The Battle for Memory and Forgetting of the Great War. The Case of Poland

Piotr Kwiatkowski , Barbara Szacka


The war experience of Polish society is made up of the following: (1) aggression by two totalitarian powers in 1939; (2) experience of terror and genocide, including the Holocaust taking place to a large extent within Polish territory; (3) mass deportations; (4) bitter victory, as it resulted in dependence on the Soviet Union; (5) a sense of being betrayed by the countries of the West. On the other hand, the pressure of symbolic violence affected development of authentic collective memory: spheres of collective oblivion emerged, and witnesses to events were afraid of telling even their closest relatives about what they had experienced. For decades, Poles believed they had been the innocent victims of two sinister totalitarian systems, and were betrayed by the West. Such a figure of memory fitted well the Romantic models which were common in Polish society, compensated for the feeling of historical harm and fortified the spirit of resistance against the authorities, but made it hard to overcome traditional models or take a critical view of the past. The absence of open, public discussion of the past also hindered the development of memory and collective identities for those who, as a result of the war, lost their homes and their ‘small fatherlands’. After 1989 the paths of development in individual countries of the former Soviet bloc clearly differed. Central Europe emphatically opted for the road to democracy and a free-market economy. These processes stimulate a way of thinking about the past which inspires the construction of a new European identity among the region’s inhabitants, and which releases the social energy essential for the development of a democratic civil society.  Thus in public debate taking place in various countries of the region, a view expressed increasingly often is that of the need for a new interpretation of the past, the result of which would be something more than a balance of losses and injustices experienced by specific countries, and would become the beginning of a new, more Europe-focused history based on the shared experience of past evil. Thus the collapse of communism closed a certain chapter in the history of the collective memory and forgetting of the Great War, while at the same time it opened another one, shaping a new framework for discourse.

Author Piotr Kwiatkowski (Wydział Nauk Humanistycznych i Społecznych)
Piotr Kwiatkowski,,
- Wydział Nauk Humanistycznych i Społecznych
, Barbara Szacka
Barbara Szacka,,
Publication size in sheets0
Book Diasio Nicoletta, Wieland Klaus (eds.): Die sozio-kulturelle (De-)Konstruktion des Vergessens. Bruch und Kontinuität in den Gedächtnisrahmen um 1945 und 1989, 2011, Aisthesis Verlag
Languagepl polski
KwiatkowskiSzacka-TheBattle.pdf of 14-09-2015
429.94 KB
Score (nominal)5
Citation count*
Additional fields
Dorobek Naukowy - Preview URL
Dorobek Naukowy - Approve URL
Share Share

Get link to the record

* presented citation count is obtained through Internet information analysis and it is close to the number calculated by the Publish or Perish system.
Are you sure?