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Municipalities and the Search for the Local PastFragmented Memory of the Red Army in Upper Silesia



In administratively decentralized Poland it is the self-governing and revived municipality that is in charge of historical memory. While urban centers need to respond to a historical heritage that impacts their socioeconomic future, local authorities emerge as active constructors of commemorative practices. To connect with their electorate and define the relationship between the municipality and its citizens, not only in terms of citizens' rights, but also with reference to their responsibilities, they need to draw on a communal past to legitimize their activities and to forge a shared local identity that would promote communal solidarity. Moreover, municipal authorities, while operating in distinct urban landscapes and responding to specific challenges and needs, conduct divergent politics of memory. It is this fragmentation and diversification of commemorative practices at local level that has the most potential to challenge a nationalizing version of historical past propagated by the state.
East European Politics &
The online version of this article can be found at:
DOI: 10.1177/0888325408330623
2009 23: 392 originally published online 5 MayEast European Politics and Societies
Ewa Ochman
the Red Army in Upper Silesia
Municipalities and the Search for the Local Past : Fragmented Memory of
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for suggestions and comments on earlier drafts by Peter Gatrell, Philippa Grand, and Vera Tolz and by the
anonymous reviewers. The usual disclaimers apply.
East European Politics and
Volume 23 Number 3
Summer 2009 392-420
© 2009 SAGE Publications
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Municipalities and the Search
for the Local Past
Fragmented Memory of the Red Army in Upper Silesia
Ewa Ochman
The University of Manchester
In administratively decentralized Poland it is the self-governing and revived municipal-
ity that is in charge of historical memory. While urban centers need to respond to a
historical heritage that impacts their socioeconomic future, local authorities emerge as
active constructors of commemorative practices. To connect with their electorate and
define the relationship between the municipality and its citizens, not only in terms of
citizens’ rights, but also with reference to their responsibilities, they need to draw on a
communal past to legitimize their activities and to forge a shared local identity that
would promote communal solidarity. Moreover, municipal authorities, while operating
in distinct urban landscapes and responding to specific challenges and needs, conduct
divergent politics of memory. It is this fragmentation and diversification of commemo-
rative practices at local level that has the most potential to challenge a nationalizing
version of historical past propagated by the state.
Keywords: Politics of commemoration; war memory; urban history; civic identity;
Upper Silesia; Poland
After the collapse of the Berlin Wall in 1989, the reexamination and rediscovery
of the past in Eastern Europe entered a new, vigorous phase. This process,
driven by historians, was made possible by the 1989 revolution that brought about
radical change including greater freedom of speech and freedom of access to
archives, and helped promote scholarly exchanges with the West. Alongside this
reexamination of history, there began a more general project of reremembrance that
was primarily undertaken by groups discriminated against under communism, but
also by nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) and cultural elites committed to a
more pluralistic understanding of the national past. Above all, however, the rere-
membering of the past was stimulated by new authorities and political elites, looking
for legitimization of their rule. The commemorative practices organized by the state
were determined by a central objective: to integrate the supporters of the new
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Ochman / Municipalities and the Search for the Local Past 393
establishment and stigmatize the followers of the pre-1989 communist regimes. This
process varied from across nations, but a visible pattern occurred in each state: the
nationalization of the past was achieved by utilizing traditions of independence,
referring to military victories and endorsing a national martyrology, with the identity
of victim, collaborator, or oppressor defined along strict ethno-national lines.1
Although foreign policy considerations should have encouraged more inclusive
national commemorative practices,2 this has not been the case. Examples of this
failure include debates in the Baltic states regarding commemorations of the sixtieth
anniversary of the end of World War II staged in Moscow,3 the controversies sur-
rounding the monument of the Red Army soldier in Estonia4 and the Kaczyn´ski
brothers’ symbolic battles over the memory of German expellees.5 In fact, since the
pressure of the EU’s “democratic conditionality” lost its leverage on most of the
post-communist states after 2004,6 national politics of memory can be conducted
more “freely” in Eastern Europe.7
However, concomitantly, we have witnessed a progressive erosion of central
government’s dominant position in constructing collective commemorative prac-
tices. The critical role of urban centers in the reconstruction of multiple histories and
the capacity of local images of the past to reposition national narratives has already
been discussed in John Czaplicka’s and Blair Ruble’s edited volume Composing
Urban History and the Constitution of Civic Identities.8 Ruble writes: “. . . history
can serve as a powerful force organizing identity within an urban context. That his-
tory, in turn, can appear to be strikingly different when told through a bottom-up
process of collective iteration rather than being imposed from above.”9 Yet Czaplicka
and Ruble acknowledge that the process of rediscovering urban history is ambigu-
ous, that it often imposes its own distinct patterns of inclusion and exclusion, and
can reinforce, rather than destabilize, national and exclusionary myths.10
This study aims to explore further the role of urban centers in composing their
own narratives of local history. It investigates the commemorative work of local
governments, including their role in the production of new monuments, the inven-
tion of new public ceremonies, and the promotion of agencies dedicated to the pres-
ervation of local cultural and historical heritage. This study argues that, increasingly,
it is the self-governing and newly revived East European municipality that is in
charge of shaping historical memory. Moreover, municipal authorities, while operat-
ing in distinct urban landscapes and responding to specific challenges and needs,
conduct divergent politics of memory. It is this fragmentation and diversification of
commemorative practices at the local level that has the most potential to challenge
a coherent and nationalizing version of the historical past propagated by the state.
My case study focuses on Poland, as Poland was the first East European country
to introduce administrative and territorial reforms that have empowered
municipalities,11 and, in particular, on a peripheral city, Gliwice, rather than a capital
city—as capital cities are usually representative of the historical heritage of the
nation-state as a whole. My investigation concentrates on the post-1989 local politics
of memory that relates to the Polish–Soviet past and, more specifically, to the
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394 East European Politics and Societies
wartime conduct of the Red Army. As this historical past is contentious in Poland,
and gives rise to commemorative activities (paradoxically even when these activities
relate to unremembering), there is plenty of scope for a comparative approach.12
The Terrain of Memory
Gliwice is situated in Upper Silesia, a historical border region, which at various
times was ruled by the Polish Piast Dynasty, the Czech Crown, the Austrian
Habsburgs, the Kingdom of Prussia, and the German Empire. It was a place of settle-
ment for many ethnic groups: alongside Upper Silesians lived Poles, Czechs,
Germans, and Jews.13 After World War I and the Silesian Uprisings (1919–1921),
staged in support of Poland, Gliwice’s fate was decided by plebiscite. In Gliwice
county eighty-eight communes out of 102 voted in support of incorporation with
Poland, but over 78 percent of those voting in the municipality of Gliwice opted for
incorporation with Germany. Ultimately, almost the whole county was incorporated
as part of Germany.14 It was in Gliwice that World War II started, with the so-called
Gleiwitz provocation,15 and subsequently four labor camps for POWs, subordinate
camps of Auschwitz III (Monowitz), were established. In January 1945 columns of
prisoners who had been evacuated from Auschwitz-Birkenau passed through the
streets of the city. Those who were ill, along with those unable to walk further, were
shot in a mass execution. A few days later, on 22 January 1945, soldiers from the 118
Infantry Corps of the 21st Army of the 1st Ukrainian Front and the 31st Armored
Corps of the Red Army entered the city. At this stage of the war there were virtually
no functionaries of the Nazi party, officials, or civil servants left in Gliwice. A pan-
icked civil population began evacuating, although the military operation that was
underway meant that many were unable to leave. As the Red Army’s tanks appeared
on the outskirts of the city, a small number of Wehrmacht and police units, together
with the ill-equipped Home Guard, the Volkssturm, prepared their defense. The
fighting continued until 24 January with the Volkssturm organizing effective resis-
tance in the built-up areas of the old town. In the days that followed, Red Army
soldiers plundered the city, raped women, and killed civilians. Polish local historians
estimate that over eight hundred civilians were murdered in the last few days of
January 1945, and German sources put the total at 1,500 victims.16 Unfortunately,
apart from fragmented witness testimonies, there are no historical accounts of
exactly what happened in Gliwice in January 1945. The Red Army voennaya
komendatura were now in command of the city, and, in February, deportations of
miners and skilled workers to labor camps in the Soviet Union began. The estimates
of the number of deportees vary from eight hundred to two thousand.17 The Polish
administration began sharing control of the city with the Soviets in March. Between
1945 and 1946 Gliwice was home to hospitals for Soviet soldiers who frequently
raped and robbed members of the local population.18 By the summer of 1946 the Red
Army Military Headquarters had left the county.
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Ochman / Municipalities and the Search for the Local Past 395
Once the western frontier between Poland and Germany was fixed on the Oder
and Western Neisse at the Potsdam Conference, Gliwice was no longer, in a territo-
rial sense, a borderland city. Almost all Germans had been expelled from Gliwice by
1946, and Upper Silesians were put through a process of verification and rehabilita-
tion designed to establish their Polishness.19 Gliwice was repopulated by families
who had been transferred from the territories of Lviv province (annexed by the
Soviet Union) and by migrants from central and southern Poland.20 It soon became
a home to the Silesian University of Technology and a centre for mining, metallurgy,
and chemical industries. By 1950, the population of Gliwice had reached 120,000
(in 1939 it had stood at 113,000)21 and current figures estimate a population of
200,000. In recent years the city has attempted to reinvent itself in the wake of the
deindustrialization of the region.
Changing the Memory Landscape and
“Dissociation” From the Communist Past
In post-war Poland substantial research was conducted into the military opera-
tions of the Red Army in the Gliwice region.22 However, what took place in the city
between 24 January and March 1945—when the Polish took over the city—was not
investigated. Instead, a standard narrative of liberation of a historically Polish city
by a “heroic” Red Army was obligatory and omnipresent, embodied in a monument
erected in gratitude to the Soviet Soldiers, and memorialized through street names,
plaques on the new and old town halls, and annual commemorations. The official
memory of the sacrifices of the Red Army was also exemplified by something very
concrete: a cemetery where 2,454 Soviet soldiers are buried.
Gliwice elected the first Solidarity Mayor in the country in 1990. Since then all
subsequent mayors have represented the centre-right.23 Similarly, councilors whose
political roots were in the Solidarity Movement have always had a majority in the
city council.24 In 1990 the first democratically elected city council faced the task of
introducing far-reaching economic and administrative reforms. However, it was the
city’s historical memory that was the council’s immediate concern.25 In one of
the first council sessions, the matter of renaming streets and squares was raised.26
The task was complex because some names had already been changed several times
in the post-war period, according to the political situation, and it was not possible to
restore pre-war names because they were German. After first naming streets and
squares in honor of Marshal Piłsudski, General Anders, and Armia Krajowa, a return
to “post-liberation” names was deemed the best solution.27 Between 1990 and 2001,
twenty-five street names were changed—most of them in 1990. Firstly, streets bear-
ing names of infamous communists, such as Feliks Dzerzhinsky, were removed. The
name of the main square, which was dedicated to the Heroes of Stalingrad, was also
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396 East European Politics and Societies
immediately changed, but both the Avenue of Polish–Soviet Friendship and the Cost
of the Red Army survived for another two years.
