Memory Wars in Poland When My Family’s History Turned into Political Currency


Memory Wars in Poland:
When My Family s History Turned into Political Currency

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Tadeusz Kościuszko Elementary School now occupies the space where the brewery once stood, in Ostrów Mazowiecka, Poland


Teitel Brothers Brewery ca 1937. It was used by the Gestapo as their headquarters during the war


Ceremony for the unveiling of the monument for Jadwiga Dlugoborska on grounds of former brewery


Monument for the Polish Resistance located on the grounds of the former brewery: This place was sanctified by the martyred blood of Poles fighting the Hitler regime.


A Note to Readers

I first published the piece you are about to read – an account of my intimate brush with memory politics in Poland and more specifically with Poland’s former deputy Minister of Culture and National Heritage Magda Gawin – in the 13 May 2021 issue of the Polish daily Gazeta Wyborcza. By that date, Gawin’s Law and Justice (PiS) government had already outlawed blaming the Polish state or citizens for any involvement in or responsibility for the Holocaust; tried two historians for breaking this law; built multiple museums and monuments honouring Polish “heroes” who were said to have saved Jews; instituted a national holiday for “Poles who rescued or aided Jews during the Nazi occupation”; and erected a state-funded institute whose role was to research atrocities committed by both Hitler and Stalin against the Polish nation – projects in which Gawin played a key role. By that date, on the other side of the political map, academic journals, including this one, had already begun publishing studies that were critical of historical revisionist government projects in Poland and elsewhere in Eastern and Central Europe. Gazeta Wyborcza as well had already published several articles critical of the government’s aggressive campaign.

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