatyki języka spo-łeczno-politycznego, translated by W. Kunicki, J. Merecki, Oficyna Naukowa.

Krasnodębski Z. 2005. O genezie III Rzeczypospolitej raz jeszcze, Ośrodek Myśli Politycznej.

Krasnodębski Z. 2008. Rozmowy istotne i nieistotne [in:] Pamięć jako przedmiot władzy, I. Sariusz-Skąpska (ed.), Warsaw.

Lipski J. J. 1992 [1981]. Dwie ojczyzny, dwa patriotyzmy, [in:] Tunika Nessosa, PEN, pp. 139–164.

Łuczewski M. 2016. Kontrrewolucyjne pojęcie „Polityka Historyczna" w Polsce, "Stan Rzeczy", no. 10, pp. 221 – 257.

Mazowiecki T. 1989. Przeszłość odkreślamy grubą linią. Przemówienie Tadeusza Mazowieckiego w Sejmie, „Gazeta Wyborcza", no. 78, p. 3, 1989-08-25.

Nowak A. 2001. Westerplatte czy Jedwabne, "Rzeczpospolita", 1.08.

Tusk D. 1991. Partia ludzi wyzwolonych z popiwku, rozmowa z Donaldem] Tuskiem, urzędującym prezesem KLD, "Biuletyn Informacyjny KLD", no. 2.

[1] In 1941, a Jewish community was murdered in Jedwabne by Nazis as well as Poles.

[2] For example, "Wołyń", a film from 2016, directed by Wojciech Smarzowski.

[3] A case in point is a drama by Tadeusz Słobodzianek "Nasza klasa", referring to the history of Jedwabne.
Public History

The authors of this essay have demonstrated the ability to to present the complex issues of war memory in a popular manner, and have addressed the problems of representing the history of war in public space.
Asia Budagian and Vladislav Siyutkin (Russia)
World War II: "history" and "memory" as objects of public policy and personal/group experience (video essay)
Asia Budagian is a student of the School of Advanced Studies (SAS) at the Tyumen University and a researcher of communication and discourse practices.

Vladislav Siyutkin,
a sociologist, is a student of the School of Advanced Studies (SAS) at the Tyumen University. His research interests are protest movements and the transformation of higher education.

Video essay in Russian
Stephanie Schulz (Germany)
Den' Pobedy in Berlin: The 75th anniversary of the end of the Second World War. Understanding the Victory Day celebrations at Treptower Park War Memorial as an illustration of the conflicted European memory
Stephanie Schulz is currently studying in the bachelor program "Integrated European Studies" at the University of Bremen, Germany.
Her focus of interest is the transformation of Post-Soviet states and the politics of memory.

The Second World War has been part of the communicative memory of many Europeans, although it is now celebrating the 75th anniversary of its end. Adults and young people carry personal family memories and stories, in addition to state narratives and those taught in school. Inherited stories are the retold experiences of family members, or a direct transmission from grandparent to grandchild. Passed on are those personal stories of the last survivors of the Holocaust, war veterans and civilians, who survived and who are able and willing to share, despite trauma. But the great majority of the generation who experienced the war as children are nearing the end of their lives or already deceased, taking endless stories of the war to grave with them. Nevertheless, the Second World War is not to be forgotten within the European community, but the ways in which it is remembered— such as oral storytelling, or becomes cultural memory of a nation or a community, may vary.[1] Due to its brutality, war crimes and the monstrosity of organised mass murder of the European Jews, WWII haunts the European community into the 21st century. Moreover, it has reached a political scale of being an instrument of power in terms of framing and teaching history. In the year of the 75th anniversary of WWII, the survivors and eyewitnesses have nearly all deceased. But discussions, mystifications and competing narratives about the "authentic" historical truth continue and are regularly reignited, as the chosen example of this essay will show.

On May 9th, 2020 thousands of people payed a visit to the Soviet War Memorial Treptower Park in Berlin, Germany.[2] Publicly known as the Victory Day, originally a Soviet holiday, they gathered to celebrate the end of WWII 75 years after the liberation of Europe from Nazism. For local Eastern Berliners the visits have been a regular event to observe in their district for many years. As will be explained, the event contrasts and supports multiple World War Two narratives. Firstly, the connection to the Eastern European, post-Soviet celebration and heroization of the Red Army. Secondly, the history of the city of Berlin itself, being part of the European Union and German memory politics sphere, which centers around the commemoration of victims and the centrality of the Holocaust and Auschwitz as the main place of remembrance (defined by Pierre Nora).

I. The 2020 Victory Day Celebrations at Treptower Park War Memorial in Berlin

The character of the event can be described as an intersection of a commemoration and a festival style celebration. Many people gathered without invitation, but rather by their own initiative. Consequently, the reasons behind their visits might vary, as well as their actions during the gathering. A common wreath-laying ceremony by high officials was followed by people lining up to the main memorial at Treptower park to lay flowers and take a picture in front of the memorial. The originally planned celebration could not be held due to COVID-19 pandemic event restrictions, hence there is no clear timeline of activities. Part of the celebratory character involved dressing up in military costumes, mostly Red Army uniforms. In addition, patriotic war songs were sung in Russian, signs and posters in favor of peace with Russia were held and the Soviet flag with hammer and sickle and the ribbon of Saint George were omnipresent.[3] Apart from the meeting at Treptower Park, there were also meetings in Berlin at the Soviet War Memorial in Tiergarten as well, also with some officials present. In May 2020, quarantine restrictions due to of COVID-19 meant that public meetings were generally forbidden. One of the exceptions was the Victory Day meetings at Treptower Park and Tiergarten Memorial.

The annual meeting for Victory Day at Treptower Park has been supported by the Berlin Association of those persecuted by the Nazi regime - Association of Anti-Fascists (VVN-BdA)[4] since 2006. The reoccurring slogan is "He who does not celebrate has lost" („Wer nicht feiert, hat verloren"). The association was founded by a group of volunteers at the German-Russian Museum Berlin-Karlshorst (then called Museum of the Unconditional Surrender of Fascist Germany in the Great Patriotic War). Following a description on their website, the underlying message of the festival is "to send a clear signal that goes against historical revisionist tendencies and indiscriminate commemoration or the mixing of victims and perpetrators".

The event was attended on the official site by most ambassadors of the former Soviet states.[5] Moreover, members of the German Orthodox Church and military officials have been present.[6] Moreover, German officials, like the mayor of Berlin, the prime minister of Saxony and members of left party the "Die Linke" party attended. Meanwhile, the group of private participants was not homogenous, and there were members of several social groups present: different unions, associations and cooperatives that mostly focus on a dialog with the Russian Federation like DKP, Berliner Friedenskoordination, Druschba were present. [7] Also, the association of the former GDR Army donated a wreath. In Interviews, German participants explained their attendance as a wish to celebrate and thank the Soviet soldiers for the liberation from Fascism in their country.[8] About 100 members of the Putin related biker club Nochnye Volki visited both memorials in past years— their way of honouring their heroes of the Red Army consisted of riding by motorcycle from Moscow to Berlin.[9]

The Soviet War Memorial is located in the surrounding area of Treptower Park in the East Berlin district Treptow-Köpenick, close to Pushkin Allee. Many parts of East Berlin show the former influence of the Soviet Union, such as the Soviet memorial Schönholzer Heide and Soviet memorial Tiergarten. The Treptower Park memorial is the biggest in size, with about nine hectares, and is the biggest Soviet war memorial outside the post-Soviet states. Inaugurated on the 8th of may in 1949, it is not only a memorial in honour of the fallen soldiers, but also a military cemetery for about 7.000 soldiers who died in the Battle of Berlin. The central element of the park is the bronze statue "The Liberator", a sculpture of a Soviet soldier who breaks the swastika with his sword and carries a rescued German girl on his arm.[10] The memorial represents the Soviet memory of the Red Army as the liberator of Germany and Europe and the memory of the approximately 80,000 Soviet soldiers killed in the Battle of Berlin.

