German deeds, Polish soil, Jewish Shoah : Auschwitz memory and the politics of commemoration / by Jonathan Huener.
This study is a history of postwar images of Auschwitz as they have been manifested at the memorial site in the twenty-five years following the camp's liberation. These images are considered not only against the backdrop of the history of the camp while it was in operation, but also in the context of postwar Polish history and, not least, against the backdrop of Jewish-Polish and Polish-German relations. In short, it is a biography of post-liberation Auschwitz. Based on previously untapped archival sources in Oświe¸cim, Warsaw, and Berlin, it does not propose an administrative history of the site, a simple description of its memorial landscape, or a chronicle of the commemorative events that took place there. Instead, it is an analysis of the configurations and re-configurations rations of memory at Auschwitz that addresses both the motivations for and the surprising barriers against change in the site's memorial landscape and commemorative agenda. Auschwitz memory has been constructed, maintained, and modified within a resilient, but not immobile political and cultural framework, resulting in the emergence of three dominant modes of collective memory at the memorial site. First, Auschwitz was presented and groomed as a site of Polish national martyrdom. Second, the plight and struggle of the political prisoner, often styled as a socialist hero or heroine, was elevated over the fate of the Jewish victim of genocide at Auschwitz. Third, the memorial site, through its exhibitions and commemorative events, was often used to gain political currency and was even instrumentalized as a stage for political propaganda. Although durable, this framework was both bolstered and, at times, shaken by external political considerations, by the influence of prisoner groups in Poland and abroad, and even by the encroachment of historical fact.
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