Conceptualizations of the Holocaust in Soviet and Post-Soviet Ukraine and Belarus: Public Debates and Historiography
Topics: Holocaust, Holocaust Education, Holocaust Commemoration, Holocaust Memorials, Main Topic: Holocaust and Memorial, Post-1989, Communism
Abstract: This article investigates how the Holocaust was recollected, presented, and interpreted in Ukraine and Belarus during the Soviet era. It further examines the changes that have taken place in the representation of the Holocaust in Ukraine and Belarus in the post-communist period. First, the article aims to explain the ideological reasons why the Jewish origin of many Nazi victims was largely played down or ignored in the Soviet historiography. Second, it investigates the new political dynamics in independent post-communist Ukraine and Belarus that have influenced public discourse and historiographical reflections on various issues of the Second World War, including the persecution of the Jews. As well as historiography, the article investigates the developments that have taken place in contemporary Ukraine and Belarus regarding commemorative practices, monuments, museum exhibitions, and education initiatives to honor the victims of the Holocaust and to promote knowledge about this event
Conceptualizations of the Holocaust in Germany, Poland, Lithuania, Belarus, and Ukraine: Historical Research, Public Debates, and Methodological Disputes
Topics: Holocaust, Holocaust Commemoration, Holocaust Education, Main Topic: Holocaust and Memorial, Post-1989
Abstract: The Shoah belongs to one of the most thoroughly investigated aspects of modern European history. Scholars have used the Holocaust methodology to study other genocides, or forms of ethnic or political violence. Nevertheless, our understanding of the extermination of the European Jewry is limited, fragmented, and changes constantly due to new investigation methods, research interests, and public debates. The first studies on the Holocaust were conducted already during the Shoah but because of different reasons historians in some countries such as Germany and Ukraine did not pay much attention to them and concentrated rather on the documents left by the perpetrators and their fate during the war. While in Poland the research on the Holocaust never stopped, even if it was subjected to various political and ideological limitations, and the Shoah has been publicly debated since the middle of the 1980s, this was not the case in Lithuania, Belarus, and Ukraine. Nevertheless, in the last two decades, the importance of the Holocaust was discovered in these countries as well and it is currently conceptualized in the framework of regional, national, and European history.
Topics: Holocaust, Holocaust Commemoration, Holocaust Education, Main Topic: Holocaust and Memorial, Memory, NGOs, European Union
Abstract: Drawing upon developments in cultural and social memory studies and Europeanization theory, this article examines the Europeanization of Holocaust memory understood as the process of construction, institutionalization, and diffusion of beliefs regarding the Holocaust and norms and rules regarding Holocaust remembrance and education at a transnational, European level since the 1990s and their incorporation in the countries of post-communist Eastern Europe, which is also the area where the Holocaust largely took place. The article identifies the transnational agents of the Europeanization of Holocaust memory—the European Union’s parliament, the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance, the Council of Europe, the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, and its Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights, as well as the United Nations. It analyzes chronologically the key Holocaust-related activities and documents of these agents, highlighting East European countries’ varied and changing position towards them. It examines synchronically the outcome of the Europeanization of Holocaust memory by these transnational agents—a European memory of the Holocaust—identifying its key components, discussing the main aspects, and illustrating the impact of this process and outcome upon the memory of the Holocaust in the East European countries. The article argues that the Europeanization of Holocaust memory has significantly contributed to the development of Holocaust memory in Eastern Europe, although other agents and processes were also involved.
Between Europeanisation and Local Legacies: Holocaust Memory and Contemporary Anti-Semitism in Romania
Topics: Holocaust, Holocaust Commemoration, Holocaust Denial, Law, Main Topic: Holocaust and Memorial, Memory
Abstract: This article addresses the persistence of anti-Semitism in Romania, placed in the context of some recent debates concerning the memory of the Holocaust in the country, as well as in the area of Central and Eastern Europe more broadly. It argues that, despite significant improvements in terms of legislation, the memory of the Holocaust remains a highly contested issue in contemporary Romania, torn between the attempts to join in the European memory of the Holocaust and local legacies that on the one hand focus primarily on the suffering of Romanians under the communist regime, and on the other perform a symbolic “denationalisation” of the Jewish minority in the country, whose own suffering is thus excised from national memory. It does so by focusing in particular on the debates surrounding the adoption of Law 217/2015, meant to clarify earlier legislation on Holocaust denial, and comparing them with those prompted by the Ukrainian “memory laws” passed in the same year. Taking into account both the national and international reactions to these very different pieces of legislation, the article shows the still-persisting discrepancy between a (mostly Western) “European” memory of the legacy of the twentieth century and local memory topoi characteristic of the countries that were part of the former socialist bloc.
Topics: Main Topic: Culture and Heritage, Jewish Heritage, Memory, Jewish - Non - Jewish Relations, Jewish Culture
Abstract: In Israeli director Yael Bartana’s 2007 film Mary Koszmary—meaning “Bad Dreams” or “Nightmares”—a young Polish politician delivers a resounding speech to an empty, crumbling, communist-era Stadion Dziesięciolecia in Warsaw. The speech, he says, is an appeal: “This is a call. . . . It is an appeal for life. We want three million Jews to return to Poland, to live with us again. We need you! Please come back!” This article considers the powerful and perhaps disturbing premise of these lines and explores their possible meanings in a contemporary Polish context. What can it mean for Poles and Polish culture to need Jews—and in particular, to need those Jews who can never return? The complex phenomenon of Jewish memory in Poland and Eastern Europe cannot be contained within specific, present-day borders—whether of geography or of academic discipline: similar dynamics to those Bartana has identified in Poland exist throughout the region. Thus, against the background of Bartana’s film, the article considers the growing phenomenon and importance of local Jewish festivals in Poland and present-day Ukraine, focusing in detail on two specific festivals: the annual festival “Encounters with Jewish Culture,” held in Chmielnik, Poland, and the biannual Bruno Schulz Festival in Drohobych, Ukraine. The analysis explores ways that the memory of Polish Jews—and more specifically the figure of the absent Polish Jew—can function as a central element in the construction of new, communal Polish and Ukrainian narratives since the fall of Communism.
Abstract: Focusing on three contemporary grassroots initiatives of preserving Jewish heritage and commemorating Jews in Belarus, namely, the Jewish Museum in Minsk, Ada Raǐchonak’s private museum of regional heritage in Hermanovichi, and the initiative of erecting the monument of Eliezer Ben-Yehuda in Hlybokae, the present article discusses how local efforts to commemorate Jews and preserve Jewish heritage tap into the culture of political dissent, Belarus’s international relations, and the larger project of redefining the Belarusian national identity. Looking at the way these memorial interventions frame Jewish legacy within a Belarusian national narrative, the article concentrates in particular on the institution of the public historian and the small, informal social networks used to operate under a repressive regime. Incorporating the multicultural legacy of the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth into the canon of Belarusian national heritage and recognizing the contribution of ethnic minorities to the cultural landscape of Belarus, new memory projects devoted to Jewish history in Belarus mark a caesura in the country’s engagement with its ethnic Others and are also highly political. While the effort of filling in the gaps in national historiography and celebrating the cultural diversity of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania overlaps in significant ways with the agenda of the anti-Lukashenka opposition, Jewish heritage in Belarus also resonates with the state authorities, who seek to instrumentalize it for their own vision of national unity.