From Competitive Memories to Local Identity: Changing Perceptions of Jews and the Holocaust in the Young Generation of Poles
Competitive victimhood between Poles and Jews is a topic that has received much attention in recent years. The first part of this presentation will present large representative studies of young Poles that focused on their historical awareness about the Holocaust and their attitudes towards Jews. These studies point to not only an increasing ignorance about history among young people, but also—and more importantly—they indicate that knowledge about Jewish history and attitudes towards Jews are not impacted by either the amount of education young Poles receive, or their educational achievement. This suggests that schools fail as a source of knowledge and a formative place for young people. The second part of this presentation will focus on alternative ways of teaching about Jews and their history. The Polish non-profit organization Forum for Dialogue developed an interesting approach to teaching about the Jewish past that focuses on local historical knowledge and students’ individual exploration rather than on traditional ways of educating. Results from that “School of Dialogue” so far suggest that this approach is a promising alternative to the traditional teaching of history at schools. Finally, results of a recent study of young visitors to Auschwitz are presented, in order to assess the complex effects of historical sites on young people’s attitudes.
Michal Bilewicz is associate professor of psychology; researcher at the Robert B. Zajonc Institute of Social Studies; and director of the Center for Research on Prejudice at the University of Warsaw. His main research interests concern reconciliation, anti-Semitism, dehumanization, and linguistic social psychology.