II. Origins of the Victory Day celebrations

The main monument at Treptower Park shows close resemblances to other Soviet war memorials that were build all over the Soviet Union in honour of the victory over Nazi Germany. Together with the famous Motherland Calls (1967) monument in Volgograd and the Magnitogorsk Rear-front Memorial (1979) they form a triptych. The continued building of many war memorials connected to the Second World War, in Russian referred to as the Great Patriotic War, has kept the memory alive. In the Russian Federation, the "well-established pattern"[11] of war-memory is well integrated into most social groups, from school children to veterans. The highlight is Victory Day on May 9th, which has been celebrated in the Soviet Union since 1945. While under Stalin and Khrushchev the date was not even a holiday for some years, the fascination with the war and excessive parades started in the Brezhnev period. Amir Weiner argues that World War II acted as a unification factor of the USSR citizens. It replaced the October Revolution mythos and created a new narrative and debatably even a founding myth for the USSR.[12]

The Second World War is a part of the communicative and cultural memory of the post-Soviet space, and in the global historical community discussions about the number of victims are ongoing. Common sense is that the Soviet republics suffered immensely during the war (suffering about 27 Million deaths).[13] Hitler wanted to destroy the eastern European civilisation in order to "create living space" for Germans, and the war in the East was a war of extermination. Millions of civilians lost their lives and a collective cultural trauma can be attested.[14] Victory Day therefore functions as a day not only for celebration but also commemoration. On the one hand, the commemoration of the fallen soldiers and victims, and on the other hand the glorification of the Red Army. The "Heroes" are kept alive by the discourse in Russia— the established narrative being that they liberated not only Auschwitz, but also saved Europe, and especially Germany, from fascism. Other post-Soviet states like the Baltic states follow a different narrative approach of the war and the 9th of May, due to the conflicted memory of the Stalinist repressions. Still, in many former Soviet states it remains a public holiday.[15]

At Treptower Park the Immortal Regiment was held, which leads to the understanding that there is a connection between the Russian civil society and the German one. The movement was originally launched in 2012 "by a group of liberal Tomsk TV journalists critical of what they saw as overly state-centred commemoration".[16] Its purpose is to highlight the personal connection between the veterans and their relatives and spark interest in family history. It is a way of honouring the heroic and tragic lives of the glorified Red Army by attending the Victory Day parade with a photo of a related soldier of the Red Army. An understanding of this phenomenon in the context of the 9th of May is the concept of postmemory by Marianne Hirsch (2012). Hirsch defines the generation of postmemory, that experienced World War II not through family or personal stories, but exclusively through the mediated versions such as TV and movies. The Immortal Regiment aims at exactly this generation, by creating a heroised understanding of their own family story. Mischa Gabowitsch describes it as a personalisation of the many individual family stories, through state but also civic initiative.[17] The originally decentralised movement is now supported by state.

Critically looking at the tradition, the sentimental use of photos of lost grandfathers might lead to a hesitation to condemn war crimes of the Red Army. Looking at it critically as a "whitewashing" process, it can be compared to the German mythos of Weiße Wehrmacht. This is the myth that the Wehrmacht was only following orders with a pure and moral nature, and was not a part of any criminal activity or war crimes.

III. Victory Celebrations in Germany

The described aspects of Russian and post-Soviet memory politics lead to the question of how the city of Berlin— as one of the host cities of the 9th of May traditions— fits into the narrative. Understanding the celebration as a Soviet memory remnant may seem irritating, or from the opposite perspective, very logical.

The city of Berlin is one of the main places of European history in the 20th Century. The city and its citizens carry countless places of remembrance in connection to the beginning and end of the war, being the capital of the National Socialist Party from 1933. The Red Army started to gain control in the Battle of Berlin from the 16th of April. After Stunde Null, the defeat on the 8th/ 9th of May, Berlin was divided between the USSR and the Allies. Being part of the GDR, East Berlin has had a different approach to political and historical education because of its ties to the USSR. In some way, the celebrations and narratives have already been a part of life in the former GDR, as the citizens experienced parades similar to those happening in Russia nowadays.

Regardless of the final Battle in Berlin, the memory of the end of World War II is not present in a reoccurring celebration, as for example the 9th of May. In many other European states the 8th of May is a holiday, and in the GDR it was a public holiday between 1950 - 1967 and 1985.[18] The main pillars of legitimacy and common ground for the GDR were aligned with the memory polices of the Soviet Union. The GDR was founded after the liberation from fascism by the Red Army, and a deep connection and gratitude towards the USSR was therefore implied already in the basis of the state.

East and West Germany were already at this point going in different directions in terms of memory politics, as the GDR celebrated the day of liberation, the 8th of May. The Western Germans did not celebrate any event in regard to the end of Naziism, as it was considered a defeat. The conservative parties stated "why celebrate a defeat?". [19] A historical reappraisal (Aufarbeitung) of the Second World War followed only decades later.

In 2020, the city of Berlin has established a one-time holiday for all Berliners on the 8th of May, in memory of the end of World War II in 1945. An initiative by the Auschwitz survivor Esther Bejerano[20] asked for the 8th of May to be a permeant holiday in the German calendar. She argues in a letter to President Steinmeier and Chancellor Merkel that the day of liberation from the Nazi regime should be celebrated as such. Political left parties supported her argument for the creation of a new, permanent holiday, as they claim it is the day that made the democratic German Republic possible and through its celebration will remind Germans not to relativize the crimes.

Another side of the coin is that Berlin, as the capital of Germany, is part of the Western German cultural memory which doesn't include a heretic celebration regard to WW2. As already depicted, the German term Vergangenheitsbewältigung (Dealing with the Past) was only coined after experiences of national trauma and collective mechanism of forgetting in the post-war years. The parents-children discussions and the ground-breaking speech of President Richard von Weizsäcker in 1985 were turning points in the discussion of the Second World War and Nazi crimes.

For German society, the question of guilt is a constant matter of discussion. The political awareness for the topic is there, and German politics strive towards a constant reestablishment of the responsibility. Close relationships with Israel are one way of showing that, and school history classes are packed with information about the 1930s and 1940s and most of all the Holocaust. The "heavy, historical burden of guilt and Germany's responsibility does not expire", as Steinmeier said in Yad Vashem this year.[21] Celebrations in this context seem quite odd from the described German perspective. Rather than celebrating the liberation of the totalitarian state, the guilt and trauma of the remembrance of the war mark the memory.

IV. Conclusion

"Historical perceptions are nothing trivial; when they collide, they can have unexpected consequences."[22] This statement by Aleida Assmann expresses that memory politics have a power to them, which should not be underestimated. WW2 was experienced by all of Europe. Yet celebrations like the Victory Day in Berlin seem to be displaced in one city of the war, and fitting in another city. The event itself— the remembrance of the Second World War and the wish for a peaceful future, is what unites all of Europe, including the presented national memory politics of Russia and Germany. Yet the example of Berlin on May 9th shows a conflicted, yet uniting presentation of these understandings. Generalizing, the post-Soviet states use the heroization of the veterans as a positive founding myth, while the European Union centres memory around the negative founding myth of the Holocaust.[23]

Fixed days of memory are an excellent example of this theory: on the one side the Victory Day on the 9th of May and, on the other side, the Holocaust Remembrance Day on 27th of January. A European parliament resolution put the Holocaust in the centre of European cultural memory, a common commemoration date for all of Europe.[24] The liberation of Auschwitz is a central role in both memory political spheres, but the approach of identifying the historical truth is different. One side focuses on the freed victims and another on the liberators.

Another example of clash of memories are the controversies surrounding the Fifth World Holocaust Forum 2020. Several members (excluding Polish President Andrzej Duda, who was denied to give a speech and therefore didn't attend the meeting[25]) of the meeting gave political and historical speeches from their national perspective. German President Steinmeier focused on the crimes of humanity of his country's citizens and the guilt towards the Jewish population. President Putin's speech was also directed towards the victims of the Holocaust, yet more openly, he pointed at the losses of the Red Army.[26]

One of the most common misunderstandings of memory politics is the simple, yet ground-breaking debate about historical dates. For instance, in Germany the 8th of May is the official end of the Second World War, while for the post-Soviet sphere the time of the final signature of the surrender of the Wehrmacht, the night May 9th, is celebrated as Victory Day.[27]

Historical revisionism, history politics, historical laws, and memory politics present images, narratives and myths and are used as tools for creating identity and legitimacy.

