Date of Graduation


Document Type


Degree Type



Eberly College of Arts and Sciences



Committee Chair

Robert Blobaum

Committee Co-Chair

Joshua Arthurs

Committee Member

Elizabeth Fones


Germany and Poland since 1989 have become lands of contested memory, as reflected by their attempts to commemorate the series of reforms that led to the end of their Communist regimes. This study is an attempt to analyze the various modes of commemoration dedicated to the transition from communism that have taken place in the intervening years between 1989 and the present. Included amongst these efforts are events occurring in public spaces, such as official remembrance ceremonies like Berlin's Festival of Freedom in 2009, physical monuments, and institutions dedicated to preserving memory, specifically the Gauck Authority in Germany and the Institute of National Remembrance in Poland. An evaluation of the various forms that commemorations may take demonstrates the pluralities of memory in Germany and Poland, and how political factions have used this malleable state of memory to construct popular narratives. The most common narrative that has been seized upon by right-wing factions in both countries, and which has been supported by the official state memory institutions, is the false demographic separation of Communist era Germany and Poland into lands comprised solely of victims, perpetrators, and collaborators. Despite the major differences in their transitional processes, Germany and Poland followed similar trajectories in their commemorative paths, beginning with an initial period of little commemorative effort in favor of a national focus on political and economic development. After a period in which both countries saw similar major shifts in their national governments, the opening decade of the current century saw a resurgence of right-wing politics which brought about the aforementioned focus on memory. The recent focus on memory and commemoration attests to the fact that only now is the transitional period coming to a close, as younger generations with little to no personal memory of 1989 have begun to receive higher education and enter the workforce. Likewise, by studying Germany and Poland in particular, two countries with contrasting transitional experiences yet similar tracks in post-transition memory development, it is shown that there is likely a pattern to how the former Communist bloc countries that experienced peaceful reforms have remembered their post-transition experiences, and that this has negatively impacted the political landscape.