Erinnerung | Memory - Part 2

posted by PP on 2005/03/24 15:53

[ Erinnerung | Memory ]

As Part II of the Summer Course Announcement concerning History Takes Place: European Sites of Memory - Wrocław by the ZEIT-Foundation Ebelin and Gerd Bucerius on 15-24 July, 2005 in Wrocław there are some introductory Notes by Gregor Thum, DAAD visiting professor at the University of Pittsburgh.
Guiding Themes:
"Cities," according to Joseph Roth,
survive the peoples to whom they owe their existence and the languages in which their architects and master builders communicated with each other. The birth, life, and death of a city depend on many laws that cannot be forced into a single pattern and that do not allow rules.
Wrocław appears to confirm this judgment, as Silesia's capital did not founder even during the destruction of war and the expulsion of its citizens after 1945. Upon the ruins of German Wrocław, a new Polish city was built up. Its beginnings proved difficult, because the Polish settlers were hardly able to identify with the foreign place. Nevertheless, over the years they put down roots in Wrocław and so made possible the reconstruction and resuscitation of this city. Today Wrocław is one of the most dynamic cities in the new Poland.

Within the framework of this summer course, the main objective will be to grasp the dramatic caesura of 1945 in its meaning for Wrocław, without losing sight of the continuum of urban development. Polish and German Wrocław have more in common than one might suspect. There appears to be a genius loci of Wrocław that survived all ruptures and that gives this city its persistent unmistakable character. The concern of this summer course is to follow its traces.

History on Location. City as Text
For the historian, the cityscape is a valuable document that can be read as a historical source. It offers information both about the history of the city and about how this history has been dealt with. Older layers were covered by newer, some things were lost completely or intentionally removed, much has only slipped into the background, and other things have been made visible again.
In addition, there are topographical constants, conditions of natural space and circulation that can hardly be changed and that thus lend cities their enduring individual contours. Cityscapes, created by generations, can tell the history of a city when read correctly. How do we read Wrocław? What does the city tell us? What must we know beforehand of its history, and what does the cityscape alone give away? What are the conditions of natural space in Wrocław that inhibit change?

Wrocław in 1945 - War's End, Shifting Borders, and Population Shift in Retrospect
2005 is the 60th anniversary of the end of the second world war. For Wrocław, the year 1945 meant more than the end of the war. It marks the dramatic caesura in the history of the city: devastated by the battles for "Fortress Wrocław," the city was ceded to Poland by the allied victors. Because Wrocław was designated to become a purely Polish city in an ethnic sense as well, the citizens of Wrocław, who had not yet fled west ahead of the Red Army, were driven out of their city. Polish settlers came in their place, many themselves expellees from the eastern Polish territories that had fallen to the Soviet Union. Only a few Poles, though, believed then that they would stay in Wrocław for a longer period of time. Most of them lived for years and decades with packed suitcases.
In communist Poland, the memory of the dramatic events of 1945 and their consequences for the city were obscured by historical myths. Yet the conditions of memory have changed fundamentally since 1989. After decades of repression, German history has become particularly interesting to the Polish Wrocławians of today. Also of interest is the debate about expulsion, in which Breslau was named repeatedly as a possible central memorial site for events of European expulsion. How does one in Wrocław today remember the year 1945?
What testimonials of that year have been preserved in the cityscape? How does one view the expulsion of German Wrocławians 60 years later? Does Wrocław conceive of itself as a city of migrants and expellees, or do the post-war myths of "originally Polish Wrocław" and its "return to the Motherland" still have an effect? Does Wrocław have, in view of 1945, the potential to be a European place of remembrance?

The Bourgeois City
Wrocław was built around a royal fortress and then won greater significance as the seat of a bishopric. But above all, the city owes its ascendance as a magnificent trading city to the skill of its citizens. They stretched out the net of extensive trade relations, fought successfully with princes and church leaders for political power in the city, and created the proud, autonomously administrated bourgeois city of the 15th and 16th Centuries. What remained of this bourgeois city in the 20th Century? To what degree did the long-term economic decline and the related undermining of the bourgeois way of life contribute to the tragedy of modern Wrocław? What was the status of bourgeois culture in the Wrocław of the People's Republic of Poland? Did it experience a renaissance only after 1989 or did it already awaken to new life with the Solidarity movement of the 1980's? How does the bourgeois way of life define and present itself in Wrocław today?

Wrocław as a Religious Center
Churches and monasteries belong to Wrocław's cityscape. Before 1945, Wrocław was the seat of a Catholic archbishopric and the center of the national Protestant church of Silesia. The university in Wrocław was the first in Germany to have at its disposal both a Catholic and a Protestant theological faculty. In addition, the religious diversity of the city benefited from the large Jewish community and from the intellectual life surrounding the Jewish Theological Seminary, which, until its closure in 1938, was one of the most important places for training rabbis in Europe. After 1945, the Protestants shrunk to a minority, but the status of Wrocławís Catholic archbishopric was preserved.
From the immigration of thousands of Polish Holocaust survivors, a rich Jewish life developed for several years in Wrocław. A new element was introduced with the arrival of Christian orthodox churches - a consequence of the forced settlement of Ukrainians in Silesia in 1947. In what relation did these religious groups stand to each other? In what way did this religious diversity shape the spirit of the city and the cityscape?

