Alicja Podbielska

Junior Fellow (10/2017–05/2018)


The Memory of Holocaust Rescue in Poland


PODBIELSKAWhen, how, and why did Polish rescuers become official national heroes? They constituted a minority, threatened with denunciation by their fellow countrymen. After the war, fearful of their neighbours’ reactions, they kept their actions secret. Concomitantly, a narrative about widespread and community-supported assistance emerged in official discourse. In Polish collective memory today, the rescuers represent the entire nation’s heroism and provide an alibi against any allegations of antisemitism. Examining aid to Jews in present-day Polish public discourse and culture, I explore how the focus on rescue became the preferred, indeed the only acceptable, mode of Holocaust memory. Prolific commemoration of rescuers, I argue, does not complement but overshadows remembrance of the victims.


Alicja Podbielska is a Ph.D. candidate at the Strassler Center for Holocaust and Genocide Studies at Clark University. She has worked at the Anne Frank House in Amsterdam and received fellowships from EHRI, Yad Vashem, and the USHMM in Washington, D.C.


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