Remembering as Pacting between Past, Present and Future

In loving memory of my late grandmother Czesława Strąg, The Righteous Among the Nations of the World who tirelessly taught me that in order to really move forward we must never forget about our historical baggage, good and bad

“If this is your land, where are your stories?”

T. Chamberlin, If this is Your Land, where are Your Stories? Reimagining Home and Sacred Space (Pilgrim Press, 2003)

Prelude. From captured states to captive minds

The past has not been spared from the “politics of resentment” engulfing Poland for the last two years. The peculiar (mis)understanding and political instrumentalization of history by Polish rulers provide an important cautionary tale against one-sided partisan historical debate as it impacts how we remember the past and see ourselves today.

The most recent installment of this „politics of memory” came with the proposed change to the Act on the Institute of National Remembrance to criminalize publicly and erroneously assigning to the Polish nation any blame for the Nazi crimes committed by the III Reich. The Minister of Justice, Mr Ziobro, the most dangerous man in a government full of dangerous men, presented his rationale as follows: „[…] the Polish government took an important step in the direction of creating stronger legal instruments allowing us to defend our rights, defend the historical truth, and defend Poland’s good name everywhere in the world”. He alluded to the notorious “Polish death camps” designation occasionally appearing in the foreign media, and potentially suggesting co-responsibility on the part of the Poles for the crimes committed by Nazi Germany. He vowed to prosecute all those who defame Poland or the Polish Nation. The draft has already sparked a furore over its scope and the severity of its sanctions, and has been criticized as a “blunt instrument”, yet another example of nationalist revival in Poland and the return of revisionist history ...

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