A further major decision concerned with historical memory was the removal of the
Red Army obelisk—the so-called Monument of Gratitude—which had been erected
in July 1945 in Gliwice’s central square. In 1990 a commission was formed charged
with the task of investigating the possibility of replacing the Red Army monument
with a pre-war monument dedicated to Marshal Piłsudski, which at that time was
being renovated by a specialist firm in Gliwice.28 As this initiative fell through, the
city council decided to relocate the obelisk in the Red Army cemetery29 and to consult
with residents of the city about how to develop the vacant space. However, the
monument was heavily vandalized during its removal, and the issue of the obelisk
was, once again, the subject of council meetings. One councilor put forward a motion
proposing a statement be issued explaining that it was not the intention of the council
to demolish the monument. He justified the statement on the grounds that the demo-
lition infuriated many of Gliwice’s residents. The statement read:
In the assessment on the part of society, some of the Soviet symbols in Poland were in
essence, due to the political context and circumstances in which they came into being,
symbols offending national honor. The removal of such symbols, regardless of their
official name, is the right of any sovereign nation. Such acts must, however, differ from
attempts to correct history, as was done in the past, or from refusing to honor, or in any
other way disturb the peace, of the Soviet soldiers who fell while fighting against
Nazism and were buried on Polish soil. To avoid doubts and to underline [the council’s]
intentions, representatives of the city council and local authorities will pay due respect
on 1 November to—amongst others—the soldiers resting in the Red Army cemetery.30
The motion was debated vigorously but finally rejected, with seven votes in favor,
fourteen against, and eight abstentions. The controversy surrounding the removal of
the Red Army monument shows that in 1990 the attitude of residents and council-
ors31 to the role the Soviet soldiers had played in Gliwice’s history was still ambigu-
ous. With the demolition of the Monument of Gratitude—which was central, along
with the Red Army cemetery, to remembrance ceremonies—the city faced the
dilemma of where to commemorate its historical anniversaries. Unsurprisingly,
some anniversaries were simply dropped from the city’s calendar. These were 24
January (the “liberation” of Gliwice by the Red Army), 22 July (the proclamation of
the Manifesto of the Polish Committee of National Liberation in 1944) and 7
November (the outbreak of the October Revolution). By 1990 the municipality offi-
cially recurrently marked only two events: 3 May (the proclamation of the first
Polish constitution in 1791) and 11 November (the achievement of national indepen-
dence in 1918). These celebrations still took place in the central square, which was
now named after Marshal Piłsudski. A stone, with the inscription “Gliwice Returned
to Poland,” symbolizing the recovery of Silesian territory by Poland, was relocated
from a nearby park to the space vacated by the Red Army obelisk and became the
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Ochman / Municipalities and the Search for the Local Past 397
focal point of commemorations until 1998 when a monument in memory of Marshal
Piłsudski was finally erected in the square.
The Politics of Memory and the Self-Governing Municipality
By 1995 the municipal authorities were attempting to rediscover an individual and
distinctive history of the city. The fiftieth anniversary of the end of World War II was
commemorated with its own local dimension for the first time in the history of the
city. The council organized an impressive ceremony attended by national and regional
politicians, religious leaders, representatives from European “twin towns,” and con-
suls from the Russian Federation, Germany, France, Great Britain, and the United
States. The commemorations took place at the renovated radio station where the
so-called Gleiwitz Provocation had been staged in 1939. A tablet commissioned by
the municipality, which called for ‘‘Remembering the Past with the Future in Mind,’
was unveiled during the ceremony. All the aspects of the event—the symbolic space
of the commemorations, the list of invited guests and the inscription of the tablet—
were indicative of the politics of memory that the municipal authorities intended to
conduct. As local government was gaining more independence from the central
administration, and was becoming a more confident player in the process of democ-
ratization, it started shifting events toward commemoration of a local rather than
national past. The commemorations were intended to strengthen the position of the
municipality and secure its image as a distinctive place in Poland’s past as well as its
present. Gliwice’s diverse communities, multicultural and mutliethnic heritage, and
varied historical experiences have been seized upon, rather than ignored or over-
looked, and this reorientation has resulted in more inclusive remembrance practices.
Thus, for example, one of the initiatives strongly supported by the municipality
has been the annual Day of Europe held since 2000 on 9 May. The day is no longer
commemorated as the end of the World War II. Instead, young Europeans from
seven of Gliwice’s twin towns are invited to a festival promoting European integra-
tion and the sharing of the history and traditions of each of the towns. At the festival,
Gliwice presents itself as a city proud of its multicultural and multiethnic heritage,
certain of its own place in Europe.
The municipality’s will to embrace a multiplicity of different local pasts has also
been demonstrated through the erection of memorials. In 2000 the city council con-
sidered that the most appropriate way to commemorate the 750th anniversary of the
granting of town status (civitas) to Gliwice was to erect a monument in memory of
those inhabitants who had lost their lives during war and violent conflict in Gliwice.
Councilors unanimously agreed on an inscription which read: “To Gliwiczanians—
Victims of Wars and Totalitarianisms.”32 The municipality commissioned the nation-
ally renowned, Gliwice-based sculptor Krzysztof Nitsch to design a grand memorial
for the city’s main park, to be placed on the same site of an earlier monument that
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398 East European Politics and Societies
had been dedicated to Germans soldiers who died in World War I, but which had
been destroyed in 1945. The new memorial was ambitious in scale: a black cobbled
road leads to a round mass of bronze, representing a drop of blood; behind this is a
knife with a wooden handle. The knife, a symbol of an ancient, biblical weapon, is
broken, and no longer useable.33 The opening ceremony, on 9 September 2001, was
envisaged as a major event for the community. Through advertisements in the press,
the mayor invited ex-servicemen associations, NGOs, and inhabitants of the city to
the ceremony. However, it eventually became clear which sections of the community
(or, more correctly, which sections of Gliwice’s trans-national community) were
most grateful for the memorial: a local newspaper published an official thank-you
letter from Gleiwitzer-Kreis, an association of ex-Gliwice citizens from Cologne.34
It was generally understood that through its symbolic composition, the inscription,
and the location, the memorial also commemorated victims who were not officially
remembered in Upper Silesia: the ethnic German civilians and the Silesian victims
of the Red Army.
The local authority’s attitude to Gliwice’s past was demonstrated on a further
occasion at the sixtieth anniversary of the liberation of the concentration camp at
Auschwitz-Birkenau. Whilst Poland’s national government was staging the interna-
tional commemorations in Auschwitz, in Gliwice, where four subcamps of Auschwitz
III (Monowitz) were located, the anniversary provoked a heated exchange between
members of the city council. Auschwitz-Birkenau had been liberated on the same day
as fighting ended in Gliwice. Stanisław Ogryzek, representing the post- communist
party (SLD) in the council, prepared an official statement remembering victims of
the concentration camps and honoring the memory of Red Army soldiers who were
buried at Gliwice.35 The statement underlined both the national and local importance
of the day: “The day 27 January 1945 was, for Gliwice, the day on which the Second
World War ended, the day of the return to Poland.”36
However, this initiative was heavily criticized by many councilors. In particular,
the linking of the anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz-Birkenau with local
events in Gliwice was questioned. Deputy Mayor Moszyn´ski argued that the libera-
tion of the death camp was an uncontested historical fact, whereas the role of the Red
Army in Gliwice is disputed, and that therefore these two issues should not be placed
in the same context.37 The second deputy mayor, Wieczorek, argued that Gliwice had
not been liberated as, at the time, it was mostly populated by Germans. Therefore,
for most inhabitants, 27 January 1945 marked the beginning of much suffering, and,
as the city still has a significant German minority, the council should not undertake
any initiatives insensitive to the suffering of members of Gliwice’s community.38
In addition to other commemorative activities undertaken since 1989, the Red
Army cemetery in central Gliwice, which has suffered years of neglect, has under-
gone restoration. The local authority began a comprehensive plan for the restoration
of the cemetery, including the costly replacement of the disintegrating terrazzo head-
stones, in 2003.39 This initiative is especially notable as responsibility for war
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Ochman / Municipalities and the Search for the Local Past 399
cemeteries lies with the national government and a voivode, representing the council
of ministers in the region, and not with the municipality. It is difficult to establish
the reasons behind this project, but certainly a neglected cemetery located in the
center of the city does not fit well with the image of a prosperous European city that
Gliwice wants to project.
As can be seen, Gliwice’s management board and the city council played a major
role, not only in constructing communal remembrance of World War II that chal-
lenged the post-1945 narrative of liberation, but also in securing respect for the
fallen Soviet soldiers. Initially, the politics of memory followed a common pattern
of “dissociation” from understandings of history that had been imposed by the com-
munist regime.40 This dissociation—which took place across Eastern Europe in the
early 1990s—was achieved in Gliwice by the renaming of public spaces, the removal
of evidence of ideological subjugation, and the revision of the list of collectively
commemorated anniversaries. Such historical reorientation was grounded firmly in
the national context and followed the new state’s rethinking of the past, which was
determined by two principal objectives: firstly, to reconstruct historical connections
to Poland’s past as an independent nation, and secondly, to integrate the supporters
of the new establishment, legitimize their activities, and stigmatize the followers of
the communist regime. However, by 2000 the local government in Gliwice emerged
as “sovereign” constructors of their own past. The aim of public memorialization
was no longer the representation of national historical narratives, but the legitimiza-
tion of the authority of the municipality. To achieve such an aim, the focus of
remembrance initiatives had to shift. The redefinition of the past from below, the
mass memory of Gliwiczanians, and the emphasis on local, rather than national,
history became central to the city’s remembrance activities.
This change in the dominant strategy of municipal remembrance has been encour-
aged by a number of developments. Apart from the administrative and territorial
reforms of 1990 and 1999 that created stronger self-governing municipalities, which
needed to respond to a historical heritage that impacts upon their socioeconomic
future,41 there are developments that are directly stimulating the process of municipal
remembrance focused on local history. Firstly, post-1989 democratization resulted in
the empowerment of groups that were discriminated against under communism
(including ethnic minorities), thus producing diverse and active communities of
memory. These communities need to be acknowledged by local authorities but they
also can be employed in commemorative projects deemed to be beneficial for the
municipality. Secondly, the post-1989 reenergized institutions of memory, such as
museums and heritage centres, have actively engaged in commemorative practices
aimed at promoting local historical narratives and representing previously marginal-
ized groups. These institutions—controlled and financed by local government—provide
the specialized help needed in redefining remembrance activities in such ways that
can serve the legitimization of local authorities. Finally, commemorations of local
historical events play an important part in twin-city programs, cross-border networks,
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400 East European Politics and Societies
and interactions with diasporic communities. Amalgamated commemorative activi-
ties pave the way for further cooperation, such as economic partnership and cultural
exchange. Furthermore, communities and institutions of memory, as well as transna-
tional networks, have inspired a cultural environment that initially made the recon-
ceptualization of municipal remembrance possible. This latter relationship will be
discussed later in this article.
Municipal Remembering and External Factors
In 1999 the city management board sought to resolve the issue of the pre-war
German cemetery that had lain derelict for decades and that consisted of only a small
number of visible graves. The board sought the exhumation of remains and their relo-
cation to a communal cemetery. However, the Gliwice German minority informed the
authorities of a mass grave located in the cemetery which, allegedly, had been used to
bury children, women, and the elderly who had been murdered by Soviet soldiers in
January 1945. After consultations between the Silesian voivode, the Council for the
Protection of the Memory of Warfare and Martyrdom (ROPWiM), the “Memory”
Foundation (Stiftung “Gedenken”), which oversaw the exhumation of German sol-
diers in Poland, and the Gliwice municipal office, the exhumation took place in
September 2000.42 However, it was the People’s Union for the Care of German War
Graves (Volksbund Deutsche Kriegsgräberfürsorge) from Kassel that was granted
overall responsibility for the exhumation as, during the consultations, it had been
decided that it was most likely that the mass grave was the burial place for German
soldiers. Eventually, the remains of 492 persons were exhumed, but the process was
surrounded by controversy and conflicting reports. As well as fragments of military
uniforms, ammunition, guns, and two army identification tags, “civilian” items were
also uncovered (e.g., a fragment of a child’s rubber boot, and a pocket mirror).43
Those involved in the exhumation were divided into two opposing camps. One
group maintained that only soldiers had been buried in the mass grave; the other that
remains of the civilian population had been exhumed.44 The “Memory” Foundation
and VDK, which had financed the exhumation, wanted to relocate the remains to the
newly established German war cemetery in Siemianowice S
´la˛skie in Upper Silesia.
