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Neighbours: Polish-Jewish relations in contemporary Polish visual culture

By Matilda Mroz


This article approaches Polish audio-visual engagements with the Holocaust from a new perspective, providing an important contribution to our knowledge of how visual culture is transforming Holocaust memory in the new millennium. The article identifies two developments in Holocaust representation: first, contemporary works are frequently produced in a transnational context, via international co-productions, or by artists with multiple national allegiances; secondly, much new Holocaust representation is produced across media boundaries, drawing variously on the characteristics of cinema, performance art, and installation. The article outlines the predominant narrative through which Polish cinema has framed Polish-Jewish relations during the Holocaust, which the article terms the ‘hider/hidden’ paradigm, due to its emphasis upon Polish attempts to hide and rescue Jews. The article analyses recent transnational cinematic engagements with the ‘hider/hidden’ paradigm, including the first Polish-Israeli co-production, while considering how the films pose the ethical challenge of balancing empathic closeness to the ‘other’ with a respectful distance. Beyond the cinema, the article considers how this ethical dimension has been reconfigured when visual culture engages with the ‘counter- memory’ to the ‘hider/hidden’ paradigm: the revelations that Polish villagers killed their Jewish neighbours in 1941.The article points to where further research is needed on how the figure of the absent Jewish neighbour functions as a central element in contemporary representations of Polish-Jewish relations

Topics: PN
Publisher: Legenda / Maney Publishing
Year: 2013
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