The Warsaw Rising Museum: Polish Identity and Memory of World War II
Marta Kurkowska-Budzan

 The Minister of Education has announced a new subject to be soon introduced to school curriculum: ?lesson of patriotism.? The Warsaw Rising Museum serves as an essential background to these sort of initiatives. A noticeable fact is that school trips and history lessons offered by the Museum are booked in advance until the end of this year.

 Polish public television praises the Warsaw Rising Museum for its mission and outstanding exhibition. The Museum is constantly present in news, commentaries, family entertainment programs. It seems that the ?historical policy? of memory of the Rising ?44 and Second World War as proposed by Law and Justice Party becomes a social fact. Does it much differ from the one imposed in the era of communist regime?

The war experience of the capital city, Warsaw, had been always used by the communists as an icon of nation?s unity. However, Polish experience of World War II was not that unified. As an example one can look to the fate of large group of Silesians enlisted forcibly to Wehrmacht or Orthodox peasants from eastern borderlands persecuted by Polish nationalist partisans. Or that silent majority of ordinary people who did not take a part in any resistance movement, some of them had hardly ever seen German soldiers, or Polish Jews who perished in ghettos and death camps.

Despite those facts, contemporary Polish identity is structured by the memory of ethnic Roman ? Catholic Poles engaged in the heroic anti-Nazi conspiracy, victimized by Germans and Soviet Russians, betrayed by Western Allies -- hence victimized by History. There is little opportunity to reflect upon issues such as Polish-Jewish, Polish-German or Polish-Ukrainian relations. The "we" vs. "them" dichotomy is deeply perceived and resented. Paradoxically then, a heritage of communist policy of social memory has endured major political and social changes: some facts and notions (such as for example ?Polish-Soviet combat friendship?) were only replaced with others that fit the present pattern.

The Warsaw Rising Museum conveys tradition of Polish 19th century romanticism, its ideas and values expressed in the slogan ?God ? Honor ? Homeland? and plays a crucial social role in shaping and maintaining uncritical, mythologizedand nationalistichistory of the Poles.


Davies, Norman: Rising?44: The Battle for Warsaw, Macmillan, 2004

Halbwachs, Maurice: On Collective Memory, University of Chicago Press, Chicago 1992

Ziółkowski, Marek:?Cztery funkcje przywracanej pamięci?, Studia Socjologiczne, nr 4, 1999

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