The Gliwice German community, supported by the Silesian German minority,45
insisted that it was a civilian mass grave that should not be disturbed, and that should
become a focal point for commemorative activities. The Gliwice municipal office
sided with the German minority, but the VDK had the support of the Silesian
Voivode.46 Thus the remains were relocated accordingly.47
The controversy surrounding the exhumation was discussed again by the council
in 2005—this time because of a monument that was to be erected in memory of
victims of the Red Army. At the time of the VDK-sponsored exhumation, Gleiwitzer-
Kreis, an association of former citizens of Gliwice from Cologne, approached the
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Ochman / Municipalities and the Search for the Local Past 401
local authority with a proposal to erect a cross or tablet in the old German cemetery
acknowledging the victims of 1945.48 The proposal was accepted and the municipal
office held responsibility for the project. Gleiwitzer-Kreis had three different sug-
gestions for the inscription for the monument. These were decided after consultation
with Gliwice’s German minority, the municipal office and the Gliwice diocese (who
owned the cemetery land). All parties finally agreed on an inscription stating: Here,
in the mass grave, lie hundreds of murdered Gliwiczanians—women and
men—victims of the warfare of 1945. Let us remember them—they are the
summons for peace and tolerance.49
Unexpectedly, however, ROPWiM in Warsaw, which had been consulted about
the final version, disapproved of the inscription. ROPWiM requested documents that
would verify that the massacre had taken place, state the circumstances of the burial,
and identify the perpetrators.50 The municipality turned to local historians for help.
Although there were documents—namely, Catholic parish death registries and
recorded testimonies—which indicated that Red Army soldiers had been involved in
the murder of civilians in Gliwice in January 1945, it was not possible to find docu-
ments that related exactly to the victims buried in the German cemetery. The contro-
versy surrounding the exhumation complicated the issue, but a detailed report on the
general findings of the research was sent to Warsaw.51 Ultimately, ROPWiM, after
further consultation, gave its support for the initiative and endorsed an inscription
stating: In memory of Gliwice inhabitants murdered during the warfare of
1945. Let us remember them—they are the summons for peace and
The city management board then put forward a resolution to the city council
proposing the erection of a monument. However, councilors representing the SLD
objected to the resolution and again raised doubts about the victims (whether they
were civilians or members of the Volkssturm) and the perpetrators (whether they
were the Red Army or the NKVD).53 For post-Solidarity councilors from Law and
Justice (PiS), the main problem with the inscription was that it did not explicitly
state who the perpetrators of the mass execution were. It was felt that the memorial
could be misinterpreted and that Poles could be held responsible for the killings.
Fearful of losing the vote, Mayor Frankiewicz suggested—in defiance of ROPWiM’s
recommendations—alterations to the inscription that would name the perpetrators.54
The new inscription read: In memory of Gliwice inhabitants murdered by the
Soviet Army during the warfare of January 1945. Let us remember them—they
are the summons for peace and tolerance.”55 In defense of the resolution the
mayor and his deputy recalled the example of Bottrop, a town twinned with Gliwice,
to which many inhabitants of Gliwice had migrated. Bottrop was described as a town
with a dignified and inclusive attitude to its own past.56 Gliwice citizens who had
been expelled from Lviv after the war were also mentioned. If the former citizens of
Lviv could demand respect for their cemeteries in Ukraine, Gliwice inhabitants
should respect German heritage in Upper Silesia.57 The resolution was ultimately
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402 East European Politics and Societies
approved—with fourteen votes in favor and nine against.58 In December 2005, sixty
years after the event, the memorial stone was unveiled. The inscription was in both
German and Polish and cited both Gleiwitzer-Kreis and the Mayor of Gliwice as
benefactors of the memorial.
The controversy surrounding the exhumation points to the various factors that can
shape local historical memory. In particular, the controversy surrounding the exhu-
mation reveals the extent to which agencies outside a municipality—regional,
national and international—try to influence or control local commemorative events.59
The municipality is regularly drawn into a larger commemorative community, with
local remembrance initiatives acting as a platform that allows different groups to air
their views. However, it is the municipality that ultimately has the power to promote
a particular historical memory that it finds of most benefit for its community. It is
the municipality that can, ultimately, choose which commemorative activities to
support or reject. Moreover, the degree of autonomy from outside agencies seeking
influence over the politics of memory conducted by municipal authorities depends
on the strength of local support for the redefinition of the city’s past, the cooperation
of local commemorative organizations and physical evidence (e.g., actual dead bod-
ies) that validate the city’s memory and history. In the case of Gliwice, the municipal
authorities acknowledged the diversity of its local history and the right of the
German minority to their distinctive space in Gliwice’s memory landscape. However,
these choices are intrinsically linked to the specificity of Gliwice’s location, its
population, and the physical heritage of the city. The city’s politics have been sup-
ported and made possible because of several developments that occurred in Gliwice.
These will be discussed in the following section.
Composing Local History and the Search for Civic Identity
Under communism, histories of towns and regions were written and organiza-
tions preserving local history were widespread. However, narratives of the local past
were subject to censorship and to directives issued by party officials. Communist
constructions of the past—apart from their outright misrepresentation of key his-
torical events—homogenised communities and rarely acknowledged the existence
of different forms of heritage, cultural diversity, or ethnic complexity. The local past
was employed to validate the official history of the state, to emphasize economic and
social progress that had been achieved during the post-war years, and to draw
boundaries between “us” and “others” (e.g., patriots and collaborators; Polish
Silesians and German Silesians).60 Even when regional traditions, customs, and dia-
lects were recognized they were used for the construction of ethno-national narra-
tives rather than for instilling a distinct localized consciousness. This situation has
changed in the post-1989 era.
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Civic Society and Preservation of Local Heritage
Throughout the 1990s, many NGOs were set up in Gliwice. Their aim has been
to discover and cultivate the city’s heritage. Some organizations are well established
with influential sponsors, whilst others are run by volunteers. One association that
has succeeded, because of the enthusiasm of young people in the region, is the
Forum For Dialogue Among Nations Foundation, which concentrates on fostering
Polish–Jewish dialogue, celebrating cultural diversity, and teaching tolerance.61
Recently, it undertook projects aimed at preserving Jewish monuments in Gliwice
and collecting biographies of Holocaust survivors. These projects are intended, as
the Forum explains, to “save and reconstruct the continuity of the city’s history in
the minds of people connected with this place” and to “become a sort of bridge
between the former and present inhabitants of Gliwice.”62 The major commemora-
tive initiative that the Foundation undertook, with the support of the local authori-
ties, was to unveil a plaque in memory of the Gliwice Jewish community, which had
participated in the history of the city for 150 years. The plaque was located on the
site of a synagogue that had been destroyed during Kristallnacht in 1938.
Alongside these voluntary associations is the well-established House for Polish–
German Co-operation (HPGC), officially opened in the presence of the President of
the Federal Republic of Germany, Roman Herzog, which cooperates with numerous
Polish and German institutions.63 Initially, the HPGC concentrated on projects that
supported Poland’s accession to the EU. It now focuses on fostering intercultural
dialogue and promoting cooperation between Polish and German regions, and sup-
porting the German minority in Silesia. The HPGC is also committed to specifically
local projects and has organized conferences, seminars and competitions on the his-
tory of Gliwice and the region.64 One of the most significant projects is “Local
History as illustrated with examples of selected districts, municipalities and com-
munes,” which was introduced in 1998 and aims to support local and regional bonds
and the creation of a new regional identity.65
To fully appreciate the transformation that has occurred in Gliwice with regard to
the city’s historical memory, it is worth considering an organization which has been,
since its founding in 1961, dedicated chiefly to the commemoration of Gliwice’s past
and the cultivation of its traditions and culture.66 Before 1989, Towarzystwo Przyjaciół
Ziemi Gliwickiej (The Society of Friends of the Gliwice Region), in its activities and
varied publications, refused to acknowledge the city’s multiethnic history and skillfully
built a picture of a city that essentially had always been inhabited by Poles. In particu-
lar, the German contribution to the city’s development (industrial, architectural, and
cultural) was denied or overlooked, and the period of Austrian/Prussian/German rule
was presented only in a negative light. According to the version of history endorsed by
TPZG, Gliwice began to flourish only after 1945 when it was liberated by the Red
Army. In the 1990s, however, TPZG publications underwent a radical transformation
and its annual journal became a forum for new and pioneering historical research.67
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404 East European Politics and Societies
Institutions of Memory and Pluralistic Images of the Past
Most of the projects concerned with the rediscovery and preservation of local
heritage are initiated by civil society elites. However, the institutions of civil society
in Gliwice are still in the process of formation, and assistance and encouragement
from the municipality is vital to their existence. This support is forthcoming through
a range of policies. The Program for Co-operation between the Municipality of
Gliwice and Non-governmental Organizations, which is voted on annually by the
city council, decides upon a list of possible nongovernmental projects that the
municipality is most likely to support financially. In the list of programs accepted so
far, the majority are projects dedicated to popularizing local and regional history and
traditions.68 Similarly, reading Gliwice management board reports on their term in
office reveals the existence of a clear policy to endorse organizations that promote
Gliwice’s multicultural and multiethnic heritage.69
Alongside NGOs are cultural institutions financed from the communal budget
and administered by local government that are involved in recovering Gliwice’s
forgotten heritage. The most significant work is undertaken by the city’s museum.
Since the democratic elections of 1990 and the appointment of a new director, the
museum has begun an ongoing project to rediscover Gliwice’s multicultural iden-
tity through a number of initiatives.70 Recently, it ran a project entitled “Gliwice’s
Minority” that “allows us to show the heritage of the region through traditions and
culture of multi-ethnical and multi-cultural local society”71 and has so far presented
exhibitions on Armenian and Jewish minorities. The museum also holds annual
Gliwice Heritage Days (as a part of the European Heritage Days), which are
designed—according to the museum’s Web site—to develop cultural identity
among the city’s inhabitants. Alongside a commitment to explore the cultural rich-
ness of local communities, the museum supports a reexamination of the historical
past of the city. It stages exhibitions,72 regularly organizes lectures and conferences,
and publishes historical investigations in the museum’s journal.73 Finally, it offers
an education program on regional topics that are not covered in the national cur-
riculum (e.g., 1945 in Gliwice; Expellees, Displaced, Repatriates—Gliwiczanie
At the same time, however, local authorities have supported remembrance initia-
tives of a very different character. In recent years the main municipal orphanage has
organized a visit to the Red Army cemetery on All Souls’ Day, when children light
candles on soldiers’ graves. The rationale behind this has been—in the words of the
director of the orphanage—that “one should respect and honor the lives of those who
died for others” and “families of Soviet soldiers cannot visit the cemetery so the
dead soldiers themselves are like orphans.”74 Local authorities have managed the
logistics of this commemorative activity each year.
