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New blog post (in Slovak)! Ignorovaná pamäť Slovenského národného povstania: marginalizácia násilia voči nemeckému civilnému obyvateľstvu a jej dôsledky

After the Warsaw Uprising, the Slovak National Uprising was the largest anti-Nazi insurrection in Central Europe. It is a crucial event in Slovak modern history as well as in the country’s culture of remembrance regarding WWII. As such it has its own museum and central memorial in Banská Bystrica, the center of the anti-Nazi resistance during the uprising. Even though the insurrection was suppressed in less than two months, it helped the Allies in the fight against Nazi Germany. Its significance on a moral and political level was central: part of the Slovak nation rose up against the authoritative regime of the First Slovak Republic, a client state of Nazi Germany, in order to restore democracy. However, it also has its negative aspects, such as the treatment of the German civilian population by the partisans. The most tragic event in this regard took place in the predominantly German village of Sklené / Glaserhau. On 21 September 1944, under the pretext of digging trenches, the partisans took about 300 men between 16 and 60 years of age from the village and shot 187 of them at the edge of a nearby forest. In 1994, 50 years later, a monument of the Sklené massacre was established on the mass grave of its victims. Nevertheless, as the historical narrative presented in the current exhibition in the Museum of the Slovak National Uprising shows, the memory of the violence against the German civilian population is being marginalized. This process enables far-right groups and political parties glorifying the First Slovak Republic to take over the memory of murdered Germans and in doing so also instrumentalize the narrative of the whole uprising.

You can read blog post in Slovak here.

New team member in Spectral Recycling grant

We are happy to announce that under our grant project there was an open competition for the position of PhD student/assistant. Based on the evaluation of the submitted documents and an interview, the recruitment committee decided to choose mgr Magdalena Bubík.

Magdalena consistently takes huge pride in her heritage, underlining her identity as a denizen of the borderlands. Although she hails from Czech Cieszyn, she has always viewed the city of Cieszyn as a place unified by the river rather than divided by a border. Generations of her ancestors were marked by a rich tapestry of multiculturalism and religious diversity, which is why during her historical studies at the Jagiellonian University in Kraków, she focused on the cultural heritage of Cieszyn Silesia, especially from a religious perspective.

Her deep fascination with diverse cultures fuels her love for globetrotting, exploring historical landmarks and the natural world, engaging in enriching conversations with people and savoring delectable cuisine. She sometimes loses herself in the captivating narratives of Agatha Christie’s novels or “The Lord of the Rings”. Additionally, she has an innate and familial passion for music. Particularly, she enjoys singing duets with her younger sister and listening to traditional Georgian music.

New blog post (in Polish)! A zresztą niech pan buszuje. Reporterzy i reporterki na „Ziemiach Odzyskanych”

Karolina delves into the history of Polish non-fiction literature focusing on the so called Polish Recovered Territories. She analyzes its allure to writers and its political relevance after the war. She also shed light on the relative obscurity of these works and analyzed their evolution, highlighting their portrayal of shifting societal attitudes and perspectives.

You can read post here.

The debate “Objects as time machines” at the Sopot Literary Festival

Are we still interested in “poniemieckie” in Poland? The debate “Objects as time machines” at the Sopot Literary Festival

Do objects carry intrinsic meanings or are immanently connected with human memories? It was one of the questions the participants of the debate entitled “Objects as time machines” at the Sopot Literary Festival in Sopot (formerly German Zopott) pondered. Beata Maciejewska, journalist of “Gazeta Wyborcza” from Wrocław (formerly German Breslau) prepared a couple of intriguing and thought provoking questions for other participants: Stefan Chwin, literary scholar and writer from Gdańsk (formerly German Danzig), whose novel “Hanemann” was a milestone in Polish literature on the postwar migrations, Dariusz Brzostek, culturology professor from Toruń who is dealing with cultural capacities of objects, and the PI of our Spectral Recycling project, Karolina. 

Together, they were discussing how we are today dealing with formerly German objects. Do we put on the walls the photos of the imagined grandparents we found in flea markets, as Beata said, or are we witnesses of the dropping number of people who are interested in these objects, as Stefan proclaimed? Unexpectedly, the conversation also delved into the enigmatic tales concealed within tapestries. What can be found when we get rid of the first, obvious layer and look behind it?

New blog post (in Czech)! Josef Bubak Kunst und Bauschlosserei aneb tajemství německých nápisů

After German-speaking inhabitants were expelled in 1946 from many regions of what is currently the Czech Republic, the material reminders of German culture were also to disappear. Karina Hoření, our team member who conducts ethnographic research in northern Bohemia, illustrates in her blog post that reminders of German culture can still be found in Czech towns and villages. One of these reminders are German inscriptions on houses, which drew visitors’ attention to shops or services that no longer exist. Such inscriptions fit into our research framework of hauntology because they are reminders of a traumatic past that was supposed to disappear.

You can read new blog post here.

Sympathy for the Unfamiliar Ghosts: Karolina Ćwiek-Rogalska at the Kolloquium Public History und Erinnerungskultur, University of Regensburg

On July 12, 2023, Karolina Ćwiek-Rogalska gave a lecture entitled “Sympathy for the Unfamiliar Ghosts. Why did Polish Settlers Care for Tombs of Ancestors of Expelled Germans?” at the Zentrum Erinnerungskultur (Centre for Memory Culture) at the University of Regensburg. The lecture was part of the Kolloquium Public History & Erinnerungskultur (Colloquium Public History & Memory Culture), a series of presentations and discussions on current research and projects in the field of public history and memory culture, organized by Prof. Dr. Juliane Tomann.

