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Chapter 7. Commemorating the Warsaw Uprising of 1 August 1944

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Abstract

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.

References

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