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The Municipal Identity Project
It can be argued that local government’s promotion of a multiethnic and multicul-
tural heritage is a part of strategy to reinvent the city, overhaul its image, and recast
its future. Recent polls show that three-quarters of surveyed Gliwice residents feel
emotional ties to the city, but also that over half of the respondents would consider
leaving the city if an opportunity arose. This is largely because of the perception that
other cities in Poland offer better career opportunities, higher wages, and a healthier
environment.75 As it is impossible for Gliwice to compete against the economic and
cultural potential of major cities in the south of Poland, such as Kraków or Wrocław,
the municipality has built Gliwice’s appeal on the city’s historic borderland location.
Rethinking the image of the city as a historic border town and a present-day cultural,
linguistic, and economic contact zone has concrete ramifications. Primarily, it helps
to increase prospects for receiving EU subsidies and encourages national and foreign
investment.76 This is particularly important in the context of the decline of mining
and metallurgy industries in Upper Silesia.
However, besides enhancing the town’s cultural and economic attractiveness, heri-
tage politics have a more profound role to fulfill. To boost the solidarity and self-es-
teem of the inhabitants and to encourage a sense of collective responsibility for the
future of Gliwice, it has been essential to rediscover the multilayered foundations of
the community.77 Thus the politics of memory has served as an essential component in
the process of strengthening local identity, which is the overarching goal of the munic-
ipal authority. This undertaking has proved challenging for a number of reasons. By
the 1950s, as a consequence of post-war migration, Gliwice was populated, apart from
Upper Silesians, by many groups from outside the region: Poles from eastern prov-
inces (particularly Lviv), Poles from central and southern regions, and expatriates from
Western Europe.78 During the post-war period, the distinctiveness of each of these
groups was not acknowledged, the coexistence of often competing memories was not
discussed, and the town’s pre-war heritage was obliterated. Identification with the
locality was not endorsed during the post-war years as the communist regime encour-
aged loyalty to the state, class, and ideology above all. The task of the local authorities
since 1989 has been to reverse this process and to build a community of residents who
identify with their town, envisage their long-term future within the region, and who
feel responsible for their locality. It is apparent that municipal authorities put their
confidence in a strong correlation between the emergence of a public civic identity and
the embracing of pluralistic images of the past and inclusive historical narratives.
Fragmented Politics of Memory in Upper Silesia
The politics of memory in relation to World War II, however, have to be employed
cautiously in the Silesian voivodeship. After World War I and the three Silesian
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406 East European Politics and Societies
uprisings (between 1919–1921), which were staged in support of Poland, the fate of
Upper Silesia was decided by plebiscite and, as a consequence, the region was
divided between Poland and Germany. The western part was incorporated into
Germany and the eastern part, with Katowice as its capital, became part of Poland.
Whereas Gliwice’s inhabitants were mostly German or pro-German Silesian, the
east of Upper Silesia was inhabited mainly by a Silesian population that sympa-
thized or identified with Poland. In 1939, Germany incorporated the territory of
eastern Upper Silesia into the Third Reich and all Silesians became German citizens.
Silesians that had been active in the pre-war Polish national movement were perse-
cuted and sent to concentration camps; those who identified as ethnic Poles were
expelled from the region.79 After the war there was no mass migration in eastern
Upper Silesia but the communist regime installed new elites from the neighboring
Zagłe˛bie Da˛browskie region, which was considered to be more “Polish” and thus
more reliable. Since the war the region has become one of the most complex locali-
ties in Poland. Tensions have been created because of repressed war traumas (the
post-1945 deportations of Silesian miners to the Soviet Union), problems with
national identification (Silesians were accused of being indifferent to their national-
ity), and the issue of exclusion (Silesians felt that they were not fully accepted as
Poles). Moreover, the post-war inhabitants of the region include ethnic Poles, Polish
Silesians, and German Silesians who consider themselves, in varying degrees, to be
Polish or German, as well as Silesians who identify only with their region, the
Silesian tradition and dialect, and the Catholic faith. Crucially, Silesians reject any
national identification that is forced on them and, in contrast to Polish Silesians, do
not identify with Polish experiences of World War II.
In such tangled terrain it has been difficult to employ any consistent or coherent
politics of memory as even local elites are unsure what type of collective memory
of World War II to support. Furthermore, memory of the past is frequently used by
equally powerful opposing factions for their own ends. In the following section I
will discuss examples from four towns indicating the extent to which remembrance
practices in Upper Silesia and Zagłębie Dąbrowskie—both part of the Silesian
voivodeship—differ and how the distinctive historical heritage of each of these
towns impacts on their search for a local identity.
The Contested Memory of Red Army Soldiers: The Case of Katowice
In Katowice, the capital of the voivodeship, a Red Army monument—located at
the crossroads of major transport routes and situated near important municipal
buildings—has, so far, not been removed. Although the city council (with forty-two
councilors in favor and only four against),80 ROPWiM, and the Russian Embassy all
approved the relocation of the monument in 2000 no steps have been taken to imple-
ment this resolution. In February 2007 almost one hundred anticommunist activists,
who had been members of the Solidarity Movement during the 1980s, sent an open
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Ochman / Municipalities and the Search for the Local Past 407
letter to Katowice’s mayor suggesting that the Red Army monument be replaced
with a memorial commemorating Ronald Reagan who, they stated, truly “symbol-
izes the idea of freedom.”81 The initiators of the project argued that as there is little
difference between Nazism and communism any symbols commemorating these
systems should be removed. The initiatives sparked a debate in the media, with local
politicians and elites arguing over whether the Red Army monument should stay or
be removed. The Silesian Autonomy Movement (RAŚ), which appeared on the
Upper Silesian political stage in the 1990s, demanded the removal of the Red Army
monument. Jerzy Gorzelik, the Leader of RAŚ argued: “It cannot be expected that,
in the central square of Katowice, [there is a monument that] commemorates the
actions undertaken by the army, which committed atrocities against Silesians and
later aided their deportation to the East.”82
Amongst those who suggested that the monument should remain in the square
were the two directors of the city’s main museums.83 The director of Katowice’s his-
tory museum, Jadwiga Lipońska-Sajdak, argued: “The monument depicts common
soldiers, without distinctions. They were ordinary people who went to the front to
fight Germans. They are victims of war just as Poles are.”84 Dariusz Korytko, the
Chief Editor of the Katowice edition of Gazeta Wyborcza pointed out: “In January
1945 Soviet soldiers entered Katowice. Undoubtedly, many inhabitants were grate-
ful to them for this.”85 The relocation of the monument was also opposed on practi-
cal grounds as it would require the redirection of municipal resources from more
urgent projects, and would divert the local authority’s attention away from the city’s
more pressing problems. The future of the Red Army monument is currently unclear.
In Katowice, located in the historically pro-Polish Upper Silesia, memories of the
war are still contested and there is no consensus over whose heritage should be used
as the foundation for local identity-building projects.
Collective Remembrance of the Red Army as Liberators: The Case of
Dąbrowa Górnicza
In Dąbrowa Górnicza, in the Zagłębie Dąbrowskie region, memorials erected in
gratitude to Soviet soldiers not only still stand, but some monuments were renovated
or reinstated during the 2000s.86 It is not incidental that while there have been vigor-
ous debates about removing Soviet memorials in other parts of the Silesian voivode-
ship, in Zagłębie the Red Army monuments still play a central part in annual
municipal commemorations. Programs for the anniversaries of liberation of Dąbrowa
Górnicza by the Red Army, published on the municipal Web site, confirm the exis-
tence of an established commemorative route that includes visiting Red Army
memorials at Dąbrowa Górnicza’s three districts of Strzemieszyce, Łosień, and
Gołonóg.87 As well as ceremonies for the laying of wreaths, there have been addi-
tional commemorative initiatives aimed at raising the profile of “Liberation Day.”88
Certainly, in Zagłębie, liberation anniversaries have not been low-key events.
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408 East European Politics and Societies
A councilor in Sosnowiec, a neighboring city, expressed her concern over the scale
of remembrance activities in her city: “I would like to return to my appeal from 2003
to the authorities of the city of Sosnowiec to stop such grand commemorations of the
anniversary of the liberation of Sosnowiec by the Red Army on 27 January. This has
already happened in many other towns.”89
However, Dąbrowa Górnicza (as well as Sosnowiec) belongs to the so-called
“red” region, known for its pre-war socialist and communist traditions. The
Revolution of 1905 was a major event in the history of the area. It saw the establish-
ment of a week-long Zagłębie Republic. In 1918, Workers’ Delegates’ Councils were
formed and in 1927 the first communist council in Poland was elected in Zagłębie.
This ideological heritage has not been denied and it provides an environment that is
supportive of commemorations of Red Army soldiers as liberators. In the words of
a Dąbrowa Górnicza councilor: “We believe that one should not be ashamed of his-
tory as every city has its own [history]. Our city was a site of a struggle for national
and social liberation. At that time it was the working class that determined the
history of this city.”90
Commemorating Deportations of Silesians to Soviet Labor Camps:
The Case of Knurów and Czerwionka-Leszczyny
Knurów, a small town in southeast Upper Silesia, inhabited by Silesians who are
historically pro-Polish, commemorates the events of 1945 very differently. Its Red
Army monument has been demolished and the town’s public memory has been
organized around the remembrance of Knurów’s miners, who were sent, with the
help of Red Army soldiers, to Soviet labor camps in February 1945.91 The Society
of the Memory of the Silesian Tragedy of 1945, an organization representing those
who had been deported and their families, founded in 1991, initiated the first remem-
brance activities in Knurów. The Society’s spontaneous commemorative initiatives
influenced local government’s own politics of memory and provided the municipal-
ity with the necessary means (including witnesses, artifacts, and activists) for the
production of memory, legitimizing historical narratives that were aimed at consoli-
dating and empowering the local community. Although other towns lost far greater
numbers in Soviet labor camps, the respect inspired by the Society in the region, the
well-preserved sites of memory related to the internment of the miners, and the fact
that, historically, Knurów’s population is largely made up of Polish Silesians, meant
that it was accepted when local elites took on a leading role in remembrance initia-
tives. For several years now the main event in the city’s calendar is an annual com-
memoration of the deportations, which is attended by local and regional politicians,
councilors, and activists. The event is also covered by the regional media.92 This has,
in turn, strengthened the standing of the town in the region and allowed Knurów to
become the voice of the Silesians in their campaign for national recognition of the
events of the past, as well as a springboard for political careers.93
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In the Silesian commune (gimna) of Czerwionka-Leszczyny, which is situated a
few kilometers to the south of Knurów, the Soviet deportations are remembered dif-
ferently again.94 Memory work includes annual commemorations of the anniversary
of the deportations, attended by representatives of the local council and municipal
office, the organizing of film screenings and talks, and the commissioning of com-
memorative plaques.95 The historical narrative promoted by the elites of the com-
mune emphasizes that victims of the deportations were Silesians (rather than Polish
Silesians as in Knurów) who were stigmatized as Germans in 1945 and collectively
punished for Nazi crimes. Crucially, the oppressors are not identified solely as
Soviets: the role of the Polish communist militia that assisted Red Army soldiers
during the arrests is emphasized and, generally, Poles rather than Polish communists
are held responsible for the persecutions. However, the commune is an RAŚ strong-
hold, which is strongly represented within local government in the county (powiat)
of Rybnik, where the commune is located. RAŚ campaigns for an autonomous
Silesian region, with its own parliament, constitution, elected mayor, and a separate
budget. Its politics of memory aim to support claims of the existence of a separate
and distinct Silesian identity and are played out against the deindustrialization of the
region. With the closure of mines, a sense that the region has been abandoned by
central government is widespread, particularly in those Silesian communities hit
hardest by the decline of mining activity.
