The aesthetics and ethics of performative Holocaust memory in Poland


  • Diana Isidora Popescu Pears Institute for the Study of Antisemitism, Birkbeck, University of London


This article addresses the performative dimension of the post-1989 Polish memorial culture of the Holocaust, characterised by a collaborative and audience-participatory model of remembering the Jewish victims. In this model participants are invited to become creators and owners of public memory, rather than silent observers or witnesses to commemorations performed by others. The article offers a critical and theoretical understanding of performativity in Holocaust commemoration through the examples of educational memorial actions Listy do Henia (‘Letters to Henio’) and Kroniki sejneńskie (‘The Sejny Chronicles’) led by the Polish grassroots institutions Ośrodek Brama Grodzka (‘Grodzka Gate-NN Theatre Centre’) in Lublin and Ośrodek Pogranicze (‘Borderland Foundation’) in Sejny. Drawing mainly on Polish perspectives on memory, the article examines the aesthetic and ethical value of these actions. It further probes how a performative model of engagement can serve to expose the complex past of Polish–Jewish relations, to bring the historical past vividly into current consciousness, and to facilitate a sense of belonging to a moral community of memory among younger generations of Poles.




How to Cite

Popescu, D. I. (2017). The aesthetics and ethics of performative Holocaust memory in Poland. Nordisk judaistik/Scandinavian Jewish Studies, 28(1), 22–37.