Category: Memory

The Politics of Memory

Posted October 18, 2011 - 10:54am

by Walter Bilderback

Tadeusz Słobodzianek was inspired to write Our Class after reading Jan T. Gross’ book Neighbors, which revealed to Poland and the world that, on July 10, 1941, most of the Jewish population of the small town of Jedwabne was massacred – not by the German Army that had recently invaded the area, but by some of their Polish Catholic neighbors, three days after a similar massacre occurred in nearby Radzilow. Neighbors provoked a debate in Poland that continues to this day. The Polish-Jewish journalist Konstanty Gebert writes that before Gross’ book, “There was…not even an intimation of the fact that a group of ordinary Poles might have, as soon as the Germans gave them a push and a nod, tortured, raped and murdered their Jewish neighbors – women, children, elderly; looted their houses, and then continued to live on, as if nothing had happened.” He suggests that the controversy over Jedwabne is “probably the most important debate of the post-Communist period” in the country. A memorial erected for the sixtieth anniversary of the massacre was vandalized just a week before rehearsals started for the Wilma’s production.

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