Accepted paper:

Remembering "New Sion": the (un)realistic dream of Jewish autonomy in post-war Communist Poland


Kamila Dąbrowska (Museum of the History of Polish Jews)

Paper short abstract:

In my paper I will present the different narratives referring to the idea of rebuilding a Jewish community in post-war Communist Poland. Past and present official narratives of the Polish state will be confronted with the counter-memories of Jewish inhabitants of Poland.

Paper long abstract:

Popular knowledge and elaborated studies of Polish Jewry refer to Poland as a land of ashes, where a flourishing Jewish life ceased to exist with the Holocaust. In my research I concentrate on counter memories of Jewish survivors and their children who struggled to rebuild "New Sion": an autonomous Jewish life in post-war Poland. Within the new Communist order, attempts to create independent forms of Jewish minority life appeared at first to be realistic. For the first five years after the war, the Communist regime gave Polish Jews sovereignty. Jewish life seemed to be restored. Due to the changes of socio-political circumstances in gradually homogenizing Polish state, it was condemned to failure. However, until the end of 1960s, it still existed. Its end was marked by anti-Semitic campaigns supported by the state. Most of Jews were expelled from Poland. The dream of restoring Jewish life in Poland vanished for many years. The collapse of Communism enabled reappearance of counter-memories. It provided an impulse to restore, preserve, and memorialize forgotten pasts in the aftermath of political violence. Polish Jews began to return for nostalgic journeys. In the perfomative acts of remembering, during the emigrants' reunions, the memory of a Jewish presence in post-war Poland is brought back. In my paper I will present the mnemonic practices undertaken during the collective gatherings of Jewish emigrants. I will also analyze how a Jewish presence has reemerged in fractured spaces overburdened by the traumas, in tension and synergy with other narratives of the past.

panel P023
Contested histories on the move: rethinking memory through mobility and agency