The Crosses of Auschwitz: Nationalism and Religion in Post-Communist Poland

University of Chicago Press, 15 . 2009 . - 280 .

In the summer and fall of 1998, ultranationalist Polish Catholics erected hundreds of crosses outside Auschwitz, setting off a fierce debate that pitted Catholics and Jews against one another. While this controversy had ramifications that extended well beyond Polands borders, Geneviève Zubrzycki sees it as a particularly crucial moment in the development of post-Communist Polands statehood and its changing relationship to Catholicism.

In The Crosses of Auschwitz, Zubrzycki skillfully demonstrates how this episode crystallized latent social conflicts regarding the significance of Catholicism in defining Polishness and the role of anti-Semitism in the construction of a new Polish identity. Since the fall of Communism, the binding that has held Polish identity and Catholicism together has begun to erode, creating unease among ultranationalists. Within their construction of Polish identity also exists pride in the Polish peoples long history of suffering. For the ultranationalists, then, the crosses at Auschwitz were not only symbols of their ethno-Catholic vision, but also an attempt to lay claim to what they perceived was a Jewish monopoly over martyrdom.

This gripping account of the emotional and aesthetic aspects of the scene of the crosses at Auschwitz offers profound insights into what Polishness is today and what it may become.

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Introduction and Theoretical Orientations
1
1 Genealogy of Polish Nationalism
34
Redefining the Nation in PostCommunist Poland
77
Archaeology of a Contested Site and Symbol
98
Mobilizing the Nation
141
5 Debating Poland by Debating the Cross
171
Nationalism and Religion Reexamined
202
Periodicals Consulted
223
Official Translation of the Preamble Constitution of the Third Republic of Poland
225
Historical Cues
227
References
231
Index
265

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45 - Whosoever will come to me shall be free and equal, for I am FREEDOM." But the kings when they heard of this were terrified in their hearts and said: "We banished freedom from the earth; but lo, it returneth in the person of a just nation, that doth not bow down to our idols! Come, let us slay this nation.
225 - ... Union principles is the fact that both these legal orders are based on the principle of subsidiarity. It was given the importance of a constitutional principle in the Polish constitution whose preamble formulates it in the following way: 'we, the Polish Nation - all citizens of the Republic, . . . hereby establish this Constitution of the Republic of Poland as the basic law for the State, based on respect for freedom and justice, co-operation between the public powers, social dialogue and on...
45 - Nation did not die: its body lieth in the grave, but its spirit hath descended from the earth, that is from public life, to the abyss, that is to the private life of people who suffer slavery in their country and outside of their country, that it may see their sufferings. But on the third day the soul shall return to the body, and the Nation shall arise and free all the peoples of Europe from slavery. And already two days have gone by.
xvi - Studies and the Office of the Vice President for Research at the University of Michigan.
50 - These have reference not only to the current state of social relationships existing or developing between actors, but also to the cultural goals, means, ideas, outlooks, currents of thought, patterns of belief, and so on, which enter into those relationships, interpret them, and incline them to alliance or divisiveness.
117 - LET THIS PLACE BE A CRY OF DESPAIR AND A WARNING TO HUMANITY WHERE THE NAZIS MURDERED ABOUT ONE AND A HALF MILLION MEN, WOMEN, AND CHILDREN MAINLY JEWS FROM VARIOUS COUNTRIES OF EUROPE AUSCHWITZ-BIRKENAU 1940-1945 Yet, nearly six decades later this anguished warning appears unheeded.

 (2009)

Geneviève Zubrzycki is assistant professor of sociology at the University of Michigan.