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COMING TO TERMS WITH ANTI-SEMITISM: JAN T. GROSS’S WRITINGS AND THE CONSTRUCTION OF CULTURAL TRAUMA IN POST-COMMUNIST POLAND

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Chapter Summary

Since 1989 the Polish have struggled with their history and memory. The most heated debates were provoked by two historical books, Neighbors (Sasiedzi 2000) and Fear (2006, Strach, Polish trans. 2008). The author of these books, Jan T. Gross, challenged the Poles’ view of themselves as solely innocent victims of German Nazism, showing how anti-Semitism could lead them to kill Jews both during and after the war. This chapter analyses the Polish reactions to Gross’s book Fear and identifies amongst them a number of coping strategies typical of a trauma situation. The author argues that the memory of Polish anti-Semitism during and after the Holocaust became established as a cultural trauma in post-communist Poland and Jan T. Gross’s writings have played a crucial role in this process. This chapter demonstrates how the cultural trauma has been constructed but at the same time points to the fact that it has not yet resulted in a radical revision of Polish memory and identity. Thus the study shows the weakness of the normative aspects of the theory of cultural trauma. The construction of cultural trauma does not necessarily lead to empathy, greater moral responsibility and reconciliation as postulated by the authors of the theory.

10.1163/9789401208895_007
/content/books/b9789401208895s007
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