This essay argues that for better or worse the Holocaust has defined the postwar Polish historical narrative in many ways: in its silences, in its revelations as well in its distortions. Silences about the Holocaust characterized most of the communist era, with significant exceptions at both its beginning and end. Following an initial preoccupation with the criminal behavior of the Soviet and communist regimes in the 1990s, the Holocaust reemerged to the point of overwhelming both public discussion and the attention of scholars. The symbolic moment was the 2000 publication of Jan Tomasz Gross’s Sąsiedzi (Neighbors). This period was also marked by greater scholarly interest in Polish-Jewish relations, which nonetheless lacked the resonance sparked by discussions of the Jedwabne massacre. While that scholarship continued, backlash to the revelations of early years of the new millennium, already present at the time, began to shape the “historical policy” of the first Law and Justice (PiS)-led government (2005–2007) and has become more prominent in its second iteration since 2015. The construction of a counter-narrative to that of Polish complicity is based not so much on “denial” as traditionally defined, but on redirection toward the twin themes of Polish resistance and rescue. The planned museum of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising is just the most recent but hardly the only example, which in turn has sparked new controversies.

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