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Can a scholar change society’s collective memory? Jan Gross’ Writings and Holocaust Memory in Poland

The most heated historical debates in post-Communist Poland have been provoked by two books, Neighbors from 2000 and Fear from 2008. The author of these books, Jan T. Gross, challenged the Poles’ view of themselves as solely innocent victims of German Nazism, showing that anti-Semitism could and did lead Poles to kill Jews, both during and after the war. In her presentation, Barbara Törnquist-Plewa scrutinizes the Polish reactions to these books, analyses the rhetoric in Gross’ writings and discusses his role as “mnemonic actor” in Poland. She points out that the case of Gross raises the general question of the role of historical scholarship in society.

Barbara Törnquist-Plewa is professor of Central and Eastern European Studies and director of the Centre for European Studies at Lund University, Sweden. She leads the international research network “In Search for Transcultural Memory in Europe” financed by the EU. Her research focus is nationalism, collective memory, myth and symbols in Central and Eastern Europe as well cultural integration in Europe. She publishes extensively on these subjects.  She recently contributed to and edited two collections of essays entitled Cultural Transformations after Communism. Central and Eastern Europe in Focus (2011) and Painful Pasts and Useful Memories. Remembering and Forgetting in Europe (2012).

Co-sponsored by the Department of History, the Taube Center for Jewish Studies and the Center for Russian, East European and Eurasian Studies