My research recently is focused on how Poland remembers and understands its Jewish past.
There are two important notions about this history that are not well understood or portrayed.
First is the fact that Jews lived in Poland for nearly one-thousand years before the Holocaust. This is often forgotten. History work, stories about the Holocaust, tend to not mention that Jews were Poles. Jewish history was Polish history in this sense. But because of the Holocaust and World War II and the destruction they caused, it is difficult for us to remember those one-thousand years.
Second is what happened immediately after World War II. A communist regime came into Poland and within three years took over the government. This regime pushed a new historical narrative about the war, one that featured the Polish citizens as the true victims of Nazi Germany. The Jews, and the Holocaust, ended up hidden in this narrative. When Jan Gross published Neighbors in 2000 and even with more recent publications that expose Polish actions against Jews during the war, the Polish public and government nearly rioted. In order to understand their reactions to these publications, we must understand the role communism played in this historical narrative. Often, I feel that Americans lack an understanding of communism because of the effects of the Cold War. Eastern Europe has been hidden from American focus because of their communist roots. Students rarely learn about Eastern Europe or communism, though information on World War II and the Holocaust is widely available. It is time to change this.
For my project, I would love to make a project that could help elucidate this period post-World War II. As of right now, I’m not sure how to do this. In the past, my research has used material culture to understand this history and I’d love for this project to use material culture as well. But I also want to go beyond material culture to use other sources for knowledge on the communist narrative of the Holocaust.