Auschwitz in the Perception of Contemporary Poles
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Jagiellonian University
Publication date: 2015-06-30
Polish Sociological Review 2015;190(2):191-206
Based upon survey research and drawing upon literature by historians and social scientists, this article discusses what Auschwitz means to Poles and how perceptions of it have changed since the 1990s. The article shows that Auschwitz means to nearly all Poles genocide, the Polish martyrdom, and the Jewish Holocaust at the same time. It also identifies and analyzes the processes thereby the number of Poles perceiving Auschwitz as primarily Jewish has increased from minimal to a relative majority and the number of those perceiving Auschwitz as primarily Polish, once being a relative majority, has decreased, albeit still remains fairly high. The article argues that the perception of Auschwitz in Poland has considerably become “Judaized,” “de-Polonized,” “de-nationalized,” and “de-Catholized.” It also draws conclusions from the case study of the changing perceptions of Auschwitz for social memory studies.
The author would like to thank Urszula Krassowska of TNS OBOP for help in the preparation of surveys, the members of her research team—Karolina Keler, Mateusz Magierowski and Katarzyna Stec for cooperation in the analysis of survey results, Jacek Nowak and Antoni Sułek for helpful suggestions and critical comments on earlier drafts of this article, and Ben Koschalka for proofreading.
This article and the 2010 survey were financed by the Polish Ministry of Science and Higher Education from the resources for science in 2009–2014 as a research project “Auschwitz in the social consciousness of Poles, 2010 A.D.,” grant No. NN116445837, and Institute of Sociology, Jagiellonian University from its funds for the statutory activity, project no. K/ZDS/000348. The 2000 surveys were parts of the research project “KL Auschwitz in the social consciousness of Poles today,” financed by the Research Support Scheme of the Open Society Support Foundation, grant No. 198/1999.
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