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HZK / CARMAH Colloquium:

Polish Folk Art and the Holocaust: Perpetrator-Victim-Bystander Memory Transactions in the Polish-German Context

2 pm

The recent turn in Holocaust studies towards the “dispersed” Holocaust that took place outside of the death camps, in full view of local “bystander” populations, requires new sources of data. While oral history has brought important insights into the field, vernacular visual sources have yet to be considered. Holocaust-themed folk art from Poland constitutes an important and as-yet-unexamined source that offers a unique perspective on postwar memorial processes. Created throughout the postwar decades, carvings and paintings of Holocaust scenes by Polish vernacular artists, who remembered pre-war Jews and witnessed the atrocities against them, have been largely forgotten in the holdings of Polish ethnographic museums or reside in private (mostly German) collections, without ever having been systematically examined as a source of knowledge about post-traumatic memory processes.

The project focuses on such vernacular representations of the Shoah and their impacts and instrumentalizations in East, West, and reunited Germany from 1945 until today, examining their role in Polish and German memory cultures. Magdalena Waligorska and Roma Sendyka will present and discuss their ongoing research.