Dealing with a Difficult Past: Poland’s Transitional Justice in a Comparative Perspective

Tuesday, 31 May 2016 - 5:00pm to Wednesday, 1 June 2016 - 10:00pm

Conference panelists include Polish and international scholars who are experts in the field of transitional justice and related fields: Timothy Garton Ash, Adam Czarnota, Roman David, Magdalena Gawin, Jan Tomasz Gross, Kriszta Kovács, Jan Kubik, Jarosław Kuisz, Eva-Clarita Pettai, Aleks Szczerbiak, Ruti Teitel, Karolina Wigura, Jan Zielonka and others.

Nissan Lecture Theater and European Studies Centre, St Anotny’s College

Professor Ruti Teitel (New York Law School)
Professor Adam Czarnota (University of South Wales)
Dr Magdalena Gawin (Ministry of Culture and National Heritage)
Agnieszka Holland (Film director and scriptwriter)

Timothy Garton Ash, Andrzej Rapaczynski (Columbia University), Mikołaj Kunicki (University of Oxford), Karolina Wigura (St Antony’s College, University of Oxford)

Lustration, opening the files, compensation for damages, Nazi and Communist crimes, Jewish-Polish relations, educating the public, atonement, forgiveness, reconciliation, justice. These are just a few notions repeated numerously over the past 27 years in Poland since embarking on a democratic trajectory. While other countries like Germany, Japan and South Africa have struggled to reconcile with difficult pasts, the Polish case proves to be one of the most complicated. Poland’s geopolitical location in the 20th century resulted in a series of atrocities, including the consequences of two totalitarian regimes, two wars, genocide and the fallout from a long-lasting authoritarian communist regime. Poles were treated as victims, perpetrators, passive observers – all these roles were very often interpenetrating within one single biography.

Has Poland managed to deal with its past? How does the Polish case compare with the experiences of other countries which have faced comparable challenges?