Date of Graduation


Document Type


Degree Type



Eberly College of Arts and Sciences



Committee Chair

Robert Blobaum

Committee Co-Chair

Joshua Arthurs

Committee Member

Joseph M Hodge


The process of Vergangenheitsbewaltigung, or mastering the past, is often slow and painful. All too often nations have a tendency to celebrate their past triumphs while forgetting or marginalizing the most traumatic episodes of their histories. The case of Poland is particularly interesting---especially in connection to the disappearance of the country's minority Jewish heritage. Poland, of course, was the primary site of the Holocaust, and the nearly complete destruction of the country's once vast Jewish population, which had been the largest in the world, has left a troublesome legacy behind. How had such horrific crimes taken place on Polish soil? What role had Poles played in the Nazi slaughter of Jews? Had Poles been complicit in this atrocity? Or---even worse---were there cases in which Poles had actually participated in the barbaric, genocidal violence against Jews? During the communist era, most Poles did not seriously wrestle with the moral problems that arose from the virtual disappearance of Polish Jewry; by contrast, the last few decades have seen a dramatic change as Poland has transitioned from a communist to a post-communist society. Indeed, since the 1980s Poland has embarked upon a process of major soul-searching, and a series of vexing and polemical debates have captured the spotlight in Poland in recent years. This thesis seeks to analyze these debates and to assess how the Polish memory of the Holocaust has evolved during this time. Finally, this thesis attempts to understand the current status of Polish-Jewish relations, especially in relation to the controversies over the Polish-Jewish past.