City of Intellect
Modern Wrocław is unthinkable without its universities, libraries, and archives. Wrocław also made a name for itself as a city of art, literature, and theater, and, since the 1960's it has become a center for Polish film. With names such as Max Born, Hans Poelzig, Alfred Kerr, Jerzy Grotkowski, and Tadeusz Rozewicz, the trading and industrial city of Wrocław was also a place of great intellectual and artistic creativity. How did this come to be, what made Wrocław so attractive for artists and intellectuals, what inspiration did the city offer? How did they see the city and what influence did they have on its destiny?

City and State Power
Wrocław was always more a bourgeois city than a royal capital or place of power. And yet, particularly in the century of totalitarianism, the city could not escape the clutches of the state. During both National Socialism and Stalinism, Wrocław became a stage for the self-representation and power productions of the state. In 1938 Hitlerís motorcade paraded through Wrocław on the occasion of the German Gymnastic and Sport Festival; ten years later Boleslaw Bierut opened the "Exhibition of the Western Territories" in Wrocław, the largest propaganda display that the Peopleís Republic would experience. The "German bulwark" in the Slavic East became the "Capital of the Polish Western Territories." How did the city and the power of the state relate to each other? To what degree was the city able to maintain distance from the state cult of the Imperial period, the Third Reich, and Stalinist Poland? And to what extent did the power of the state register itself in the cityscape by means of representative buildings and national monuments?

The Modern Industrial City
Germany's industrialization began in Upper Silesia. In its wake, the urban center of Silesia became an important industrial city. Wrocław was most significant for its machine construction, and foremost among this was the production of train cars by Linke-Hofmann, a tradition continued by Pafawag after 1945. One should not forget, in addition, that the workers' movement has one of its roots in Wrocław in the person of Ferdinand Lasalles. How did Wrocław change in the wake of industrialization, both in regard to the composition of its inhabitants and to its cityscape? What influence did worker and industrial culture have on the culture of the city as a whole? How radical was the break when Wrocław, in communist Poland, was supposed to become first and foremost a workers' city, as symbolized by the erection of workers' quarters in the traditionally bourgeois city center?

Minorities: Jews, Poles, Germans, Ukrainians
The existence of confessional and ethnic minorities has always been one of the distinctive traits of Wrocław, which lies in the borderlands of Siliesia. Before 1945 Jews and Poles were the exception to the Christian, German majority; in Catholic Poland it was the Jews and the orthodox Ukrainians. And in a certain sense, the expellees from Lemberg and other areas of eastern Poland also comprised a minority with its own culture in Wrocław after 1945. How did the majority behave towards these minorities and what space did they allow them in urban life? How did Wrocław's minorities organize themselves, and what influence did they have on the cityís culture and the cityscape? How does the city treat its minorities today? Does the often invoked tradition of Wrocław's tolerance and multi-culturalism truly exist after the nationalistic and antisemitic excesses of the 20th Century, and could it be a model for the 'European' city of today?

Wrocław and its Memories
Due to its exposed position in a border region between Germans and Poles, Wrocław's collective memory was subjected repeatedly to abrupt transformations. Again and again its components were written over, partially erased, invented anew. With the expulsion of the German Wrocławians, memory divided itself into a German branch and a newly formed Polish branch. Thus, many ways of remembering are bound with Wrocław: German and Polish, official and unofficial, majority and minority. After the epochal shifts of 1918, 1933, 1945 and 1989, historical testimonials disappeared from the cityscape, for they contradicted the ideal conceptions of the history of Wrocław in each period. Is Wrocław a palimpsest of varied memories or are these memories related to each other? Is there a resistance in this place and its historical character to the "invention of tradition"? Can one speak of a convergence of the Polish and German city memory after 1989? Is the local memory today emancipating itself from the national expectations of the past, or does "European Wrocław" still fulfill these expectations, only from a transformed political background?

Points of Departure and Visions of the Future: 1920s, 1950s, 1990s
During the 20th Century, Wrocław constantly battled the problems of a city on the periphery. Yet from this situation grew again and again the will to push the city forward by means of bold designs for the future. In the 1920s, Wrocław was among the first cities in Germany to announce an international contest for a general urban development plan. In the 1950s, city planners and architects made ambitious designs for the total reconstruction of the city destroyed in war. In the 1990s, the contest for the World's Fair of 2010 was to be used for the great leap into the future. What visions were there for the city at these various times? Which plans were realized, and which ones remained plans? And what do all these plans for the future have in common? Has the new formulation of spatial relations in a Europe that is growing together emancipated Wrocław from its peripheral position?


Senior Editor

Seitenwechsel. Geschichten vom Fußball. Hgg. v. Samo Kobenter u. Peter Plener. Wien: Bohmann 2008, 237 pp.
(Weitere Informationen hier)
Transcarpathica. Germanistisches Jahrbuch Rumänien 3-4/2004-2005. Hgg. v. Andrei Corbea-Hoisie u. Alexander Rubel. Bukarest/Bucuresti: Editura Paideia 2008, 336 pp.
[Die online-Fassung meines Einleitungsbeitrags "Thesen zur Bedeutung der Medien für Erinnerungen und Kulturen in Mitteleuropa" findet sich auf Kakanien revisited (Abstract / .pdf).]
Seitenweise. Was das Buch ist. Hgg. v. Thomas Eder, Samo Kobenter u. Peter Plener. Wien: Bundespressedienst 2010, 480 pp.
(Weitere Informationen hier wie da, v.a. auch do. - und die Rezension von Ursula Reber findet sich hier [.pdf].)
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