Das polnische Breslau als europäische Metropole - Erinnerung und Geschichtspolitik aus dem Blickwinkel der Oral History  
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English Abstracts

History Politics and Local Identity in Wrocław since 1989

In this introductory chapter, the authors discuss the role of history and politics on the development of local identity in Wrocław since 1989. The authors conducted six interviews with city leaders and influential citizens. The article at first shows how the elites of Wrocław used the history of the city to construct a new identity for it, that of a European metropole. The revival of certain events and symbols and the reinvention of the German past of Wrocław are used in the struggle against the political and cultural policies of centralization coming from Warsaw. The article then analyzes promotional materials drafted by the municipal government of Wrocław intended to portray the city as European and “open.” The authors stress the importance of the city’s economic growth and ultimately question whether the tolerant, friendly attitude, and acceptance of the city’s multicultural history, stressed by its elite, is indeed reflected in the views and attitudes of Wrocław’s rank-and-file inhabitants.

„De-Germanization“ and Polonization. Turning Breslau into a Polish City

In this chapter, the authors discuss how Wrocław was changed from a predominantly German into a Polish city after World War II. In the official language of the postwar government, this process was called “Degermanization” (odniemczanie) and “Repolonization.” The latter concept functioned in support of the myth that Poland had recovered its ancient lands in the West after 1945. Next to “repolonization,” the government also used the term “polonization” in order to draw responses from the city’s Polish inhabitants, allowing the state to survey the extent to which they accepted the official view of history in the Peoples Republic of Poland. In their interviews with Polish settlers, among them the first post-war “Pioneers” of Wrocław, as well as two original (German) Breslauers who remained there after the war, the authors find that there are very few memories of former German residents and their history among the Polish population. This is mainly due to limited contact between the two groups. Additionally, post-war rhetoric was still dominant in the minds of many of those interviewed. The authors also conclude that relations between Polish settlers and the remaining Germans, especially among women, were better than is often portrayed in the literature. Finally, they present specific examples of polonization, arguing that overall this process was under-funded, slow, and relatively ineffective.

Between the Old and the New „Heimat“: The Former Inhabitants of Lwów in Wrocław

This chapter reassesses the importance of the expellees from Lwów on the development of post-war Wrocław. Through interviews with mostly elderly people who were still born in Lwów (today the Ukrainian L´viv, in German Lemberg) the authors present the ways in which the interviewed simultaneously cling to and celebrate their heritage. The chapter ends with a discussion of the difficulties experienced by the Lwowians under communism, the development of expellee clubs and organizations, and the enduring connections to their original home city.

A Great Tradition Without Continuity. The Jewish Community in Wrocław since 1945

This chapter focuses on Judaism and the Jewish community in Wrocław since 1945. It begins with an introductory history of the Jews of Breslau before, and then Wrocław shortly after, the war, showing that there was no continuity between the German-Jewish, and the Polish-Jewish, communities. The article then deals with the history of the Jewish community in the Peoples´ Republic of Poland. Although it was quite sizeable shortly after the war, many Jews who had been resettled from the lost eastern territories of Poland in 1945/46 chose rather to emigrate from Poland entirely. The authors then deal with the so called anti-Zionist campaign in 1968 in Poland and the events in Wrocław. Another topic of the article is a short history of the city’s “Synagogue At the White Stork”, which illustrates in great detail the fate of the Wrocław Jews in postwar Poland. The final section deals with the condition of today’s Jewish community.

Nation und Religion.The Multi-Denominational Wrocław

As the authors show Wrocław was and still is a city of many religions and religious communities. The article focuses on two case studies: the “Neighborhood of Mutual Respect”, an ecumenical dialogue group, and the Ukrainian Greek Catholic church community. They find that the unique Neighborhood program founded in response to an act of violence has worked best to connect the Protestant and Jewish communities in Wrocław, but overall has failed to attract less-engaged regular church-goers to its activities. Additionally, they uncover the exclusion of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church from the ecumenical group, and explore the historical and cultural reasons for the exclusion of this group, largely at the behest of the Roman Catholic church.

Breslauers in Wrocław.The German Minority After the Expulsion

In this chapter the authors document the experiences of Germans who remained in Wrocław and Silesia after World War II. The article is mainly based on interviews with three women, all current members of the German Social and Cultural Society of Wrocław. The interviewees argued that they were “by necessity” integrated into Polish society. The authors focus on three pivotal dates – 1945, 1956, and 1989 – where important changes for the remaining Germans can be noted. Another key finding on the part of the authors is that there is a significant difference in attitudes towards Poles and Poland among Germans who remained in Poland until today and those who were expelled shortly after the war. In spite of quite many difficult experiences in the postwar period, the interviewees have a less antagonistic view of Poles and Poland than Silesians or Breslauers who today are members of expellee organizations in Germany. Finally, the authors analyze the attitudes towards Germans among present-day students in Wrocław.

Breslau and Modern Architecture: The Centenary Hall

In this chapter the authors present three different approaches to Wrocław’s Centenary Hall, now known as Jahrhunderthalle and Hala Ludowa (People’s Hall). The first section presents the history of the building’s development as reflected in the interior and exterior appearance of the Hall. The second section examines the Hall as a symbol of several types: a political symbol, an architectural symbol, a tourist symbol, and a city symbol. The third section discusses the daily life of the Centenary Hall based on its archive, field work, and interviews with current Hall employees.

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