Although Gliwice, Katowice, Dąbrowa Górnicza, Knurów, and Czerwionka-
Leszczyny are situated in one voivodeship, their local elites engage in divergent
politics of memory. Distinctive local histories and current political concerns shape
their commemorative practices and prevent the emergence of one clear pattern of
commemoration of the Red Army and, more generally, the war. Each municipality,
in their search for new foundational myths, is influenced by particular victimized
groups demanding recognition, and by particular “dead bodies” that impose particu-
lar duties, along with distinct sites of memory that generate a sense of historical
continuity. Moreover, each municipality, assuming a role on the local, regional,
national, and sometimes, international stage, has to establish ways of forging a
shared identity to promote democratic transformation, and/or responding to the dein-
dustrialization of the region and economic transition.
In Conclusion
This study has shown that the role of municipal authorities in shaping public
memory of the Second World War has been decisive. Increasingly, it is local govern-
ment which oversees historical memory and which conducts an individualized poli-
tics of memory. Although the municipal remembrance of the local past does not take
place in a vacuum, and external commemorative agencies and national bodies have
tried to influence or control public memory, it is ultimately local government that
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410 East European Politics and Societies
chooses the version of the past that it wants to commemorate. The emergence of
different historical narratives and commemorative practices is the outcome of
democratization, but is also provoked by the need for authentic engagement between
municipal authorities and the wider community during a difficult period of economic
transition. As local authorities try to connect with their electorate and define the
relationship between the municipality and its citizens, not only in terms of citizens’
rights but also with reference to their responsibilities, they need the communal past
to legitimize their actions and to forge a shared local identity that encourages com-
munal solidarity.
The case of Gliwice revealed that the reinvestigation of local history, and the
rediscovery of a pluralized cultural heritage representative of the city’s different
ethnic communities that has been undertaken by NGOs and cultural institutions, has
led to a municipal politics of memory rooted in the city’s specificity. Concurrently,
the local authority’s commitment to inclusive historical narratives resulted in poli-
cies supporting those NGOs and cultural institutions that are involved in excavating
and preserving a multiplicity of local histories. However, this study does not suggest
that this “pluralistic” scenario has been replicated across Upper Silesia in urban
centers that are in the process of rediscovering and commemorating local pasts.
This study has argued that municipal remembrance of the Red Army, whose lib-
eration of Poland is highly contentious, is multifarious and fragmented in Upper
Silesia. As a result of differing local histories, specific geographic characteristics of
towns and diverse populations, Silesia’s cities conduct a distinctive politics of mem-
ory in relation to World War II. Although only one particular historical borderland
was investigated, it can be argued that the idea of one dominant official memory of
war is increasingly invalid in a Poland of self-governing regions, districts, and
municipalities. In fact, it can be argued that, to a significant degree, present-day
Poland is comprised of borderlands with enclaves shaped by distinct tragic pasts, an
increasingly diversified sense of heritage and clashing myths.96 The “mass personal
memory”97 of war is, for Polish citizens, as diverse as the histories of Warszawa,
Oświęcim, Jedwabne, Katowice, Przemyśl, Olsztyn (Allenstein), Vilnius (Wilno),
Lviv (Lwów), or Lutsk (Łuck).98 For each community the most significant tragedy of
the war is located at a different point in time, and has particular victims and oppres-
sors (e.g., Germans, Russians/Soviets, Ukrainians, Volksdeutsche or neighbors). In
the People’s Republic such differences could not be voiced as a unified, mandatory
collective memory of the past was endorsed, the memorial landscape was homoge-
nized and agencies responsible for memory productions was centralized and con-
trolled by party ideologues. In post-communist Poland we have witnessed the
fragmentation of the official memory of World War II on the local level.
The role of a revived local government in the construction of commemorative
practices and the endorsement of a particular historical memory is not a uniquely
Polish experience.99 As other East European countries have undergone similar social,
political, administrative, and economic changes it can be expected that similar shifts
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Ochman / Municipalities and the Search for the Local Past 411
Figure 1
Gliwice, ulica Kozielska. A monument in memory of Gliwice inhabitants
murdered by the Soviet Army in 1945. Photographed in 2007.
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412 East European Politics and Societies
Figure 2
Gliwice, Park Fryderyka Chopina. A monument in memory of Gliwice
inhabitants - victims of wars and totalitarianisms. Photographed in 2007.
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Ochman / Municipalities and the Search for the Local Past 413
Figure 3
Katowice, Plac Wolności, A Monument of Gratitude to the Red Army.
Photographed in 2007.
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414 East European Politics and Societies
toward the decentralization of the politics of memory and a refocusing on local his-
tory has occurred—in varying degrees—across the post-communist landscape.
These municipal politics of memory can either contest or validate a nationalizing
version of the past endorsed by the state. How municipal politics of memory are
conducted and to what end will inevitably differ with each specific case.
1. See for example Richard S. Esbenshade, “Remembering to Forget: Memory, History, National
Identity in Postwar East-Central Europe,” Representations 49 (Winter 1995): 72–96; Karl P. Benziger, “The
Funeral of Imre Nagy: Contested History and the Power of Memory Culture,” History & Memory 12, no.
2 (2000): 142–64; Wolfgang Hoepken, “War, Memory, and Education in a Fragmented Society: The Case
of Yugoslavia,” East European Politics and Societies 13, no.1 (1999): 190–227; Nurit Schleifman,
“Moscow’s Victory Park: A Monumental Change,” History & Memory 13, no. 2 (2001): 5–34.
2. For a discussion on the relationship between the politics of memory and foreign policy in Eastern
Europe see for example Ilya Prizel, National Identity and Foreign Policy: Nationalism and Leadership in
Poland, Russia and Ukraine (Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1998) and Timothy Snyder,
The Reconstruction of Nations: Poland, Ukraine, Lithuania, Belarus, 1569–1999 (New Haven, CT: Yale
University Press, 2003).
3. Eva-Clarita Onken, “The Baltic States and Moscow’s 9 May Commemoration: Analysing Memory
Politics in Europe,” Europe-Asia Studies 59, no. 1 (2007): 23–46.
4. The Estonian Parliament passed legislation in January 2007 permitting the reburial of the remains
of soldiers killed in World War II. This law made possible the relocation of central Tallinn’s Bronze
Soldier monument, which was situated next to the graves of thirteen Red Army soldiers. The relocation
was opposed by the Russian community in Estonia, which considered that the monument commemorated
not only Soviet soldiers but also recalled the war sufferings of Russians. See: Karsten Brüggemann and
Andres Kasekamp, “The Politics of History and the ‘War of Monuments’ in Estonia,” Nationalities
Papers 36, no. 3 (2008): 425–48.
5. The Polish government’s outrage at the honoring of the memory of German expellees was provoked
by the Union of the Expelled headed by Erika Steinbach, which ran a controversial campaign to open a Centre
for the Expelled in Berlin to commemorate the suffering of the Germans in the wake of World War II.
6. The term “democratic conditionality” has been used to describe the principle of conditionality in
relation to East European countries seeking membership in the EU. To join the EU, candidate members
had to demonstrate their commitment to democratization. On “democratic conditionality” see Geoffrey
Pridham, “The European Union, Democratic Conditionality and Transnational Party Linkages: The Case
of Eastern Europe,” in Democracy without Borders, ed. Jean Grugel (London: Routledge, 1999), 59–75.
On the relationship between “democratic conditionality” and the promotion of pluralistic visions of the
past, see for example Rogers Brubaker and Margit Feischmidt, “1848 in 1998: The Politics of
Commemoration in Hungary, Romania, and Slovakia”, Comparative Studies in Society and History 44, 4
(2002), 700–44. and Valur Ingimundarson, “The Politics of Memory and the Reconstruction of Albanian
National Identity in Postwar Kosovo,” History & Memory 19, no. 1 (2007): 95–123.
7. On politics of memory, see for example Timothy G. Ashplant, Graham Dawson, and Michael
Roper, eds., The Politics of Memory Commemorating War (New Brunswick and London: Transaction
Publishers, 2000) and J.-W. Müller, ed., Memory and Power in Post-War Europe (Cambridge, UK:
Cambridge University Press, 2004).
8. John J. Czaplicka and Blair A. Ruble, eds., Composing Urban History and the Constitution of Civic
Identities (Washington, DC: Woodrow Wilson Center Press; Baltimore and London: Johns Hopkins
University Press, 2003). See also Padraic Kenney, “Lviv’s Central European Renaissance, 1987–1990,”
and George G. Grabowicz, “Mythologizing Lviv/Lwów: Echoes of Presence and Absence,” in Lviv: A
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Ochman / Municipalities and the Search for the Local Past 415
City in the Crosscurrents of Culture, ed. John Czaplicka (Cambridge, MA: Harvard Ukrainian Research
Institute, 2005).
9. Blair A. Ruble, “Living Apart Together: The City, Contested Identity, and Democratic Transitions,”
In Czaplicka and Ruble, Composing Urban History, 1–24, 12.
10. John J. Czaplicka, “Conclusion: Urban History after a Return to Local Self-Determination—Local
History and Civic Identity,” in Czaplicka and Ruble, Composing Urban History, 372–411, 386.
11. The first administrative reforms were introduced in 1990 by the government led by Tadeusz
Mazowiecki. For the first time in post-war Polish history local councilors were chosen in democratic and
direct elections, and councils could make decisions on matters affecting their respective jurisdictions. In
1998 further territorial and administrative reforms were introduced by the post-Solidarity government led
by Jerzy Buzek. The reforms created sixteen voivodeships (województwa), to a large extent replicating
Polish historical regions, and 373 districts (powiaty ziemskie i grodzkie). It introduced a three-tier division
of local government: the gmina (basic level), an intermediate level called the powiat, and the major territo-
rial unit called the województwo. Local government’s decision making and supervisory bodies are the
councils (rada), which operate at all three levels. Council members are elected in general, direct elections.
12. On historical memory and commemorative practices in Poland see Michael C. Steinlauf, Bondage
to the Dead: Poland and the Memory of the Holocaust (Syracuse, NY: Syracuse University Press, 1997),
Jonathan Huener, Auschwitz, Poland, and the Politics of Commemoration, 1945–1979 (Athens: Ohio
University Press, 2003) and Patrice M. Dabrowski, Commemorations and the Shaping of Modern Poland
(Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2004).
13. The debate on whether Upper Silesians should be identified as an ethnic group or a national group
intensified after 1989. In the 2002 national census 173,200 persons chose Silesian identity. However, in
Polish legislation Silesians are categorized as an ethnic group. On the debate on whether this categorization
is correct, see the proceedings of the Polish Parliament’s Komisja Mniejszości Narodowych i Etnicznych
(Commission for National and Ethnic Minorities) from 6 December 2006. See the Minutes at http://orka. See also Bernard
Linek, “De-Germanization and Re-Polonisation in Upper Silesia, 1945–1950,” in Redrawing Nations:
Ethnic Cleansing in East-Central Europe, 1944–1948, ed. Philipp Ther and Ana Siljak (Lanham, MD and
Oxford: Rowman & Littlefield, 2001), 121–24.
14. Danuta Sieradzka, “Pod rządami Komisji Alianckiej (1920–1922),” in Historia Gliwic, ed. Jan
Drabina (Gliwice: Muzeum w Gliwicach, 1995), 320–43, 338.
