This study examines the relationship between politics and the memory of the Second World War in Polish literature, cinema, and museums from 1945-Present. I argue that the memory of the Second World War has changed radically over the last seventy- five years as the Polish government, in both the communist and post-communist periods, pursued a politics of memory. I build this argument first by identifying three political turning points that caused the communist government to confront and reevaluate the narrative they promoted about the war: 1945, 1956, and 1967. I include a fourth turning point, 1989, to show how post-communist Polish leaders adapted, but did not wholly challenge, the communist government’s narrative. I discuss Polish literature, cinema, and museums in four narrative chapters that align with the four political turning points. The chapter that spans 1945-1956 shows how Polish authors contended with the communist government’s narrative immediately after the war. The two chapters that span 1956-1967 and 1967-1989 focus on Polish films that responded to the government’s changing narrative by placing two groups in contestation with one another: Holocaust survivors and Home Army veterans. The final chapter, which spans 1989-Present, focuses on Polish museums and how the post-communist government adapted the communist government’s narrative about the war to pursue their own politics of memory. This study demonstrates how politics have the power to shape memory, determining the stories that are told and the ones that are suppressed. Poland’s memory struggle is not over and remains, even today, a site of political contestation.


Shaya, Greg




European History | Holocaust and Genocide Studies | Political History


Poland, Second World War, Politics, Memory

Publication Date


Degree Granted

Bachelor of Arts

Document Type

Senior Independent Study Thesis Exemplar



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