The celebration at Treptower Park War Memorial in Berlin 2020 shows commemoration and celebration of the end of the WWII, therefore it is an excellent example of diverging attempts at keeping the memory of the war alive. There seems to be a disconnection between the European countries of not only how to understand the ending of the WWII, but, moreover, in the understanding of who is responsible for it, and whether it should be celebrated or commemorated. The two sides of the coin are presented by the negative and positive myth of the end of the Second World War. But, nevertheless, the relevance of WWII is proven. The experience of World War II has the potential to be a unifying argument for all of Europe, against all odds, as postmemory generations have the possibly to recreate it.

[1] based on Aleida Assmann und Jan Assmann theory. Das Gestern im Heute. 1994. Medien und soziales Gedächtnis. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-663-09784-6_7

[2] RBB fernsehen. Tag des Sieges. 10.05.2020. https://www.rbb-online.de/doku/s-t/tag-des-sieges.html (Last Access 13.09.2020)

[3] Bernd Adam. Tag des Sieges 2020 Berlin, Ehrenmal im Treptower. 09.05.2020. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JS7rxvK8kQ8. Last Access (20.08.2020); Mathias Tretschog - Freier Journalist. Tag des Sieges, Berlin Treptower Park. 09.05.2020. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f8p9xWIvTMU. Last Access (20.08.2020)

[4] VVN-BdA. Über uns. 14.04.2016. https://neuntermai.vvn-bda.de/. (Last access 15.09.2020)

[5] Botschaft der Russischen Föderation. Gedenkzeremonie mit Kranzniederlegung am sowjetischen Ehrenmal im Treptower Park vom 9. Mai. 09.05.2020. https://russische-botschaft.ru/de/2020/05/09/gedenkzeremonie-mit-kranzniederlegung-am-sowjetischen-ehrenmal-im-treptower-park-vom-9-mai/. (Last access 05.09.2020)

[6] RBB 24. Gedenken am Sowjetischen Ehrenmal trotz Coronakrise. 09.05.2020. https://www.rbb24.de/panorama/thema/2020/coronavirus/beitraege_neu/2020/05/berlin-corona-virus-treptower-park-ehrenmal-sowjetunion-weltkrie.html (Last access 09.05.2020)

[7] Deutschen Kommunistischen Partei (https://dkp.de/); FRIKO (http://www.frikoberlin.de/); Druschba https://druschba-global.org/

[8] B Bernd Adam. Tag des Sieges 2020 Berlin, Ehrenmal im Treptower. 09.05.2020. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JS7rxvK8kQ8. Last Access (20.08.2020); Mathias Tretschog - Freier Journalist. Tag des Sieges, Berlin Treptower Park. 09.05.2020. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f8p9xWIvTMU. Last Access (20.08.2020)

[9] Tomas Kittan. Nachtwölfe entern Befreiungs-Gedenken. 09.05.2020. https://www.bz-berlin.de/berlin/treptow-koepenick/nachtwoelfe-entern-befreiungs-gedenken (Last Access 20.08.2020)

[10] Botschaft der Russischen Föderation. Gedenkzeremonie mit Kranzniederlegung am sowjetischen Ehrenmal im Treptower Park vom 9. Mai. 09.05.2020. https://russische-botschaft.ru/de/2020/05/09/gedenkzeremonie-mit-kranzniederlegung-am-sowjetischen-ehrenmal-im-treptower-park-vom-9-mai/. (Last access 05.09.2020)

[11] Mischa Gabowitsch. ZOIS Berlin. The present and future of post-Soviet war commemoration. 08.05.2019. https://en.zois-berlin.de/publications/zois-spotlight-2019/the-present-and-future-of-post-soviet-war-commemoration/. (Last access 12.09.2020)

[12] Amir Weiner. Making Sense of War: The Second World War and the Fate of the Bolshevik Revolution. 2001. www.jstor.org/stable/j.ctt7t28v

[13] John Silk. Deutsche Welle. Russia accuses US of downplaying Soviet role in WWII. 10.05.2020. https://www.dw.com/en/russia-accuses-us-of-downplaying-soviet-role-in-wwii/a-53386866 (Last access 12.09.2020)

[14] Jeffrey Alexander,. Cultural Trauma and Collective Identity. 2004. www.jstor.org/stable/10.1525/j.ctt1pp9nb. pp. 1-30

[15] Mischa Gabowitsch. ZOIS Berlin. The present and future of post-Soviet war commemoration. 08.05.2019. https://en.zois-berlin.de/publications/zois-spotlight-2019/the-present-and-future-of-post-soviet-war-commemoration/. (Last access 12.09.2020)

[16] Direct quote. Mischa Gabowitsch. ZOIS Berlin. The present and future of post-Soviet war commemoration. 08.05.2019. https://en.zois-berlin.de/publications/zois-spotlight-2019/the-present-and-future-of-post-soviet-war-commemoration/. (Last access 12.09.2020)

[17] Mischa Gabowitsch. ZOIS Berlin. The present and future of post-Soviet war commemoration. 08.05.2019. https://en.zois-berlin.de/publications/zois-spotlight-2019/the-present-and-future-of-post-soviet-war-commemoration/. (Last access 12.09.2020)

[18] Nils Michaelis. Berlin erinnert mit Feiertag an Kriegsende. 06.02.2020 https://abendblatt-berlin.de/2020/02/06/berlin-erinnert-mit-feiertag-an-kriegsende/. (Last access 14.09.2020)

[19] Peter Hurrelbrink. Befreiung als Prozess. Die kollektiv-offizielle Erinnerung an den 8. Mai 1945 in der Bundesrepublik, der DDR und im vereinten Deutschland. 2006. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-531-90269-2_3. S. 83 ff.

[20] Esther Bejarano. Auschwitz-Überlebende wünscht sich 8. Mai als Feiertag. 27.01.2020. https://www.zeit.de/gesellschaft/zeitgeschehen/2020-01/esther-bejarano-feiertag-nierderschlagung-ns-regime-auschwitz-komitee. (Last access 14.09.2020)

[21] Bundepräsident Frank-Walter Steinmeier. Fifth World Holocaust Forum at Yad Vashem. 23.01.2020. https://www.bundespraesident.de/SharedDocs/Reden/EN/Frank-Walter-Steinmeier/Reden/2020/01/200123-World-Holocaust-Forum-Yad-Vashem.html (Last access 14.09.2020)

[22] Aleida Assmann. Der Europäische Traum. 2018. https://www.kas.de/documents/258927/4633940/19_Assmann.pdf/ee656a83-e0ae-d068-0295-76c3d7fa332a S.19 ff

[23] Birgit Schwelling. Krieg und Gedächtnis. 2006. www.hsozkult.de/publicationreview/id/reb-8037.

[24] European Parliament. European Parliament resolution on remembrance of the Holocaust, anti-semitism and racism. 2005. https://www.europarl.europa.eu/sides/getDoc.do?type=TA&reference=P6-TA-2005-0018&language=EN. (last access 20.08.2020)

[25] Alexandra Föderl-Schmid und Florian Hassel. Eklat um Auschwitz-Gedenken. Süddeutsche Zeitung. 08.01.2020. https://www.sueddeutsche.de/politik/polen-eklat-um-auschwitz-gedenken-1.4748890 (Last access 10.09.2020)

[26] Евгений Баранов. Владимир Путин выступил в Израиле на всемирном форуме памяти жертв Холокоста. 1tv.ru. 26.01.2020. https://www.1tv.ru/news/2020-01-26/379453-vladimir_putin_vystupil_v_izraile_na_vsemirnom_forume_pamyati_zhertv_holokosta. (Last access 10.09.2020)

[27] Direct Quote: Augsburger Allgemeine. Tag der Befreiung: Wo ist der 8. Mai 2020 heute ein Feiertag?. 08.05.2020. https://www.augsburger-allgemeine.de/panorama/Tag-der-Befreiung-Wo-ist-der-8-Mai-2020-heute-ein-Feiertag-id57331676.html (Last access 14.09.2020)

Kolensnikova Anastasia (Russia)
The Electronic resource "Memory of the people" as a source
to study the politics of memory

Mikhail Pilaykov (Russia)
Historical politics and the memory of the war
Bogdan Shnyp (Belarus)
World War II in school and school textbooks
From personal towards political
Self-reflection and memory politics
These essays demonstrate a critical approach to family history and their personal experience of participating in the collective practices and rituals of the Second World War Commemoration

Xenia Lange (Germany)
On commemorative culture after 1945 – a German Gothic Story.
Xenia Lange studied Philosophy, Media Science and Psychology in Berlin and Vienna. She is currently in training as a psychotherapist and works as a psychologist in a sheltered workshop.

