Approach to the heritage of communism have been one of the most important subjects of public debate in Poland. Initially a field of conflict between post-communist leftist and post- ‘Solidarity’ parties, these controversies eventually turned into a conflict between the ‘liberals’ and the ‘conservatives’ from the two main post-‘Solidarity’ political parties – namely, the Civic Platform (Platforma Obywatelska) and Law and Justice (Prawo i Sprawiedliwość). The article reconstructs the most important political debates on de-communisation and ‘vetting’. The other issue highlighted by the author is the heated debates between historians on contemporary history. Subjects such as various forms of resistance against the communist rule, including the post-war armed Underground, along with the question of interpreting documents of the former secret police remain a field of controversies. Recent years have seen the opening of new debates related to the politics of memory and the questions of the role of museums and historical exhibitions in Poland.
the intelligence services systems of the People’s Republic of Poland and the German Democratic Republic did not develop a significant level of mutual cooperation in 1989, mainly due to the insurmountable political differences. The article discusses the problems of East German intelligence measures taken in the area of, broadly understood, ‘peaceful revolution’ in Poland. It was possible to retrace these problems through the research conducted at the Poland’s National Remembrance Institute [IPN] and the German Stasi Records Agency [BStU]. Comparative analysis of the material from both sources has made it possible to present all the forms of what was referred to as ‘cooperation’ as well as the antagonisms occurring between the security services in both countries.
The article focuses, with a comparative perspective, on the economic reforms that were implemented in Germany during and after the unification in 1990. The fact is stressed that after the collapse of communism, most politicians and economists considered neoliberal reforms based on deregulation, liberalization and privatization as the only viable model. Although the reforms in East Gemany were not labelled as such, they amounted to a „shock therapy“, much like in neighboring Poland. The result of the radical and hasty liberalization and privatization, in combination with the currency union of Juli 1990, was the closure of many factories and mass unemployment. The government tried to compensate the losers of the transformation with welfare payments, but that resulted in a systemic crisis of united Germany, leading eventually to a second round of neoliberal reforms under the center-left coalition government under Chancellor Gerhard Schröder from 2001 to 2005. The widening social gaps and the fear of social dislocation eventually contributed to the rise of right-wing populist parties in Germany.
The Main Commission for the Investigation of German Crimes in Poland was brought to life in March 1945 as a central institution entitled to conduct investigations and collect evidences of war crimes committed during the German occupation of Poland (1939-45). In 1949, the Commission was renamed as the Main Commission for the Investigation of Hitlerite Crimes in Poland, in order to mark the propagandist division between the ‘progressive’ and ‘antifascist’ East Germany and the ‘revisionist’ West Germany; yet, its activities were at the same time put on halt. In 1958, West German authorities created the Central Office of the State Justice Administrations for the Investigation of National Socialist Crimes, based in Ludwigsburg. The first, semi-official, contacts between these two institutions were inaugurated in 1960, despite the lack of official diplomatic relations between Warsaw and Bonn at that time. The venue of the contact was the Polish Military Mission in West Berlin, where the prosecutors from Ludwigsburg could get acquainted with documents from the Commission’s archive.
Adopted in 1945, the Decree on Ownership and Use of Land in Warsaw served as a base for systematic reconstruction and urban renewal of Warsaw after World War 2. The idea behind the regulation was to make the municipality the owner of the area of the city of Warsaw, whereas the ownership of the real estate would remain in private hands. Contrary to how it tends to be interpreted, the concept did not originate in the Soviet Union but had once been proposed by Hans Bernoulli, Swiss architect, urban planner and reformer, who had worked as a consultant of the urban development plans of Warsaw in the 1930s. Bernoulli adopted the idea from Silvio Gesell, an economist and author of the ‘natural economic order theory’ (natürliche Wirtschaftsordnung), which intended to reform the social order. The article seeks to present the history of the actual concept of the ‘Bierut Decree’, which has been distorted during its implementation, as the residents of Warsaw lost not only the land but also the ownership of their houses.
Polish research in the history of the Reformation still leaves many topics and figures barely described or analysed. Among the prominent Protestant theologians who are virtually unknown in Poland, the name of Philipp Melanchthon deserves special recognition. According to the author, this situation requires indepth research on Melanchthon; also, editions of historic sources and letters of Protestant theologians should be launched. The material that requires re-edition and, in some cases, translation into Polish includes works of authors such as Aleksander Brückner and Theodor Wotschke, who conducted their research on Protestants several decades ago.
The history of the Reformation in Poland has been an object of interest to historians since the nineteenth century. The fundamental questions in the research into the Reformation and Protestant communities include how to interpret and periodise their history in Polish territory. Historians have suggested diverse, at times contradictory, periodisation options, beginning with 1517 – the year of Martin Luther’s protest and his ninety-five Theses, and pointing to an end of the Reformation in Poland somewhere between 1573 and 1608. The article briefly recapitulates the milestone publications in the history of the Reformation in Poland as well as the most important historical discourses around the issue.
