Hearing Poland’s Ghosts

Hoffman_1-032218Eva Hoffman at the NYRB:

The past, in Poland, is not a foreign country; it is morality drama and passion play, combining high ideology and down-and-dirty politics. One recent manifestation of history’s significance has been the creation of several ambitious and architecturally inventive museums dedicated to central events and themes in the Polish past. Since the beginning of this century, four “houses of history” have opened in Warsaw and Gdańsk, attracting many visitors and contributing to the development of neglected neighborhoods. At the same time, the museums have inspired sharp controversies over such topics as freedom of cultural expression, the relationship of Polish to European identity, and interpretations of Polish-Jewish history.

At a time when Poland, with its unexpected hard-right turn and defiance of democratic principles, is once again a matter of European concern, these impressive institutions offer rich clues to the conflicts unsettling the Polish polity and the passions that historical disputes continue to arouse. Apart from undermining the independence of the judiciary and public media, the ruling Law and Justice party has now introduced a law making it a criminal offense to accuse the “Polish nation” of complicity in the Holocaust.

more here.