The tale "The Sandman" by E.T.A. Hoffmann tells the story of Nathanael, who suffers from childhood memories of dark experiences, and unsolved family secrets, that dispose him to despair and madness. A key role in those memories is played by his father's secret alchemistic experiments, conducted with a mysterious stranger during the night, which lead to the father's death at the end. Nathanael is not supposed to know anything about those nightly activities and is sent to the bed by his mother with the words: "Now go to bed, children! The Sandman is coming, I can feel it!" When asking the mother who this Sandman is, she denies his existence. Only the nanny tells Nathanael: "He is an evil man, who comes for the children that don't want to go to bed and who throws sand into their eyes till the eyes bleed and fall out. He takes the eyes and feeds them during half-moon to his children who are sitting in a nest and eating the eyes with their crooked peckers that are formed like the peckers of an owl." Nathanael starts to associate the unknown man who comes to his family`s house during the night with the Sandman. One night while hiding in his father´s room, Nathanael is detected by the unknown man who actually seems to be as dangerous as the Sandman from the nanny´s story. He punishes the child for his curiosity, shouting: "Give me the eyes, give me the eyes!" while trying to burn Nathanael´s eyes with the glow of a fire.

Nathanael´s father rescues him, but the nightly event remains a silenced family secret and is surrounded by an aura of a social ban. Because Nathanael´s family threatens him with the Sandman and on the other hand denies the existence of this man, he is highly disoriented about what is real and what is not. The recurring narrative of the eye, and the prohibition of looking at reality, plays a central role in the novel. It can also be interpreted as the danger of disobedience against the commandment for concealment in a family that wants to hide a secret. As an ambiguous story about suppression and social prohibition of thinking and speaking openly, it serves as a analogy - for the memory in German families after 1945. The father´s dark involvement with the Sandman is silenced in Nathanael´s family, and so is the involvement of the ancestors of German families in the Nazi era.

This essay deals with the large gap between the official commemorative culture concerning the time of National Socialism and the private engagement and entanglement with Nazi ideology of German families. I assert that there is a contradiction between the current German self-image of a nation that has worked through its own history successfully and the actual psychological reprocessing and integration of this time. It is true; that the outrages of those times are officially labelled as unprecedented crimes against humanity and as a fraction of civilization ("Zivilisationsbruch"), and Germany is often regarded as a model of commemorative culture. But it is overlooked, that most of German families don´t seem to identify themselves as perpetrators or beneficiaries of Nazi Germany. Rather, it seems as if an amalgam of self-pity, self-identification as a victim and a conspiracy of silence is established in families. When the American historian Saul K. Padover travelled through Germany in 1944 as a secret Officer to investigate the psychosocial consciousness of the Germans, he met self-absorbed people who considered themselves as Hitler´s victims, but not as part of a nation guilty of incomprehensible crimes. Because all his interview partners presented themselves as victims, he came to the ironical conclusion, that Hitler must have been "a really great man":

"We have been here for two months [in Germany], we have conducted a lot of interviews and we haven´t met one Nazi yet. All the people are against Hitler. They have always been against him. What are the consequences? It means that Hitler must have done everything on his own, without the support of anyone. He started the war on his own, he conquered Europe and big parts of Russia on his own, he killed five million Jews, he starved six to eight million polish and Russian people to death, built 400 concentration camps, organised the biggest army in Europe and let all the trains arrive on time. Someone who can achieve this on his own must be quite good."

I do not deny that there has been a shift since 1945 in the juridical and historical engagement with the Nazi era, as well as in the political and medial discourse and the educational policy. Monuments, historical sites and commemoration days were established, as well as textbooks, educational programs and research projects.

After the war and unification of the GDR and BRD, a new German self-concept developed, which is framed as a democratic state that respects human rights and regards its own commemorative culture as a guarantee and proof for historical responsibility and betterment. In a strange twist Germany`s own inglorious past becomes fundamental to a new nationalistic overconfidence, which claims that the Germans are the world champions of commemoration. But the required self-image as a fully bettered nation is put into question by the continuity of nationalistic and racist tendencies, like the restricted immigration laws, the rise of the AfD, terroristic attacks by right wing extremists, antidemocratic and racist structures in the police and army and the reproduction and normalisation of right-wing ideology by politicians of the so-called moderate parties.

It remains unnoticed in the official mainstream discourse, how it is possible that so much knowledge can be circulating regarding the Holocuast and the 2nd World War, while fewer and fewer descendants of the perpetrator-generation identify this knowledge as part of their family´s past. In a survey by the foundation "Erinnerung, Verantwortung und Zukunft" in 2019, a majority of the German interview partners said, that memory regarding the victims of the National Socialism is very important. But only 23,1 % regarded their ancestors as perpetrators of the regime and 67,9 % denied any entanglements of their ancestors with the Nazi regime. 59,6 % thought that their family members were the victims of the Nazis and 32,2% assumed that their parents or (great-)great parents had helped the victims of National Socialism. Actually, historians estimate that the real percentage of those who were in the resistance or who helped the victims of the regime lies at 0,2 %. If you look at all this data you may feel just like Padover during his investigations: Hitler must have done a lot of work on his own or at least with the marginal help from a German minority, while fighting against a lot of brave members of the resistance. That the data do not reflect the reality can easily be seen by looking at the results of the election in 1933, the enthusiasm for the war or the continuously rising number of party members in the NSDAP, which reached 8.5 million people in 1945.

What and why is something remembered in German families, and in which ways? Furthermore, what are the consequences for the appraisal of victims and the self-image of the families? I was offered a glimpse into private ways of commemoration through my work as a psychologist in a geriatric ward of a hospital, where I worked with patients who were well advanced in their years, and who had experienced the time of the National Socialism. I realised that for almost all of the patients, the years in question had been a very formative time. While discussing this, I recognised a pattern in the narratives of the patients that almost always began with the end of the war and the post-war period, while completely decontextualizing from the reasons, why the war took place. It was a one-sided narrative of victimhood and a masking of their own responsibility for the war and the role of the perpetrator they had before losing the war. This became very obvious to me when they turned their narrative towards the brutality and cruelty of the Soviet army while keeping quiet about the atrocities of the Wehrmacht in Eastern Europe. The things they mentioned were as important as all the things they didn´t mention: the reason why the Soviet army and the other "Siegermächte" had to come to Germany, and that a large part of the German population had supported the war, especially the war in Eastern Europe, as long as they thought that they would win.

I think the reason these blind spots in the narrative became so obvious to me is due to my background as the child of a Russian mother and a Russian-German (Russlanddeutscher) father. I also know the other side of the narrative, the devastations of the war in Eastern Europe, and the aim of the war to decimate the Eastern population, to erase the Jewish population, to conquer a new land for a nation without ("ein Volk ohne Land") and to enslave the Slavic subhuman being ("slavischer Untermensch"). The negative description of the soviet army was eye-catching because I couldn´t get rid of the feeling, that the patients were projecting the aggressions that the German population had felt against the Slavic population on "the brutal Russians". I also felt that the stories were not only about what had happened to them as individuals, but what "the Germans" as a collective had to suffer. While official discourse proclaims a responsible engagement with the past, the personal commemoration is characterized by a self-absorbed view and a complete lack of empathy for those who had been eliminated from the "Volksgemeinschaft" during the Nazi time.