The article focuses on two aspects of the end of the First World War. Recalled is the interpretation of the WW1 as a ‘seminal catastrophe’ of the twentieth century. This opinion does not apply, however, to the countries of East Central Europe that regained independence in the year 1918. Taking Poland as an example, we can point to three levels of internal discussions which took place after 1918. First, a debate evolved around the nation-building process and whether the nation which regained independence should be regarded as a purely ethnically-based or political community. The political breakthrough moreover triggered debates concerning the state-building process through an attempt at creating structures of a strong, modern state; lastly, discussed were attempts to find a place for a reborn Poland on the international scene.
The article tackles the question of the decline and revival of statehoods in Europe, in a broad historical context. This analysis is based on the history of political systems, philosophy and politics of memory across Europe, rather than on the politological concept of ‘failed states’. The phenomenon of consecutive diminishment and rebirth of states remains a constant feature of European politics and history, beginning with the collapse of the Roman Empire, through to the Partition of Poland in the eighteenth century (as an exemplary event), to the Soviet Union, and the civil war in former Yugoslavia. Kąkolewski points out the parallel phenomena of integrative and disintegrative processes taking place after many decades and having a potential of shaking state structures that initially seemed to be solidly integrated – as, for example, in Scotland or Catalonia. The European Union is the most recent example of this pattern: founded upon voluntary limitation of its Member States’ sovereignties, its has encountered disintegrative nationalist movements occurring in many parts of Europe.
Reflection on the process of defining and redefining the notion of Polishness after 1918, and thus, an attempt to answer the questions: ‘What is Polishness?’; ‘Is it possible to talk about its single, monolithic, well-defined form in relation to a specific point in history as well as at present?’ – were the main topics of an international conference organised by the Centre for Historical Research on 21st–22nd June 2018 and held at the glamourous Louise-Schroeder-Saal of the Rotes Rathaus (Red Town Hall) in Berlin. Held on the occasion of the centenary of Poland’s regained independence, the event was simultaneously a festive farewell to Professor Robert Traba, the founder and Director of the Berlin-based Centre for Historical Research, Polish Academy of Sciences. The attendees included researchers from Poland as well as scholars from Germany and France, representing various fields of science: history, literature, sociology, political science, law, Slavic studies, Polish studies, and art history. A total of twenty-seven papers and comments, in Polish and/or German, were submitted. The conference ended with a panel discussion (lasting over two hours) on ‘Individual identities in the face of collective ideas of Polishness’ (now available on the CHR website: http://www.cbh.pan.pl/de/fotobericht-und-film-zur-konferenz-derunvollendete-krieg).
Developing a more nuanced perspective on the diversity of life in Poland before the Nazi occupation was a major lesson for participants of the 37th Conference of the German/Polish Textbook Commission, held on 23rd to 26th May 2018 in Zamość, Poland. Gathered to explore aspects of ‘The Second World War in History Education in Poland and Germany: The Transfer of Knowledge and Its Representations’, historians and pedagogues being Commission members, along with secondary-school teachers from Germany and Poland, discussed the practicalities of teaching about the WW2 amidst the decreasing number of witnesses of wartime events. The conference encouraged participants to explore this question by examining the everyday life (Alltag) in Zamość under German occupation through academic panel discussions and by visiting historically significant locations in the region, including the Bełżec extermination camp. A highlight was the discussion between teachers regarding a working draft of the chapter entitled Widerstand in Europa (Resistance in Europe) from Part 4 in the commission’s bi-national European history textbook series Europa. Nasza Historia/Europa. Unsere Geschichte. The teachers discussed the prospects, benefits, and challenges of using the binational textbook in their national contexts and grappled with the prospect of a transnational narrative perspective presented in the textbook.
The article discusses the temporary exhibition ‘Krieg. Macht. Sinn. Krieg und Gewalt in der europäischen Erinnerung’ that was inaugurated at the Ruhr Museum in Essen on 11th November 2018, as part of the Horizon–2020 UNREST (Unsettling Remembering and Social Cohesion in Transnational Europe) project. In doing this, it succinctly engages with the theoretical framework underlying the concept of the exhibition, the so-called ‘agonistic memory’. Furthermore, addressed are some of the display selections made by the curators, which are explained by resorting to the aforementioned theoretical framework.
In 2014, an exhibition devoted to Islam in Brandenburg and Prussia was held at the Brandenburg-Preußen Museum in Wustrau, in the vicinity of Berlin. The exhibition was accompanied by a series of lectures, presentations, and workshops. Since 2017, the exhibition has been presented outside Germany, including in Kazan, the capital city of the Republic of Tatarstan, Russian Federation, where it arouses considerable interest. Among the many interesting objects, personal belongings of Tatar POWs who were caught by the Germans during the First World War have proved particularly attractive. A scientific conference on the traces of Tatars in Germany, covering archival resources and collective memory issues, has been another accompanying event.
Jerzy Jedlicki was one of the most prominent Polish historians, whose activity extended to more spheres of intellectual and public life. His works dealing, for instance, with Polish intelligentsia in the nineteenth century, have importantly contributed to Polish historiography and intellectual life. The pro memoria note focuses on Jedlicki as a lecturer, a historian with a widely-recognised output, and a political commentator. Although of expressly leftist views, Jedlicki remained open-minded for other ideological views and interpretations.
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