Chapter 7. Commemorating the Warsaw Uprising of 1 August 1944
This chapter describes the way Poland repeatedly involved other parties, notably former enemies, in commemorations of the Warsaw Uprising of 1 August 1944, thus turning a national Red Letter Day into a transnational event. The Uprising is ambiguous: it led to defeat, yet Poland is proud of it since it stands for her heroism, and the Uprising was suppressed by the Germans, yet Poland feels that the USSR/Russia bears some responsibility for its failure since the Red Army did not support the Uprising. Following a model proposed by Assmann, it is shown that Poland’s repeated efforts to turn a commemorative occasion into a ritual in which both victims and culprits participate are successful: acknowledgement of responsibility leads to forgiveness and reconciliation. A discourse analysis of speeches by speakers from Poland, Germany, and Russia shows that the key to success is the victim’s willingness to forgive, and the culprit’s willingness to acknowledge guilt.