There is an eminent political aspect regarding the concept of trauma that can be used for an ideology of victimhood: not only the concept of trauma is widespread, but also the idea that a whole collective or society can be traumatised, especially through political persecution. By putting oneself into the role of the victim, one asks for compassion and the focus is put on one owns suffering and not on his/her misdoings. It also makes it possible to demand compensation for one´s suffering and to excuse further aggressions that one may develop in response to the suffering. By using the concept of collective traumatisation, the old but now forbidden self-identification as a "Volksgemeinschaft" can be re-established, compassion with this "Volksgemeinschaft" can be reclaimed and the initial aggression can be justified in a reversal of perpetrator-victim-roles.

A growing number of publications show that my observations made in the hospital are not singular, but rather based on a general and recurring pattern. Those publications put the proclaimed integration of history into question. Instead, they show inclination to the victim-based narrative of the Germans and a victim-identified memory, a projection of the role of the perpetrator onto a few persons, the "flight" into over-identification with the victims of the Holocaust, a spread and transmission of falsified and embellished family stories about the supposedly resistant behaviour of grandparents and great-grandparents, as well as a duty for loyalty felt in German families that produces silence. In the interview study "Grandpa wasn´t a Nazi" ("Opa war kein Nazi. Nationalsozialismus und Holocaust im Familiengedächtnis") by Welzer, Moller and Tschuggnall, they examine the transmission of historical awareness and remembrance in German families. They investigated the way in which the memory of the Nazi era is passed through generations within German families, and arrived by the conclusion that mainly stories of suffering, personal heroism and resistance are reported, which has the effect of ancestors being seen as heroes of resistance or victims of National Socialism.

Members of the German "Volksgemeinschaft" use aspects and narratives from Holocaust films and reports from Holocaust victims to tell and reframe their own story of suffering during the end of the war. This leads to narratives, where they experience "deportations in trains", see "piles of corpses" everywhere after the bombings, and have to use strategies of survival, as they are known from the stories of concentration camp inmates. In addition, the study shows how generations of children and grandchildren ignore clear indications for Nazi criminals in the family in order to completely forget them, and show narrative platitudes that are gratefully accepted and cultivated in families. These include:

1. "We didn't know anything about the KZs."

2. "We couldn't do anything; otherwise we would have ended up in the concentration camps." (Which one does not want to have known about.)

3. "We weren´t convinced of Nazism. The Nazis were always the others"

4. "The Germans were victims of the brutal Russians."

Jureit and Schneider's book "Felt Victims" ("Gefühlte Opfer: Illusionen der Vergangenheitsbewältigung") deals with the commemorational culture as it was established by the children of the generation of perpetrators, that is, the 68 movement. They assert that this culture is still highly influential today, and that this generation demanded remembrance of the cruelties of Nazi-Germany, but denied the reflection of personal entanglement with this time. The result was the condemnation and supposed dis-identification with the parents' generation, but also one's own flight into a victim-identified culture of remembrance, which portrays the Nazi era from the perspective of the persecuted and deliberately ignores the perspective of the perpetrators. The problem that arises from this development is the denied reflection on the transgenerational continuities with regard to the adoption of ideals, values and ideas of normality which are passed down through the generations. Those ideas and values can´t be overcome so easily, - but by creating a victim-identified way of remembering, it was possible to deny the influence of the parents' generation, as if one could simply slip away from one's socialization into a Jewish-aligned and therefore innocent identity.

Jureit and Schneider describe the monument for the murdered Jews of Europe in Berlin as the best-known example for a victim-identified memorial. This monument is supposed to make the visitors feel isolated, disoriented and persecuted and thus lead to empathy with the victims of the Nazi regime. One of the architects describes the intended effect of the memorial on the visitors: "When a Japanese tourist who doesn´t know anything about the Holocaust will visit the monument in 50 years, he will feel something as soon as he enters the monument. Perhaps he will feel what it is like to go into the gas chamber". It must not be explained here that this is not only impossible, but also inappropriately in claiming the victims experience of the Holocaust.

I do not deny that after the end of the Third Reich it was important to develop narratives that created empathy with all groups of victims of the Holocaust, the politically persecuted and groups classified as inferior. Empathy was exactly what the German national community had lacked. The paradox of remembering lies in the fact that no one wanted to become a victim of persecution during the Nazi era, but today everyone seems to be willing to accept the victims' perspective or to feel like the victim of this regime. The position of the victim is associated with a nimbus of innocence. One can identify oneself with innocence much more easily than with the blunt indifference of a "Mitläufer", or the willing obedience of the perpetrators and the individuals who were intoxicated with the feeling of superiority. The perpetrator's perspective and the related question of inter-generational continuity avert examination and produce victim-identified memory. Furthermore, in victim-centred remembrance there is also the hope of "redemption" from one's own guilt. There is a certain phantasy that if you remember the victims of the Nazi era with empathy and sincerity, everything will be remedied. This hope was propagated 1985 by the Bundespräsident Weizsäcker in his speech for the 40th anniversary of the end of the war. Weizsäcker rejected the idea of coming to terms with the past, but he still promised a lot to the German population. He said:

"We as human beings seek reconciliation. It is precisely for this reason that we must understand that there can be no reconciliation without memory. The experience of millions of deaths is part of the heart of every Jew in the world. This is the case not just because people cannot forget such horror. Memory is part of the Jewish faith. The desire to forget extends exile, and the secret of salvation is memory."

How convenient! If you remember the German past sincerely and intensely enough, you can even hope for salvation and reconciliation. This way of remembering does not question the ways that German society benefited from National Socialism and what kind of social and psychological transformations were necessary to create a unified "Volkskörper". Yet the only way to learn from the past is to examine the perspective of the perpetrator to fully understand how National Socialism could have happened.

How can the defence mechanisms and deficiencies in German family narratives be explained? During my research for this text and the writing process, I passed through several phases of self-reflection and I have to admit that I didn't like all of them equally. It seemed easy to write and think in an ironical and slightly degrading language about "the insincere Germans". While thinking about which defence strategies they mobilized to escape their inconvenient cognitive dissonances, I had to realize bit by bit: those Germans who constantly talk about their ancestor´s suffering but withhold their crimes during National Socialism -those Germans - I´m a part of them! My father´s parents used to live as ethnic German emigrants in German settlements in the Ukraine, during the time of National Socialism these settlers were regarded as part of the Volksgemeinschaft (national community) by Nazi-Germany. This made me feel uncomfortable. So far, I had only seen my grandparents' story as the story of victims: after the attack by the Wehrmacht in the Soviet Union, they were now considered enemies in the Soviet Union and were therefore deported to Siberia, where they were sentenced to do forced labour. I felt inner turmoil, when thinking about the possibility that they were not only innocent victims, but perhaps also followers of Hitler - and thus also a danger to the Soviet Union. At some point I had to realize that my grandmother's family actually had something to do with "the Nazis". My parents reported that my grandmother's brother had made a "career" in the Wehrmacht and that he had held a high post. After the war, due to his involvement in the war, he could neither return to the Soviet Union nor enter the Federal Republic of Germany and therefore immigrated to Canada. Until this day, I haven't had the courage to ask my parents in a more detailed way about this man, his position in the Wehrmacht and my grandmother's relationship with him.

