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.