15. On the evening of 31 August 1939, a member of the Nazi Security Service led a group of con-
victed criminals in an attack on the German radio station in Gliwice. After seizing the building, a patriotic
Polish broadcast was transmitted. The criminals were then shot, dressed in Polish uniforms, and left at the
radio station. Shortly afterward, Germany officially accused the Polish Army of violating the German
border and of invading the Third Reich. Early the next morning Poland found itself at war with
16. Polish estimations were based on Catholic parish death registries for January 1945. See Józef
Bonczol, “Rok 1945,” in Drabina, Historia Gliwic, 427–34.
17. See Bogusław Tracz, Rok Ostatni—Rok Pierwszy: Gliwice 1945 (Gliwice: Muzeum w Gliwicach,
18. On the conduct of Red Army soldiers in Gliwice between the spring of 1945 and 1946, see records
produced by the municipal administration in Gliwice, which were declassified after 1989. Archiwum
Państwowe w Katowicach, Oddział Gliwice, syg. ZM i MRN 36 Gliwice.
19. See on verification Piotr Madajczyk, Przyłączenie Śląska opolskiego do Polski: 1945–1948
(Warszawa: ISP PAN, 1996), 169–219.
20. On the expulsion of Germans from Gliwice, and on the settlement of transferred and migrant
populations in Gliwice, see Kazimierz Sarna, “Pierwsze powojenne lata: wysiedleńcy i repatrianci,” in
Drabina, Historia Gliwic, 492–501.
21. F. I. Ian Hamilton, Poland’s Western and Northern Territories (Oxford: Oxford University Press,
1975), 21.
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416 East European Politics and Societies
22. For a review of Polish post-war literature on the Soviet Operation for Upper Silesia, see Henryk
Stańczyk, Od Sandomierza do Opola i Raciborza (Warszawa: Neriton, 1998), 6–9. For a typical “narra-
tive of liberation” targeted at the general public, see Kazimierz Popiołek, Górnego Śląska droga do
wolności (Katowice: Śląski Instytut Naukowy, 1967), 149–53.
23. The centre-right Prime Minister, Jerzy Buzek (1997–2001) was from Gliwice, as was his Minister
for Industry, Janusz Steinhoff. The Chairman of NZSS Solidarność in the 1990s, and the Leader of the
Electoral Action Solidarity (AWS), Marian Krzaklewski, was also from Gliwice.
24. Barbara Baranowska, ed., Kronika Miasta Gliwice (Gliwice: Urząd Miejski w Gliwicach, 2000),
25. Local authorities had, in reality, no legislative or executive autonomy in post-war Poland. The first
democratic elections to the basic organizational unit of local government took place in May 1990.
Furthermore, administrative reforms were blocked until 1998, primarily by the Polish Peasants’ Party, but
also by some members of the nationalist right, who feared that the reform would allow regions—
especially Upper Silesia—to cooperate closely with the German authorities, thereby diminishing
Warsaw’s control over its regions.
26. Uchwała Rady Miejskiej w Gliwicach (a resolution of the city council in Gliwice, hereafter
Resolution RM Gliwice), 18 June 1990, no. III/51/90, Archiwum Urzędu Miasta Gliwice (AUM Gliwice),
syg. 25/3/97.
27. Under the initiative of the city’s mayor, a Commission was established in April 1945 to replace
German names with Polish ones. The outcome was considered highly successful as only names related to
German history or culture were replaced, while others—relating to topographic characteristics, Christian
saints, names of professions, etc.—were translated into Polish (in some cases thereby recovering their origi-
nal Silesian names) in keeping with the historical traditions of the city. See Kronika Miasta Gliwic—okres
1945–1960, Archiwum Państwowe w Katowicach, Oddział Gliwice, syg. 12 204/SK120/7 and Antonina
Grybosiowa, “Nazwy Gliwickich ulic po wyzwoleniu,” Zeszyty Gliwickie 2 (1974): 52–56.
28. Stenogram z Sesji Rady Miejskiej w Gliwicach (Minutes from the session of the city council in
Gliwice, hereafter Minutes, SRM Gliwice), 25 July 1990, no. VII/90, AUM Gliwice, syg. BPR0052.
29. Resolution RM Gliwice, 3 October 1990, no. IX/51/90, AUM Gliwice, syg. BPR0052. No coun-
cilors voted against the decision and only five abstained from voting.
30. Minutes, SRM Gliwice, 17 October 1990, no. X/90, AUM Gliwice, syg. BPR0052.
31. Forty-three out of fifty councilors represented the Solidarity Committee (Gliwicko-Zabrzański
Komitet Solidarność), one represented the Democratic Party (Stronnictwo Demokratyczne), and six can-
didates represented the Committee of Residents’ Self-Government (Komitet Osiedlowy Samorządu
32. Resolution RM Gliwice, no. XIX/417/2000 and Minutes, SRM Gliwice, 29 June 2000, no.
XIX/2000, AUM Gliwice, syg. BRZM-0052/2/2000. During the voting on the resolution there was no
reflection on the broader meaning of this inscription as it was taken as fact that it equated to all Gliwice
victims. The ‘‘all’’ included Gliwice Jews deported to Auschwitz and those who died defending the city
against the Red Army.
33. Krzysztof Nitsch explained the meaning of his composition during an interview with Małgorzata
Zemła published in “Wciąż jest we mnie ten niepokój,” Gliwicki Magazyn Kulturalny, October 2001.
34. “Podziękowania za pomnik,” Biuletyn Informacyjny Urzędu Miejskiego, 11 October 2001.
35. Minutes, SRM Gliwice, 27 January 2005, no. XXVII/2005, syg. BPR-0052/1/2005; access to the
Minutes gained at Biuro Prezydenta i Rady Miejskiej (BPiRM), UM Gliwice in June 2006.
36. Ibid., 3.
37. Ibid., 25.
38. Ibid., 28.
39. Interview by the author with Andrzej Janik, the Director of Miejski Zarząd Usług Komunalnych;
April 2006.
40. For patterns of “dissociation” from the socialist past in Eastern European cities, see Czaplicka,
“Conclusion: Urban History,” 378–82.
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Ochman / Municipalities and the Search for the Local Past 417
41. Grzegorz Gorzelak, “Decentralisation, Regional Development, and Regional Policies,” in Poland
into the New Millennium, ed. George Blazyca and Ryszard Rapacki (Cheltenham, UK; Northampton,
MA: Edward Elgar, 2001), 204–30.
42. Correspondence between the Silesian voivode, the ROPWiM, and Stiftung “Gedenken.” Access
to the correspondence gained at Śląski Urząd Wojewódzki, Wydział Spraw Obywatelskich i
Cudzoziemskich in June 2006: AG-II-5/7060/1/2000; AG.II-5/7060/25/2000; R-IV/BB/89/1352/2000;
R-IV/BB/120/1967/2000 and AG-II-5/5018/40/2000.
43. Polski Czerwony Krzyż Gliwice, Protokół no. 1/2000 (06.06.2000); Protokół no.1/2000
(22.09.2000). Interviews by the author with exhumation witnesses Fryderyk Sikora (Gliwice German
Minority), Barbara Grabowska (Gliwice Municipal Office), and Bogna Wojciechowska (Gliwice
Municipal Office); April and June 2006.
44. On the role of dead bodies in commemorative practices and identity politics, see Katherine
Verdery, The Political Lives of Dead Bodies (New York: Columbia University Press, 1999).
45. In a nationwide census carried out in 2002, 147,094 Polish citizens declared German nationality.
Representatives of the German minority are resident mainly in the Opolskie voivodeship (104,399 per-
sons) and the Silesian voivodeship (30,531). See the Web site of Ministerstwo Spraw Wewnętrznych i
Administracji, http: //
46. The governing power in voivodeship in Poland is divided between the voivodeship councils and
the state-appointed voivode, who represents the Polish government and the central administration on the
regional level.
47. Soon after, the local newspaper published memories of Gliwice inhabitants who lived in the city
in January 1945. Stories of indiscriminate murder and rape, looting, and meaningless destruction by the
Red Army were, for the first time, openly recounted in the local press. The accounts were introduced by
a frank admission: “The exhumation of the anonymous remains of Gliwice inhabitants and a few
Wehrmacht soldiers from Starokozielski cemetery made us aware of the existence of blank pages (białe
plamy) in the most recent history of our city.” See Marek Jurkiewicz and Edward Kandora, “Notable
uciekli, ludność pozostała,” Nowiny Gliwickie, 28 September 2000 and also Marek Jurkiewicz,
“Tajemnice bezimiennych grobów,” Nowiny Gliwickie, 21 September 2000.
48. A letter from Gleiwitzer Kreis to Wydział Przedsięwzięć Gospodarczych i Usług Komunalnych
(PGUK), UM Gliwice (no. 587056). Access to all correspondence related to the memorial was gained at
PGUK, UM Gliwice in April 2006.
49. A letter from PGUK UM Gliwice to the ROPWiM (PU-7090/2/2003).
50. A letter from the ROPWiM to PGUK UM Gliwice (R-IV/276-2/BB/2873/2003).
51. A letter from PGUK UM Gliwice to the ROPWiM (PU-7090/7/5/2003 and PU-7090/7/7/2003).
52. A letter from the ROPWiM to Deputy Mayor, Janusz Moszczyński (R-IV/1615/212/2005).
53. Minutes from sessions of: Komisja Edukacji, Kultury i Sportu, 14 July 2005, syg. BPR-
00636/14/05; Komisja Bezpieczeństwa i Praworządności, 11 July 2005, syg. BPR-00635/16/05; Komisja
Gospodarki Komunalnej i Ochrony Środowiska, 13 July 2005, syg. BPR-00633/18/05; access to the
Minutes gained at BPiRM, UM Gliwice in June 2006.
54. The mayor declared a personal responsibility for obtaining ROPWiM’s approval during the pro-
ceedings. Generally, the councilors were unsure if they even needed the approval of ROPWiM. In any
case, ROPWiM issued a positive recommendation for the new inscription in December 2005. A letter
from Andrzej Przewoźnik (the ROPWiM) to the author, 13 June 2006 (R-IV-2012/337/2006).
55. Minutes, SRM Gliwice, 14 July 2005, no. XXXIV/2005, syg. BPR-0052/8/2005; access to the
Minutes gained at BPiRM, UM Gliwice in June 2006.
56. Ibid., 60.
57. Ibid., 72.
58. Ibid., 65; Resolution RM Gliwice, no. XXXIV/859/2005.
59. The national government’s ambition to control local historical memory came to light primarily
with the bill on decommunization submitted by the ruling right-wing party Law and Justice (PiS) in
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418 East European Politics and Societies
May 2007. The bill proposed that any remaining material symbols of communism (e.g., names of streets,
Red Army monuments) and practices commemorating communism should be removed from public space.
It made voivodes responsible for the implementation of the statute. The bill was unpopular and was
criticized for interfering with the rights of local government. Despite attempts to push the legislation
through, PiS was unable to put the bill to the vote in Parliament before the General Election of September
2007. For the bill, see Poselski projekt ustawy o usunięciu symboli komunizmu z życia publicznego w
Rzeczypospolitej Polskiej at
60. On history of Gliwice, see Andrzej Szefer, ed., Gliwice: Zarys rozwoju miasta i okolicy (Kraków:
Państwowe Wydawnictwo Naukowe, 1976).
61. See “Forum for Dialogue among Nations” at (accessed 11 September
62. See “The Memory Project” at (accessed 11
September 2006).
63. See “House for Polish-German Co-operation” at
(accessed 11 September 2006).
64. In 1997 the House of Polish–German Co-operation organized a conference on “Forced Migration
in Europe during and after World War II.” The outcome of the conference was disseminated in Ther and
Siljak, Redrawing Nations.