It took me about three weeks to overcome myself and to write these lines. Am I committing iniquity to my dead ancestors by writing this and making it public? Diffuse feelings of guilt accompany this text. Am I afraid of the Sandman who could punish me for my curiosity? I feel that I don't want to know exactly who this brother is and what he did and whether my grandma shared the same political opinions with him. I feel ashamed because of two reasons: shame for my ancestors´ deeds and shame for my conspiratorial not-wanting-to-know. It is difficult to deal with the role of the perpetrators, especially if they belong to ones' family and thus appear as familiar and "normal". The idea that the perpetrators are different, cruel and monstrous is much more comfortable. To think that they don´t have anything in common with oneself or one's family, and that they are guided by incomprehensible motives, gloomy urges, or "abnormal" character traits is a way to keep them far apart from oneself. But oftentimes the evil is not monstrous and "completely different", but rather banal, superficial, convenient and thoughtless. This can also make it clear, how easy and normal it is today to live at the expense of other people, to benefit from their oppression and persecution while being able to sleep well at night. It is as common as it is un-reflected to increase one's self-worth through the depreciation of other groups. It is as "normal" as our grandparents and parents are "normal". It's as "normal" as we are. It is time for this normality to end, 75 years after the war ended. I know that there are people who try to question this "normality", but I fear that they are a minority. For the descendants of all those who belong to the generation of perpetrators, their own family history is evidently painful and difficult to endure, like looking into the glistening light of a floodlight. It is destabilizing both internally and externally because it represents a break with the family and the breaking of ties of loyalty, as well as causing massive uncertainty about the validity of inherited values and thought patterns. Am I now too empathetic with the Germans and their "heavy burden"? To name the perpetrators of one's own family is a break of loyalty with the family; - it scares me and triggers childish fears of punishment and social exclusion. But this creates fundamental self-doubt: who am I if my ancestors were Nazis? And do I manage to live without idealized ancestors whom I may unconsciously rely on as figures of identification? A consistent examination of Nazi history also includes an intensive examination of oneself. A friend of mine once described this as "tracking down the traces of Nazi ideology in one's own heart and the deconstruction of one's socialization that has passed through you".

While looking at the insincerity of family memory, the question of unconsciously internalized family morality also arises: have I learned that conspiratorial silence about injustice is good, while naming injustice is bad? I would like to end this text with an open question or a dilemma that I cannot resolve at the moment. It is the question of the meaning of shame, especially the shame of the subsequent generations for the deeds of their ancestors. Is shame essential for dealing with family history? On the one hand, shame can be a blocking and isolating affect that leads to defence and denial of reality in order to protect oneself. Isn't it precisely the moralizing way of speaking about the Nazi era that leads to excessive demands and defence, and to confabulation about resistance and sacrifice in one's own family? But on the other hand: isn't it downright scandalous how little shame the descendants of the perpetrator generation feel and how complacent, and therefore uncritical, they are with themselves, and thereby blindly reproduce the prejudices of their ancestors instead of distancing from them? In addition to shame that isolates and inhibits thinking and feeling, there is also a type of shame that opens me up to other persons and lets me feel my responsibility towards them. It is like a shout from outside that reminds me to integrate the needs and vulnerabilities of others into my thoughts and feelings instead of disregarding them. Those who ward off this kind of shame cannot learn from their mistakes and must continue to deny what has remained unpaid.

Even 75 years after the end of the 3rd Reich, many German families, from the generation of great-grandparents to their great-grandchildren, are still unable to recognize the truth: - that they were enthusiastic about Nazi ideology and benefited from it, and that it was possible to deny empathy to certain groups and to become intoxicated with the feeling of belonging to the "Herrenrasse" (master race). After the war, a completely new narrative of democracy and human rights was established, therefore one's own perpetration became a taboo, but remained unprocessed and its ideological orientation therefore unbroken. To name oneself as a descendant of Nazi Ideology is dangerous. It is as dangerous as the curiosity of the main protagonist in Hoffmann's story "The Sandman". For it is precisely the desire to uncover the secrets of his father and the ominous Sandman that destabilize his world. In this respect, disobedience to the social prohibition of recognizing the truth is a momentous decision. It is the decision to put a lot at stake: social ties, cherished certainties about the family and, last but not least, the beloved self-image.
Anastasia Shilova (Russia)
Why are we so committed to restoring the scenery of war in a world dedicated to peace?
"Troubled" Past

For essays stimulating public debate on difficult and sensitive topic.
Anastasia Serikova (Russia)
"Objectification of trauma: a "difficult" heritage in a museum".
Julia Machnowska (Poland)
Bystanders' testimonies as a cure for politicization of the question of witnessing Holocaust
Julia Machnowska - graduate of Institute of History, University of Warsaw. Coordinator of program for teachers in Forum for Dialogue, NGO engaging in Polish/Jewish dialogue. Researches the topics of memory, oral history and Jewish history.

There is no doubt that World War II and the Holocaust is currently the most discussed historical period among historians and non-historians, and the subject of heated public debate in Poland. Before the war, Polish territory was home to over 3 million Jews, and was also the soil where a large part of the Holocaust happened. The question of whether non-Jewish Poles should be placed in the category of Raul Hilberg's bystanders or considered as not only passive and indifferent, but also in various ways involved in what was happening, constitutes an important and controversial topic in the Polish public debate. Although other Central and Eastern European countries also face the same questions, it seems that drawing from each other's academic research and supporting other researchers does not occur on a large scale.

In the last years, especially since the right-wing Law and Justice party came to power in 2015, the topic of Polish-Jewish relations during WWII has become even more controversial and politicized. The following example illustrates this process well. in 2013 the Institute of National Remembrance (a powerful Polish governmental institution that investigates Nazi and communist crimes but also plays an active role in constructing official state historical policy) organized a conference titled "Being a Witness of the Holocaust", inviting as panelists among others Jan Tomasz Gross, Jan Grabowski and Barbara Engelking, academics who research the question of Polish-Jewish relations during WWII. During the conference heated discussion on the question of "bystanders" outburst, but it was held in boundaries and rules of academic dispute and dialogue. In 2019, a conference in Paris was organized where the work of the same researchers was presented. This time Polish public television, during the most important news program, called it a "Festival of anti-Polish lies" and the vice president of the above mentioned Institute of National Remembrance suggested that the researches were paid by hostile foreign intelligence.

Today we face the situation wherein people who prefer to consider Poles as helpers to Jews or passive bystanders are on one side of a barricade, and those who would like to uncover and openly speak about grey or black shades of Polish-Jewish relations during the war are on the other side. The question arises whether it is possible to talk about attitudes of non-Jewish Poles towards their Jewish neighbors with much-needed emotion but without big controversies. The answer may be positive if we consider focusing on eyewitnesses' accounts in order to disarm the problem, at least to some extent. Today the idea that historians should give the voice to those who took part in the events, often to ordinary individuals, is considered stating the obvious. We know that Holocaust history should be studied and told through survivors', rescuers', and other witnesses' relations. Maybe the same approach could also be useful while studying and popularizing knowledge about non-Jewish witnesses of the Holocaust and difficult situations they had to face. The archival documents often lack the human perspective, especially needed in the field of popularization. On the other hand, due to the witnesses' age and the sensitive topic of the interview, memory of the time could be blurry and selective. Nevertheless, we have to be aware that it is the last moment to listen to their account.

From the beginning of Operation Barbarossa Einsatzgruppen perpetrated mass shootings of the Jews in the Soviet-ruled territories, but the formal frame of organized extermination was set during Wannsee conference. German high officials agreed on "Final solution to the Jewish question" containing the plan of extermination of Polish Jews in General Government named "Aktion Reinhardt". From March 1942 until November 1943, the formerly established ghettos were liquidated and their inhabitants were sent to death camps. Those who survived "Aktion Reinhardt" were forced to hide and their fate depended mainly on the attitudes and actions of non-Jewish Poles.

The extermination could not happen in a vacuum, and complex mechanisms of German administration were needed. The bases for those mechanisms were low-ranking officials such as village chiefs, mayors, policemen or firefighters— in most cases Poles. It would be impossible to transport Jews from distant villages to railroads that led to death camps, if not for requisitioned carts from the villagers. Fast and efficient ghetto liquidations could not happen with only German forces, so Polish policemen or young forced laborers, conscripted into Baudienst units (construction and labor service) were ordered to help. Search for survivors of deportations would be impossible without policemen, firefighters, or nightguard teams who knew the area and their neighbors very well. It all took place in the conditions of war terror: those involved were often threatened with death, both theirs or of hostages. Nevertheless, we cannot forget that some of them took the initiative on their own in search of personal benefits, with a strong conditioning of pre-war antisemitism.

