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Politicization of the Holocaust in the 21st Century in Eastern Europe

Mon, December 17, 10:30am to 12:00pm, Seaport Hotel & World Trade Center, Harborview 1 Ballroom

Session Submission Type: Panel Session


After the collapse of communism, the ban on discussion of the Holocaust was lifted in Eastern European countries. However, discussion of the topic often provokes heated debates about collaboration of part of the local population in the Holocaust. This panel will analyze how some politicians and historians in Poland and Ukrainian have tried to revise and rewrite history. They represent the Holocaust as a solely Nazi crime and attempt to diminish the role of local collaborationists in the Holocaust. The panel also explores political, economic and religious concerns in investigating the Holocaust in Lithuania.

Monica Rice will analyze the recent Polish law criminalizing speech alleging Polish agency in the Holocaust. She will explore the process of cultural bifurcation in Poland: on the one hand, a degree of scholarly satisfaction concerning Polish successes in handling the difficult past, and, on the other, a state-sponsored discourse that denies the legitimacy of these successes, and, instead, calls for the restoration of a triumphant Polish narrative of the alleged extension of aid to Jews by a majority of Poles.

Victoria Khiterer will analyze public debates in Ukraine regarding how the Babi Yar tragedy should be remembered and commemorated. The debates about Babi Yar show that Ukrainian society is not yet ready for an objective discussion of the collaboration of Ukrainian nationalists in the Holocaust. Some Ukrainian historians and public figures are attempting to revised history by diminishing the meaning of Babi Yar as a symbol of the Holocaust and represent it instead as a place of universal suffering.

Richard Freund will discuss the University of Hartford research group project of identification and excavation of sites associated with the Holocaust in Lithuania. His paper analyzes Lithuanian public debates about whether to “excavate or not excavate” the Holocaust sites. He will show how the Jewish community and local governments work together to preserve and commemorate the memory of the Holocaust in Lithuania.

The panel chair is Gabriel Finder. The discussant Avinoam Patt specializes in the Holocaust in Eastern Europe and is familiar with the problems of the politicization of the Holocaust in Poland, Ukraine and Lithuania.

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