65. Ewa Mróz, “Dom Współpracy Polsko-Niemieckiej,” Zeszyty Gliwickie 30 (2002): 285–89.
66. See the mission statement and program of Towarzystwo Miłośników Ziemi Gliwckiej in
“Informacja o pracy i zamierzeniach TMZG,” Zeszyty Gliwickie 1 (1963): 127–29.
67. See articles in Zeszyty Gliwickie: Jan Misztal, “O białych plamach w stosunkach polsko-radziec-
kich na ziemi śląskiej,” ZG 20 (1991):199–213; Halina Dobrucka, “Pomiędzy ludzkim losem a historią,”
ZG 23 (1994): 35–49; Władysław Macowicz, “Wkroczenie Rosjan do Pyskowic w styczniu 1945 r.,” ZG
31 (2003): 197–202; and Elżbieta Borkowska, Janina Wolanin, “Pyskowice w pierwszych latach po II
wojnie światowej w świetle źródeł archiwalnych,” ZG 31 (2003): 203–18.
68. Resolutions on Program Współpracy Miasta Gliwice z Organizacjami Pozarządowymi. See http:// for 2006,
for 2005, and / for 2004.
69. Raport o Stanie Miasta Gliwice za Okres 2002—30.06.2006 and Raport o Stanie Miasta Gliwice
za Okres 1998—30.06.2002,
70. See annual reports published in Rocznik Muzeum w Gliwicach 5 (1992)—19 (2006).
71. See (accessed 14 May
72. For detailed information on exhibitions, see curators’ annual reports in Rocznik Muzeum w
73. As early as 1991 the museum’s curator, Damian Recław, presented lectures on “Liberation of
Gliwice in 1945” and “Deportations of the German Population from Gliwice and the District after 1945.”
Several lectures on similar topics followed. For more information on lectures and conferences, see annual
reports in Rocznik Muzeum w Gliwicach.
74. An interview by the author with Magdalena Budny, the Director of Dom Dziecka; April 2006.
75. Raport o Stanie Miasta Gliwice za Okres 2002—30.06.2006, 36—37.
76. For example, in 1998 the Opel car plant was opened in Gliwice. See Krzysztof Gołata, “Miasto z
napędem,” Wprost, 1 November 1998.
77. For a theoretical perspective on heritage and its role in the process of identity formation, see David
Lowenthal, “Identity, Heritage, and History,” in Commemorations: The Politics of National Identity, ed.
John R. Gillis (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1994), 41–57.
78. From fragmentary data it has been established that Polski Urząd Repatriacyjny settled 34,795
persons in Gliwice in 1945. Fifty-seven percent of the settlers came from eastern provinces, 32 percent
from Western Europe, and 11 percent from central and southern Poland. On a smaller scale the settlement
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Ochman / Municipalities and the Search for the Local Past 419
of populations from outside the region continued in the years 1946–1947 with repatriates from eastern
provinces constituting the biggest group of newcomers. See Kazimierz Sarna, “Stosunki demograficzne,”
in Drabina, Historia Gliwic, 492–99.
79. On the history of Upper Silesia, see Ingo Eser “Niemcy na Górnym Śląsku,” in Niemcy w Polsce
1945–1950 Wybór dokumentów, vol.2, ed. Włodzimierz Borodziej and Hans Lemberg (Warszawa:
Neriton, 2000), 291–331.
80. SzSRM Katowice, no XXXI, 21 December 2000. Access gained to the Minutes at RM Katowice
in February 2007.
81. “Dawni opozycjoniści chcą placu i pomnika Ronalda Regana,” Gazeta Wyborcza, 9 February 2007.
82. Jerzy Gorzelik quoted in Jacek Madeja, “Pomnik na placu Wolności: jedni są za, drudzy przeciw,”
Gazeta Wyborcza, Katowice edition, 3–4 February 2007.
83. Przemysław Jedlecki, “Dekomunizacja za pół miliona złotych,” Gazeta Wyborcza, Katowice
edition, 2 February 2007.
84. Jedlecki, “Dekomunizacja.”
85. Dariusz Korytko, the Chief Editor of Katowice edition of Gazeta Wyborcza, “Nieznośnie uparta
historia,” Gazeta Wyborcza, 2 February 2002.
86. Mariola Trzewiczek, “Odsłonięcie tablicy przed pomnikiem żołnierzy w Łosieniu,” Aktualności
Samorządowe, January 2006, published on the official Web site of UM Dąbrowa Górnicza at http://www. (accessed 23 July 2008).
87. See for example “Program 58-rocznicy wyzwolenia Dąbrowy Górniczej” and “63 rocznica
wyzwolenia,” Aktualności Samorządowe, January 2003 and January 2008.
88. For example, a shooting competition for the Grand Prix of Dąbrowa Górnicza was organized to
celebrate the sixty-third anniversary of the liberation of the city.
89. See Councilor Barbara Nowowiejska, Minutes SRM Sosnowiec, no. XXXVI/05, 24 February
2005, 34.
90. See Councilor Tadeusz Orpych, Minutes SRM Dąbrowa Górnicza, no. LIV/06, 29 March 2006, 28.
91. For a comprehensive summary on research conducted so far on the deportations of Upper
Silesians, see Adam Dziurok and Marcin Niedurny, eds., Deportacje Górnoślązaków do ZSRR w 1945
roku (Katowice: IPN, 2004).
92. An interview by the author with Bogusław Szyguła, the Curator of the Heritage Centre in Knurów
and the Secretary of the Society of the Memory of the Silesian Tragedy 1945; August 2006.
93. See Krystyna Szumilas, Oświadczenie w sprawie 60 rocznicy deportacji mieszkańców Górnego
Śląska do łagrów w ZSRR, Statement No. 874, 97th Session, IV tenure, 17 February 2005. Szumilas’s
statements can be accessed at
94. Interview by the author with Jerzy Gorzelik, the Leader of RAŚ, conducted in August 2007. See also
Krzysztof Kluczniok, “Tragedia Górnoślązaków upamiętniona,” IRG Gazeta Lokalna, February 2006.
95. For information on film screenings and history talks, see for example “Przemilczana Tragedia,”
IRG Gazeta Lokalna, March 2006 and “Sprawozdanie z działalności Koła RAŚ,” IRG Gazeta Lokalna,
December 2005.
96. On remembering the local past in post-1989 and post-1998 Przemyśl (when the city lost its status
as a capital of a voivodeship) see Kataryna Wolczuk, “The Polish–Ukrainian Border: On the Receiving
End of EU Enlargement,” Perspectives on European Politics and Society 3, no. 2 (2002): 245–70.
97. I use here Timothy Snyder’s concept of “mass personal memory” defined as “personal recollec-
tions held by enough individuals to have national significance.” See Timothy Snyder, “Memory of
Sovereignty and Sovereignty over Memory: Poland, Lithuania, and Ukraine, 1939–1999,” in Müller,
Memory and Power, 39. Such mass personal memory is usually passed down through subsequent
generations by family networks.
98. On this point see Włodzimierz Suleja, “II wojna światowa w pamięci Polaków,” Pamięć i
Sprawiedliwość 2 (2002): 51–58 and Andrzej Paczkowski interviewed by Wiktor Świetlik, “Symbole
tyranii ZSRR trzeba usuwać,” Dziennik, 9 May 2007.
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420 East European Politics and Societies
99. Please see Czaplicka and Ruble, Composing Urban History and Michaela Ferencová, “Post-
Socialist Transformation and Monument-Building in a Slovakian Town.” (Paper presented at the
Conference on Experiencing Diversity and Mutuality, Ljubljana, 26–29 August 2008.)
Ewa Ochman is RCUK Academic Fellow at Manchester University. She received her Ph.D. in 2004 and
was awarded the Leverhulme Early Career Fellowship in 2005. She has published articles in History &
Memory, Cold War History and Contemporary European History. Ochman is currently engaged in research
on the commemorations of World War II in post-1989 Poland.
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The European Solidarity Center (ECS) makes time out of space. Public memory, essential to the birth of Solidarność, and as created anew here, is a constellation of recursively moving time points. ECS’s rhetorical arrangement of rooms and passageways allow for a recursive invention of time. Expanding rhetorical scholarship on public memory with Polish memory concepts, this essay shows how the ECS cultivates a sense of the movement that allows for reinscription of Solidarity’s memory. This temporal solidarity can offer opportunities to develop civic action and layers of identity constituting a sense of Europe, Poland, and Solidarity.
The European Solidarity Center (ECS) makes time out of space. Public memory, essential to the birth of Solidarność, and as created anew here, is a constellation of recursively moving time points. ECS's rhetorical arrangement of rooms and passageways allow for a recursive invention of time. Expanding rhetorical scholarship on public memory with Polish memory concepts, this essay shows how the ECS cultivates a sense of the movement that allows for reinscription of Solidarity's memory. This temporal solidarity can offer opportunities to develop civic action and layers of identity constituting a sense of Europe, Poland, and Solidarity.
In the search for the roots of the cosmopolitanization of Polish memory in the first decade of the twenty-first century, this article looks past the chronological boundaries of post-socialist Poland. It identifies regional memory professionals as the key “scale” in transnational memory work. It demonstrates that the present state of Jewish sites of Kraków is the outcome of transnational work conducted from as early as the 1970s, and it is the effect of competition and collaboration among Jews from the American diaspora, Polish Jews, and Polish regional memory professionals. In a field regulated by the Polish socialist state, diaspora Jews tried to impose on their Polish collaborators their vision of Jewish sites. Polish Jews fought to protect those same sites as a key component of their identity work. Prompted by local and transnational Jewish pressure, ethnically Polish professionals discovered the Jewish past for themselves. They began by protecting Jewish sites, later turning them into valuable parts of the heritage of Poland and, eventually, into a constitutive element of Polish heritage. This article claims that it is precisely regional memory professionals who are the key to transnational memory work.
This article analyzes the reorganization of public memory space in postsocialist Poland and how the state and municipal councils use it to legitimate themselves. Drawing on research conducted in Gdańsk, the birthplace of the social movement (Solidarność) that questioned the legitimacy of the socialist state in the 1980s, it examines the proposed redevelopment of the shipyard where the movement was formed. While the redevelopment sets out to create a public memory space, it is rife with contradictions, for it involves demolishing many buildings associated with the movement. What legitimated the municipal council’s authority over its memorial landscapes was not so much its rediscovery of complex local histories as it was its ability to define the local past in “material” terms.
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This edited collection contributes to the current vivid multidisciplinary debate on East European memory politics and the post-communist instrumentalization and re-mythologization of World War II memories. At the same time, the book has a distinctive geographic focus through the concentration on the three Slavic countries of post-Soviet Eastern Europe—Russia, Ukraine, and Belarus. Together they comprise the epicentre of Soviet war suffering, and the heartland of the Soviet war myth. The contributions give insight into the persistence of the Soviet commemorative culture of World War II and the myth of the Great Patriotic War in the post-Soviet space. The volume also demonstrates that due to various geopolitical, cultural, and historical reasons the political uses of World War II in post-Soviet Ukraine, Russia, and Belarus differ significantly, with important ramifications for future developments in the region and beyond. The chapters 'Introduction: War and Memory in Russia, Ukraine and Belarus', ‘From the Trauma of Stalinism to the Triumph of Stalingrad: The Toponymic Dispute over Volgograd’ and 'The “Partisan Republic”: Colonial Myths and Memory Wars in Belarus' are published open access under a CC BY 4.0 license. The chapter 'Memory, Kinship, and Mobilization of the Dead: The Russian State and the “Immortal Regiment” Movement' is published open access under a CC BY-NC-ND 4.0 license.