Last year I took part in a series of research trips that aimed to reach and record testimonies of non-Jewish witnesses of the Holocaust in Poland. Especially in small towns and villages, people were aware of the fate of their Jewish neighbors but also, in most cases, several members of the community were forced to assist during German-led actions. Those were the people we searched for during research trips, and taking into consideration the way the Holocaust was perpetrated in Poland, in almost every town we should encounter such witnesses. Or rather, we would have encountered them if we had arrived in those villages and towns 10-15 years ago. Those whom we managed to find were children during the war, but some of them, born in the twenties, were teenagers or young adults. Their testimonies are extraordinary— sometimes very honest, and other times with the intention of omitting several parts. They are often accompanied by the relief of telling the story for the first time. In other cases, it is a well-trained and repeated narration. There can be a lot of emotion or a seeming lack of it. Certainly, these are not easy histories that especially because of their complexity should be widely heard, and could influence the shape of the public debate that we are having right now.

We met two men who were forced to drive carts to transport Jewish or Roma families to deportation points or to the sites of executions. They took different approaches toward the assignment. One of them advised the family to ran away, while the other did not exchange a word with the family he was transporting. One of the witnesses was caught on his hometown street and forced to participate in ghetto liquidation— he had to search the bodies of those shot, and then transport them to the local cemetery. We interviewed forced laborers conscripted to Baudienst units who took part in ghettos liquidation actions— they had to search houses, round up towns, transport and search bodies, dig and then cover pits for the executions. Some of them worked together with Jewish laborers in the forced work camps. In many towns and villages, the Jews were killed on the spot and local non-Jewish inhabitants were forced to dig and cover the pits. The same happened when the Jews that went into hiding were caught or denounced and executed. We met several witnesses who had to dig a grave, or their fathers, uncles, future husbands were forced to do it and then passed on the story.

There are also those who observed the Jews being gathered, deported and executed. During the war, most of the witnesses were curious, vivid children, not aware of the danger, who spent time on streets and, led by their curiosity, observed the actions perpetrated against Jews. Some of the witnesses, because of their young age, were asked by their parents to secretly pass food or water to the Jews during deportations or hiding. In one of the towns, young boys climbed the trees which were bordering the Jewish cemetery and observed the executions. In one location they climbed to the attic of the house near the cemetery. One of the witnesses, at the time a 7-year-old boy, out of curiosity followed a German leading several Jews from the village to a desolated execution site in the forest. He was the only person that could show the exact execution site. Nobody had ever asked him about that day. Surely, there are more witnesses who may be the only ones who know about the sites of smaller executions.

Although in public discourse we often lack precise and adequate language to describe human behaviour during the Holocaust, the testimonies, in their whole complexity and with local context in mind, can be instrumental to enriching that discourse. An individual approach requires certain sensitivity and makes unambiguous assessments of war time attitudes hardly possible. The witnesses speak in a clear and simple way, remembering vivid, sometimes crucial, details of traumatic circumstances. One of the women, born in 1933, when recalling observing an execution at the Jewish cemetery, was unconsciously performing body movements, that were part of her witnessing experience in 1942. After more than 70 years, it was especially striking how the traumatic memories can be written even in body language when she was talking to us. This ability to tell difficult stories with simplicity and emotion, not forgetting about the horrifying conditions of the occupation, makes those testimonies extremely valuable. Especially when they are accompanied by the memories of pre-war life, and of Jewish neighbors – a favourite friend from school, a tailor, a shopkeeper. It is not only a chance to add more shades to public discourse, but also to boldly enrich the language and concepts we are so used to while speaking about the Holocaust. It is not only a chance to speak about the concrete actions of individual bystanders or involved non-Jews but also to restore and enrich local history. Sometimes, it may grant a possibility to local communities to speak more openly on the taboo topic which is the attitude of Poles towards the extermination of their former neighbors, or to acknowledge unmarked graves, sometimes located in private fields.

There is also huge educational potential in using such testimonies. We are facing the situation in which the last witnesses are soon to be deceased. Their history should be passed on, remembered, critically analysed at local schools with aid of teachers, should be evidence of atrocities and various modes of action during WWII as well as source for teaching about pre-war and war society. Recently "The Economist" published an article about hibakusha, the survivors of the bombings in Hiroshima and Nagasaki who tell their stories publicly. As their ranks are declining, the city of Hiroshima has recruited volunteers to become denshosha, "legacy successors" who, after special training, take on the job of speaking publicly about hibakusha experience. Although the category of witnessing is completely different in those two cases, and the Japanese idea may be disputable, I believe it is crucial to preserve the testimonies of non-Jewish bystanders of the Holocaust, those ordinary people that could be found in every town – to better understand what World War II was, how the Holocaust happened locally, what was the role of non-Jewish Poles and last but not least to have a chance to look at human behaviour in borderline situation Finally, their voices and recognition of those testimonies may also serve as a critical-thinking tool against big historical narratives that states often try to impose in the politicized reality.

Jury Special Mention
Michał KRZYŻANIAK (Poland)
Family history - archivist

For the humanist approach and promotion of the professional work with family archives and documents
Michał Krzyżaniak - student of the Eastern Studies at Adam Mickiewicz University in Poznań. Interested in Soviet period of Russia, history of World War II and Polish People's Republic.

Video Essay https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wGASVtOR9WU&feature=youtu.be
Nico Heider (Germany)
Rebuilding the Past: The Reconstruction of Pre-World War II Architecture in Germany

For an original look and references to the subject of memory and oblivion
in urban space

The New Frankfurt Old Town also known as the Dom-Römer Quarter

Nico Heider is currently completing his master's degree in statistics at the Otto-Friedrich-University Bamberg, before that he graduated from the University of Regensburg with a bachelors degree in Political Science and South-East-European-Studies.

During the Second World War, a vast amount of German cities suffered heavy damage. While some almost immediately planned to build historically accurate reconstructions of the destroyed buildings, like the old town of Dresden, the majority rebuilt using a distinct architectural style, later dubbed Post-war Modernism (German: Nachkriegsmoderne). With its clear lines and unembellished exteriors, this style was cheap and easy to build, suitable to hastily provide living and work space for Germany's fast-growing post-war economy. It also represented a clear break from the Neoclassicism preferred by the Nazis. Nowadays these buildings, mostly constructed in the 60s and 70s, often face an uncertain future. Labelled ugly by many and deemed of no cultural significance, a growing number of local politicians, architects, and citizens initiatives are planning to tear many of them down and replace them with buildings either reminiscent of, or clear reconstructions of, pre-World War architecture. Their motivations are manifold and range from simple aesthetic preferences like the perceived bleakness of modernist architecture to expressions of anti-modern ideology and historical revisionism.

The most prominent of these projects is located in the city center of Frankfurt am Main. A modernist city administration building from the 70s was destroyed to make space for the reconstruction of several streets of the medieval old town, destroyed during the bombing of the city in 1944. The project titled 'New Old Town' treads the line between accurate reconstruction and Disney-esque medieval fantasy. Only 15 of the 35 buildings are based on destroyed historical buildings while the others are just imaginations of how the buildings might have looked like. Walking around 'New Old Town', visitors and citizens can now immerse, at least for a brief moment, in an alternate history version of Frankfurt, where the Second World War never took place. Brushing aside the horrors of the war and the collateral damage sustained during the liberation of Germany, reconstruction projects do more than just provide a picturesque backdrop for tourist selfies. They actively challenge the German culture of remembrance. A culture that is already under attack by the provocateurs of the right-wing nationalist party Alternative für Deutschland (Alternative for Germany, AfD). Some of their most prominent party members are downplaying the Second World War as 'bird shit' in a long and successful German history.1 They also call Germany the only country that built a 'monument of shame' into their capital, alluding to the Memorial for the Murdered Jews of Europe in Berlin.2

Statements like these are shaking up the antifascist foundation of the German common historical understanding. Demolishing the post-war modernist buildings that serve as a daily reminder of the Second World War, and rebuilding them with architecture representing Germany's – in their eyes – glorious past, is certainly in the interest of nationalists like the AfD. Therefore, it is not by chance that the initiator of the Frankfurt 'New Old Town' project is part of the so-called new-right movement.3 While the debate around reconstruction is currently boiling up, fuelled by prominent projects like the Frankfurt Old Town, the Berlin Palace, and the Garrison Church in Potsdam, the first reconstruction projects started almost immediately after the Second World War. This gives us a chance to compare different approaches to deal with the German past architecturally. For an opposing approach, one must not look further than the German Democratic Republic (GDR).

