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Restoring Memory: German Legacies and Polish Politics of Commemoration in Łódź after 1989
October 15, 2012 @ 3:30 pm - 5:00 pm
Winson W. Chu
Honorary Fellow (2012-2013)
Modern Central European History, UW-Milwaukee
The search for German legacies in Poland today serves local, national, and international agendas. As a result, the German past is often deployed in ways that seem contradictory. This development is apparent in the city of Łódź, which embodies many of the ruptures in modern European history. An important industrial center in the nineteenth century, Łódź quickly became the second-largest city in the Polish lands. It once had a German-speaking majority and also increasingly became a center of Jewish life in Central Europe. It was occupied by Germany in both the First World War and the Second World War when it was renamed “Litzmannstadt” and the local ghetto became a major site in the Holocaust. Since 1989, however, Poles and Germans have looked back to this multiethnic past as a guide to the European future. This paper argues that the efforts in the city to “restore” a multicultural history that includes Poles, Germans, and Jews have also conflicted with commemorations of the Holocaust and the Second World War, thereby revealing the contested nature of Polish-German memory politics.
Winson Chu (Ph.D., History, University of California, Berkeley, 2006) holds an IRH Honorary Fellowship. He is assistant professor of Modern Central European History at the University of Wisconsin–Milwaukee. His doctoral dissertation won the UC Berkeley History Department’s James H. Kettner Graduate Prize as well as the Fritz Stern Dissertation Prize, which the Friends of the German Historical Institute (Washington, DC) awards to the best North American dissertations in German history. He has received fellowships from the German Academic Exchange Service, the United States Department of Education, the German Historical Institute in Warsaw, the American Council on Germany, and the American Council of Learned Societies. Dr. Chu recently held a fellowship at the Center for Advanced Holocaust Studies at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. His book, The German Minority in Interwar Poland, was published by Cambridge University Press in 2012.