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This introductory essay begins with a discussion of World War II memory in Russia, Ukraine, and Belarus, in light of the recent and ongoing war in Ukraine. It outlines the main contours of the interplay between “memory wars” and real war, and the important “post-Crimean” qualitative shift in local memory cultures in this connection. Next, the essay sketches out the specifics of the war memory landscapes of the region, and then of each of the three individual countries, before moving on to introduce the key organizing themes and findings of the book.
While the West has repeatedly been sold images of a victorious people's revolution in 1989, the idea that dictatorship has been truly overcome is foreign to many in the former Communist bloc. In this wide-ranging work, James Mark examines how new democratic societies are still divided by the past.
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This article considers young people’s socialization into mnemonic communities in 14 European countries. It argues that such socialization is an intersubjective and selective process that, to a great degree, depends on the particular social environment that conditions the discourses on pasts available to young people. Drawing on memory studies, it recognizes memory as a valid alternative to the institutionalized past (history) but envisages the two as inextricably connected. Given this, it identifies several strategies adopted by young people in order to socialize understandings of the past. While these strategies vary, some reveal receptivity to populist and far right ideologies. Our study demonstrates how internalization of political heritage via mnemonic socialization within families is conditioned by both the national political agenda and socio-economic situation experienced across Europe.
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The article deals with the reconstruction of Kosovar Albanian political identities in postwar Kosovo, focusing on the tension between two strands of Kosovar Albanian nationalism—one based on a nineteenth-century modernist discourse and the other on supranational identification with "Euro-Atlantic" structures. It analyzes the political power contests over the memory of the struggle against Serbian hegemony as symbolized by the nonviolent legacy of the late President Ibrahim Rugova and by the armed resistance of the Kosovo Liberation Army. It argues that the unwillingness of the "international community" to tackle Kosovo's final status from 1999 to 2005 reinforced Kosovar Albanians' determination, based on memories of repression and war, to achieve statehood and thwarted external attempts to change their self-conception through "forgetting."
The thus-far disappointing results of the all-too-flawed transition from authoritarian socialism to democratic polities over the past decade or so are beginning to prompt a re-examination of how to think about the nature of democracy. Assumptions rooted in the previous decade's relatively successful transformation of statist authoritarian regimes in Latin America and Southern Europe have somehow proved themselves inadequate in Central and East Europe as well as Central Eurasia. Extensive policy debates and theological disputes have pointed to insufficient per capita income, the absence of clearly defined ownership rights, impaired judicial systems, inadequate political structures, and technically defective privatization plans and economic policies as having contributed to the replacement of dysfunctional authoritarian systems with dysfunctional political economies that are somehow neither authoritarian nor democratic. It would be foolish to dispute the importance of such factors, and I will not do so in this article. Rather, I will explore another dimension of what it means to become democratic, a set of issues that does not deny the importance of the concerns that have dominated our debates thus far so much as it shifts our attention to a different realm all together. I seek to redirect attention from what is taking place in people's behavior to what is taking place in their minds. More specifically, in this article I will direct attention toward new identities and modes of thought that must arise for a democratic transition to become complete. I will do so through a consideration of urban and community myth and history.
L'annee 1998 a ete marquee par de nombreuses commemorations de la Revolution de 1848 en Europe centrale. Les AA. se penchent sur le sens de ces commemorations pour la memoire sociale et personnelle des peuples de Hongrie, Slovaquie et Roumanie, sur leurs pratiques et sur l'utilisation du passe pour servir les ideologies du present
History & Memory 12.2 (2001) 142-164 On 16 June 1958 Imre Nagy, who had been the prime minister of Hungary during the ill-fated Revolution of 1956, was put to death by the Soviet-backed regime of János Kádár and buried in an unmarked grave. Thirty-three years later, in a spectacular reversal of fortune, the communist regime was delegitimized by the funeral and reburial of Imre Nagy. Well over 300,000 Hungarians attended the ceremony, a very sizable portion of the population for a country with less than ten million citizens. In a forceful assertion of the collective will, the Hungarian people demonstrated their power to resist the tyranny of foreign occupation and made plain their desire for an autonomous state. The funeral dramatically symbolized how Hungarian memory culture reasserted its demand for sovereignty and was powerful enough to sweep aside the thin veneer of legitimacy of the Soviet-backed regime. Embodied in the Hungarian people's imagined past, always at work just below the surface of daily life, this memory culture must be understood in the context of Hungary's long history in Central Europe and beyond. Hungary had been a powerful medieval kingdom until its defeat at the hands of Suleiman the Magnificent, at the battle of Mohács on 29 August 1526. From that time on, except for brief intervals, the Hungarians had been under occupation, or under the hegemony of another state, most notably the Ottoman Empire, the Austrian Hapsburgs, Germany and the Soviet Union. Occupation, warfare and migration changed the nature of the Hungarian population over time. Instead of allowing this history to destroy their identity, however, the Hungarians managed to maintain their cohesion as a people and a nation by clinging to their language, culture and memories. The idea of Hungary was strong enough to create a national culture, which is today an ethnic religious composite of Magyars, Jews, Germans, Serbs and Slavs. In spite of the diverse traditions embodied within each of these groups, enough elements remain constant to create a sense of primordial loyalty to the idea of being Hungarian. According to Clifford Geertz, primordial attachments are "those congruities of blood, speech, custom and so on that seem to have an ineffable and at times overpowering coerciveness in and of themselves." One of the most important rituals that embodies memory in Hungarian society is the concept of kegyelet. Kegyelet is synonymous with Emile Durkheim's concept of piacular rites and is defined as duty toward the dead. Hungarians often use the analogy of Antigone's obligation to her brother in describing how powerfully this value operates in Hungarian society. Kegyeleti ritual reinforces that value in order to interpret the historical context of the present through the remembrance of the past. The hope of continuity is made manifest in the context of funereal rites. Memory culture in Hungary is powerfully reinforced through the various rites of memorial that include not only the burial of the dead but also the remembrance of symbolic figures who help link Hungarian identity to the concept of community and nation. A cultural performance such as a funeral or memorial rite provides a context in which the contemporary understanding of symbols can be examined. The ritual process gives access to aspects of complex societies that modern life can occlude and political analysis cannot penetrate. To simply examine the political discussions surrounding the political transition in Hungary in 1989 would not be enough to understand why the transition occurred the way it did. A study of the funeral of Imre Nagy thus links the essential institutions of social life with the memory of Nagy's role as a charismatic national symbol. This article examines how people can dramatically incorporate memory culture into the political process of a complex society and provide the impetus for change. Symbolically, the funeral and graveside rituals reenact the death and the rebirth of the deceased and, most importantly, reaffirm the strength and solidarity of the community itself. The closing of the coffin serves to remind the family and friends of the reality of the separation between the deceased and community. At a...
History & Memory 13.2 (2001) 5-34 Arriving in Moscow from the west, following in the footsteps of the Poles in the seventeenth century, Napoleon in 1812 and the Germans in the summer of 1941, one is confronted by the capital's "Park pobedy" (Victory Park). On entering Kutuzov Avenue, only the dark cupola of the War Museum, topped by a spear-like needle, can be seen (figure 1). In ancient times, though, the westward highway from the capital passed over that site, and travelers entering the city or leaving it would stop on Poklonnaia gora (Prostration Hill), turning toward the city and bowing down in reverence to Holy Moscow and its saints. Russia projects onto this place the memory of its fateful moments in a succession of Western assaults. It was there, on this hill, that in May 1610 the hetman Stanislas Zolkiewskii received a delegation of the Muscovite boyars before entering the Kremlin to crown Dmitrii the False -- soon to be expelled by a popular uprising. After the indecisive battle of Borodino (26 August 1812), the Grande Armée advanced as far as the outskirts of the Russian capital. There, from Poklonnaia gora, Napoleon saw the city for the first time, and "fell in love with her," "waiting in vain for a delegation to hand him the keys to the city." Not far away the decision had been taken to reject the French offer of surrender, evacuate Moscow instead and continue the struggle that eventually brought victory. Immediately after the war, in 1818, a statue was erected at the center of Red Square depicting Prince Dmitrii Pozharskii and Kuzma Minin, a Nizhni-Novgorod butcher who had led the popular army that had driven the Poles out of Moscow a century earlier. The fact that the monument was installed so soon after the 1812 war created a historical connection between the two events: Russia's heroism in the face of foreign invaders aiming for its heart -- Holy Moscow. On the twenty-seventh anniversary of the battle, Borodino was elevated to the status of a national memorial in a ceremony of great splendor honored by the presence of the tsar. At the gates of Moscow where the Old Mozhaisk Highway terminated, a victory arch was built and the road that continued into the city was named after the famous field marshal Prince Kutuzov. The battle of Borodino entered the Russian memory as a heroic victory, and Poklonnaia gora with its immediate surroundings became associated with it, and therefore with the Polish invasion too. Maurice Halbwachs has drawn our attention to the connection between memory and territory and its dialectical effect. "The group not only transforms the space into which it has been inserted, but also yields and adapts to its physical surroundings" and "becomes enclosed within the framework it has built." The image of the external milieu as acquired by the group and the stable relationship with this environment "become paramount in the idea the group forms of itself, permeating every element of its consciousness, moderating and governing evolution." In other words, the group shapes its environment and is in turn shaped by it. Its memory and identity are conditioned by the group's image of the territory it has created, and this bilateral development engenders a continuing process of remembering and commemorating. It seemed only natural that at the height of World War II, in 1942, after the German attack on Moscow had been warded off, a decision was taken to commemorate this event at that place. It took, however, more than half a century for the resolution to become a reality. When it finally did, in 1995, on the fiftieth anniversary of the 1941-1945 war, it took the form of the Victory Park, which unfolded a much grander story but in a new, much contested language. This is not surprising in view of the disintegration of the Soviet Union and the deep political changes that followed. What seems amazing was the fact that the highly authoritarian Soviet regime, which monopolized the entire educational system, all communication media, museums and other cultural agencies, had been unable to construct the park and produce a comprehensive narrative [Begin Page...
This article develops a three-level framework for analysing the role of memory in contemporary European politics. It tests the utility of this framework based on the three Baltic states and their public and political debates around the World War II anniversary commemorations in Moscow in 2005. Existing concepts for analysing the impact of memory on policy decisions are discussed first on the levels of domestic politics and bilateral relations. The article then provides a framework for researching a lesser acknowledged third level of memory politics within European institutions. The dilemma felt by the three Baltic presidents over whether or not to attend the Moscow ceremonies provides a unique opportunity to look at all three levels and demonstrate their relevance for understanding future memory struggles in an enlarged Europe.
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Ochman / Municipalities and the Search for the Local Past 417
204-30. 42. Correspondence between the Silesian voivode, the ROPWiM, and Stiftung "Gedenken." access to the correspondence gained at Śląski Urząd Wojewódzki
  • Grzegorz Gorzelak
Grzegorz Gorzelak, "Decentralisation, Regional Development, and Regional Policies," in Poland into the New Millennium, ed. George Blazyca and Ryszard Rapacki (Cheltenham, UK; Northampton, Ma: edward elgar, 2001), 204-30. 42. Correspondence between the Silesian voivode, the ROPWiM, and Stiftung "Gedenken." access to the correspondence gained at Śląski Urząd Wojewódzki, Wydział Spraw Obywatelskich i Cudzoziemskich in June 2006: aG-II-5/7060/1/2000; aG.II-5/7060/25/2000; R-IV/BB/89/1352/2000;