Museums of Implication. On Exhibiting German-Jewish Heritage in Poland

New Polish historical museums, founded and developed within the recent “museum boom”, usually don’t carry a direct burden of their own colonial past or troublesome collections that need to be processed. However, they produce memory forms that are often embedded in problematic visions of the past that can be unpacked with the aid of post-colonial and post-dependence studies: these celebrating Polish national perspective as a default one, as well as these picturing Poland as an innocent victim of history.

This memory type obviously simplifies the story of Poland being colonised in the 19th century, and is blind to the history of Poland as an "internal European coloniser" as well as her complicated attitude towards minorities. To discuss intricate relations between these dependencies and oppressions, I examine museums that can serve as examples of maximum implication: situated in the regions of complicated German-Polish histories, connected with political oppression, cultural struggles and forced migrations, constantly negotiating their position between the regional memories and the national identity.

Recently opened permanent exhibition of Upper Silesian Jews House of Remembrance in Gliwice adds one more layer to the story. While this museum in a pre-war German, post-war Polish city adheres to a discourse of pluralism, acknowledging the German past of the land and providing a state-of-the-art presentation of Jewish community history, it can also be tempted to frame the story of persecution as “alien”, someone else’s heritage, placing Polish community in a relatively comfortable position of a contemporary host of the land who has yet nothing to do with its darker historical chapters. Balancing between the strategy of “othering” both Germans and Jews and this of establishing multidirectional bonds with their histories, Gliwice museum is a striking example of post-dependence implications and so will serve as a central case of my talk.

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