For ideological reasons – and lack of funds – East Germany did not participate in the reconstruction to the same extent as the West. The fate of the Frauenkirche (Church of Our Lady) in Dresden serves as a striking example of the differences between the reconstruction efforts, or lack thereof, employed by the GDR and the Federal Republic of Germany. Destroyed during the bombing of Dresden, the remnants of the Frauenkirche remained a largely untouched ruin in the GDR, serving as an anti-war memorial. Like a delayed Wiederaufbau (the period of German reconstruction after WWII), the reconstruction of the church to its original shape began shortly after the German reunification. It becomes quite clear that the underlying concept of legitimizing a state by recreating a piece of its past was less essential to the GDR, where the ideological focus was on the utopia of the communist future and the advancements of the party towards achieving it. This is not a perfect example – churches had a hard time in the GDR in general and the reconstruction was mostly financed by donations – but it shows that there are other ways to treat Germany's architectural past than just reconstruction.

Another example is the Reichstag. A modernist glass dome was added to the historic German parliament, heavily damaged by fire 1933 and by the Second World War. The glass dome adds a symbolic architectural element and manages to combine a building steeped in German history with an alteration representing contemporary democracy. These examples show that even if destroyed buildings are culturally very important, efforts of photo-realistic reconstruction are not the only way to approach the preservation of their significance. To view reconstruction projects simply as right-wing efforts to rewrite history would be short-sighted and oversimplify the many nuanced reasons why they are popular. More so, they are a symptom of a longing for simpler times in an increasingly complicated world, an appeal they share with many right-wing groups. Every reconstruction project should be examined very carefully; if not they might inadvertently change the German culture of remembrance and play into the hands of historical revisionists.

Photo https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/8/8d/Dom-Roemer-Projekt-Huehnermarkt-06-2018-Ffm-Altstadt-10008-9.jpg
The Centre for Independent Social Research Berlin (CISR - Berlin, cisr-berlin.org), in the year of the 75th anniversary of the end of World War II, invites participants to an experience of critical reflection: World War II Memories, Rituals and Myths. Although three generations have since passed, heated debates about the causes and significance of war events and the status of memory sites continue. Discord over heroes or the number of victims continues. Politicians, public figures, and historians of various countries accuse each other of "distorting the historical truth", and adopt memorial laws designed to protect "history from falsification".

The aim of the project is to join critical work of participants from Russia, Belarus, Poland and Germany, seeking to clarify the nature of mutual recriminations and find a constructive way out of existing contradictions. The first stage of the project will take the form of an essay contest.

We invite citizens or residents of Germany, Russia, Belarus and Poland, under 30 years of age, to take part in the contest, encouraging students of social sciences and humanities faculties (sociology, anthropology, history, journalism, etc.) in the last years of the bachelor's degree, in master's or postgraduate studies. Writers, bloggers, artists and documentary filmmakers are also invited.

To take part in the essay contest, it is necessary to fill out the form (see below) and send an essay in German or English/Russian/Polish languages (text/video, from 1000 to 2000 words or 5-7 minutes of video) by the deadline of September 20, 2020 to info@cisr-berlin.org.
The contest winners
Please note that the "essay" can be both text and video (in a documentary short film format, etc.).

Working languages of the project are Russian or English.

The contest winners, selected for their essays, will participate in a two-week study-tour in Russia (St. Petersburg, Rzhev, Katyn and Smolensk), Belarus (Minsk and Brest), Poland (Warsaw and Gdansk), and Germany (Berlin and Dresden). Visits of sites of memory, museums and memorials, discussions with researchers and activists, independent and group work with other participants will be organized. The study trip is planned for mid and second half of November 2020. Depending on the circumstances (due to the Covid-19 pandemic), this date may be postponed.

The final stage of the Project is a conference in Berlin, to which we will invite the authors of the four best essays, and where the award ceremony will take place. The conference was planned for the second half of November, but, as with the trip, the question of dates is still open.

All costs related to the study trip and the conference will be covered by the organizers.

In your essay you may refer to the discussion of one of the issues/themes below or propose your own. The choice of the country(ies) to discuss in your essay is also flexible, but please note that the focus of the project is on the experience of Russia, Belarus, Poland and Germany.
Options for essay topics:

- World War II: "history" and "memory" as objects of state policy and personal/collective experience (mutual silences, contradictions, ways of coexistence, etc.)
- The role of war memory for domestic and foreign policy in Russia, Belarus, Poland and Germany
- Memorial Laws: Pro et contra
- When World War II started and ended: disputes over periodization
- War Stories in the media: experience of critical reading
- World War II in school and school textbooks (history, literature, civic education)
- Individual memory and participation in public rituals of war commemoration: what does school teach or not teach; military parades, "immortal regiment", etc.?
- Local traditions of war memory (days of liberation of cities and regions; local victims and heroes, local sites of memory)
-Literary images: war, its participants, heroes and victims in prose and poetry
- Images of war events, victims and heroes in cinema, theatre and painting (experience of critical view)
- Modern art projects as a way of working with the experience of WWII
- "Victims" and/or "heroes", "liberators" and/or "occupants", "collaborators" and/or "regime fighters"? National experiences of Holocaust reflection
- How to make routine of war "visible": ways of visualization and narrativization
- Working with "historical documents": how historians, documentary filmmakers, etc. recognize and deal with evidence from the past.
The project is funded by the German Foreign Office.
For all questions, please contact info@cisr-berlin.org
[russian version here]

Nomination: Academic Essay

Works that demonstrate a deep knowledge of the theoretical and public debate about the Second World War. The authors of these essays have demonstrated their independence in working with the material, their ability to present the results of their research in a lively and accessible manner.

Daria Chuprasova (Russia):
Immortal Regiment of Great Patriotic War: Postmemory and Memory Wars

Adam Woźniak (Poland):
War and biopolitics in the novels of Józef Mackiewicz

Clara Friedrichsen (Germany):
Forgotten Jedwabne. Forgetting and Remembering in Polish Collective Memory: The Jedwabne Massacre as a Case Study

Marcin Ogrodnik (Poland):
Polish turn towards history

Nomination: Public History
The authors of this essay have demonstrated the ability to to present the complex issues of war memory in a popular manner, and have addressed the problems of representing the history of war in public space.

Asia Budagian and Vladislav Siyutkin (Russia):
World War II: "history" and "memory" as objects of public policy and personal/group experience (video essay)

Stephanie Schulz (Germany
Den' Pobedy in Berlin: The 75th anniversary of the end of the Second World War. Understanding the Victory Day celebrations at Treptower Park War Memorial as an illustration of the conflicted European memory

Kolensnikova Anastasia (Russia):
The Electronic resource "Memory of the people" as a source
to study the politics of memory

Mikhail Pilaykov (Russia):
Historical politics and the memory of the war

Bogdan Shnyp (Belarus):
World War II in school and school textbooks
Nomination: From personal towards political.

Self-reflection and memory politics

These essays demonstrate a critical approach to family history and their personal experience of participating in the collective practices and rituals of the Second World War Commemoration

Xenia Lange (Germany):
On commemorative culture after 1945 – a German Gothic Story.

Anastasia Shilova (Russia):
Why are we so committed to restoring the scenery of war in a world dedicated to peace?

Anna Chigir' (Belarus):
Personal experience of remembering and participating in the public rituals of the Commemoration of War: what do we (not) learn from military parades?

Nomination: "Troubled" Past

Anastasia Serikova (Russia):
"Objectification of trauma: a "difficult" heritage in a museum".

Julia Machnowska (Poland):
Bystanders' testimonies as a cure for politicization of the question of witnessing Holocaust

Jury Special Mention

Michal Krsyzaniak (Poland):
Family history - archivist
For the humanist approach and promotion of the professional work with family archives and documents

Nico Heider (Germany):
Rebuilding the Past: The Reconstruction of Pre-World War II Architecture in Germany
For an original look and references to the subject of memory and oblivion
in urban space