Karolina presented the main objectives and methods of the Spectral Recycling project, which aims to explore how the objects left behind by the German-speaking population after their forced migration from Poland, Czechia and Slovakia after 1945, were used. This time, she focused on a particular case on how the new settlers recycled the German cemeteries and individual burial places into the places of their own commemoration. She argued that these places can be seen as “ghosts” that haunt the new inhabitants, challenging their sense of belonging and identity, but also opening up possibilities for dialogue and reconciliation.

The lecture sparked an engaging discussion with the audience, who asked questions about various aspects of the topic. Some of the issues they raised were the role of religion, the cultural significance of cemeteries, and the transformation of formerly German spaces after 1945. They also wanted to know more about the broader context and implications of displacement and resettlement in Polish-German postwar history, and how the SpectralRecycling project could offer a new perspective on these issues.

Karolina would like to express her sincere gratitude to the organizers of this event for inviting her to share her insights on the topic of memory culture. It was a wonderful opportunity to engage in a lively and stimulating discussion with the audience. For more information about the Zentrum Erinnerungskultur, please visit their website.

Video interview (in Polish)

Spectral Recycling team helps with a local project in Goleniów (Goleniowskie Fotohistorie, link to webpage is here) contributing to the local post-war history through the prism of photography and family histories. They have already managed to identify some of the people on the more than 300 glass negatives that they have published in their online gallery. The next step are the interviews about the life stories of those identified persons. While doing his fieldwork in Goleniów Michal Korhel conducted video interviews as a part of this project as well. Even though he has a lot of experiences conducting oral history interviews, this was his first 𝐯𝐢𝐝𝐞𝐨 𝐢𝐧𝐭𝐞𝐫𝐯𝐢𝐞𝐰. Link to the interview on Youtube you can find here.

Photo: Newly-weds with family/Nowożeńcy z rodziną, source: Goleniowskie Fotohistorie

Ghosts as Material Traces: Presentation at the Centre for Arts, Memory and Communities at Coventry University

On Thursday, June 22, 2023, Karolina Ćwiek-Rogalska took part in the Cultural Memory seminar series at the Centre for Arts, Memory and Communities at Coventry University. She presented a lecture titled “Ghosts as Material Traces: A Spectral Perspective on Displacement and Resettlement in Slavic Central Europe” online via Teams. The seminar was organized by Nóra Veszprémi, and Ben Dew, a historian at Coventry University specialising in Polish-British relations, was a discussant.

In her lecture, Karolina proposed an alternative perspective on ghosts, regarding them as material traces that reveal hidden histories and enable comprehension of alterity, rather than the conventional view of the souls of the deceased haunting the living. She advocated for such a perspective in the study of displacement, focusing on territories that were formerly inhabited by one culture but were resettled by another one after a forced migration, especially the settlers’ encounters with the objects that the previous inhabitants had left behind. She argued that these objects can be seen as ghosts that haunt the new inhabitants, challenging their sense of belonging and identity, but also opening up possibilities for dialogue and reconciliation.

The lecture was followed by a lively discussion with the audience, who raised questions about the theoretical and methodological implications of Karolina’s approach, as well as its applicability to other cases of displacement and resettlement in different regions and historical periods. The seminar was part of a series that aims to explore how cultural memory is shaped by various factors, such as art, media, politics, and emotions.

New blog post (in Polish)! O cmentarzach „poniemieckich” i (nie)pamięci historycznej „Ziem Odzyskanych”

After the so-called “Recovered Territories”, i.e. lands that were formerly German, became a part of the newly established Polish state in the aftermath of World War II the traces of the previous German culture had to be removed or recycled in a way fitting the new Polish historical narrative. Within this context, Michal Korhel provides an overview of how Polish authorities as well as the new population of the “Recovered Territories“ treated the formerly German cemeteries in Western Pomerania in Goleniów / Gollnow and surroundings. Were they destroyed or preserved? What do those places look like nowadays? He is especially interested in what happened to the German gravestones of the cemeteries located in the region.

You can find mentioned blog post here.

A Study of Spectral Transformation Presented at the University of Oxford’s Narratives of Migration Conference

Karolina Ćwiek-Rogalska presented a paper at the “Narratives of Migration” conference, which took place at the University of Oxford on June 16, 2023. The conference brought together scholars from different disciplines, such as the humanities and the social sciences, and creative professionals who work on migration issues. The conference was organized by Isavella Vouza from the Faculty of English Language and Literature and Professor Emma Bond from the Faculty of Medieval and Modern Languages, with the facilitation of Migration Oxford. The conference showcased diverse and innovative works from academic and creative fields, spanning different cultures and media. The organizers wanted to demonstrate how cultural representation can enrich, question, or create new possibilities for integrating a humanities perspective within migration studies through the conference.

Karolina Ćwiek-Rogalska’s paper was titled “How Polish Migrants Reshaped Memories of Things Left Behind: A Study of Spectral Transformation”. She used qualitative content analysis of diaries preserved in Szczecin, Koszalin, and Poznań archives. She investigated how Polish migrants to the Recovered Territories modified their memories of things left behind by Germans. They did so in accordance with the state narrative of recovery and its attempts to eradicate signs of Germanness in the newly acquired lands. She introduced the concept of spectral transformation in this study, which her analysis was based on.

The organizers are planning to publish the conference proceedings in the near future. Stay tuned to read more about this concept and other fascinating topics!