Scrubbing Poland’s Complicated Past

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tags: Communism, politics, Władysław Gomułka

This month, Poland marks fifty years since the “March events” of 1968, when mass protests erupted in response to the stagnant Communist regime of Władysław Gomułka and its campaign of censorship and chicanery directed at Jews and intellectuals. The anniversary comes at a time when the current government is facing criticism at home and across the world for undermining free speech and the independent judiciary, and for refusing to take in any refugees. Among its crude moves to establish ideological control at home and flout opinion in the West is a recently passed amended law criminalizing claims that the Poles were complicit in or jointly responsible for the Holocaust.

The law certainly invites comparisons between now and 1968. This time around, though, Poland’s government is not backed by Moscow; its current isolation is from both West and East, and the country seems to be caught, not for the first time, in a vise—ideal conditions for a new cycle of xenophobic hysteria and bigotry.

There is nothing so reminiscent of Communist-era censorship culture as the coercive, patronizing ideological commentaries with which cultural officials of the Law and Justice party, also known by its Polish initials as PiS, have in the last few years been responding to books, plays, and films related to the Holocaust. When Paweł Pawlikowski’s film Ida, about a convent novice who discovers she is Jewish, was shown on Polish television in 2016, it was framed by an introduction and “discussion” by state-approved experts, who kindly explained to the unsuspecting viewer how the film “insults the Polish nation.” Last month, the cover of the newsletter of the Institute for National Remembrance (IPN) which is at the center of the latest efforts to defend Poland’s “good name,” showed a photo of concentration camp inmates on the top half of the page and, on the bottom half, a photo of smiling Nazi officers, with the bold title “Germans Dealt This Fate to People.”

Read entire article at NY Review of Books

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