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Property Restitution and Collective Memories in the Czech Republic and Poland after 1989

Dates:
  • Fri 28 Jan 2011 10.00 - 12.00
  Add to Calendar 2011-01-28 10:00 2011-01-28 12:00 Europe/Paris Property Restitution and Collective Memories in the Czech Republic and Poland after 1989

This thesis examines the politics of memory in the Czech Republic and Poland after 1989 in relation to restitution of nationalized property as a measure of post-communist transitional justice. The dominant historical discourses in both countriees are analyzed on the basis of restitution legislation and procedures and public debates. The latter saw the emergence of various historical narratives of victimhood, constructed around memories of different historical injustices, and justifying or opposing claims for restitution or compensation for lost property. The thesis compares restitution claims made by various groups of former owners expropriated during several waves of property revolutions in the twentieth century: property issues related to the post-war forced population transfers, property issues related to the Holocaust, the claims of the former aristocracy and the landed gentry, and, finally, those of the Catholic Church.
The analysis shows that the dynamics of restitution and memory were for the most part determined by the general processes of coming to terms with the communist past, and demonstrates that memories of communism have influenced the processes of dealing with World War II. In both national cases it is possible to identify dominant memory discourses that shaped the dynamics of restitution debates. In the Czech Republic, there was a condemnation of communist crimes presupposing the principle of compensation for past wrongdoing, while in Poland the idea of property restitution was rejected on the basis of arguments relating to universal victimhood and the impossibility of universal compensation. In both countries the different narratives were legitimized by law. In the Czech case this came in the form of the adoption of restitution laws at the beginning of the 1990s, while in Poland the situation was marked by legislative silence and far-reaching legal continuity with the communist legal order.

Cappella, Villa Schifanoia - SCHIFANOIA DD/MM/YYYY
  Cappella, Villa Schifanoia - SCHIFANOIA

This thesis examines the politics of memory in the Czech Republic and Poland after 1989 in relation to restitution of nationalized property as a measure of post-communist transitional justice. The dominant historical discourses in both countriees are analyzed on the basis of restitution legislation and procedures and public debates. The latter saw the emergence of various historical narratives of victimhood, constructed around memories of different historical injustices, and justifying or opposing claims for restitution or compensation for lost property. The thesis compares restitution claims made by various groups of former owners expropriated during several waves of property revolutions in the twentieth century: property issues related to the post-war forced population transfers, property issues related to the Holocaust, the claims of the former aristocracy and the landed gentry, and, finally, those of the Catholic Church.
The analysis shows that the dynamics of restitution and memory were for the most part determined by the general processes of coming to terms with the communist past, and demonstrates that memories of communism have influenced the processes of dealing with World War II. In both national cases it is possible to identify dominant memory discourses that shaped the dynamics of restitution debates. In the Czech Republic, there was a condemnation of communist crimes presupposing the principle of compensation for past wrongdoing, while in Poland the idea of property restitution was rejected on the basis of arguments relating to universal victimhood and the impossibility of universal compensation. In both countries the different narratives were legitimized by law. In the Czech case this came in the form of the adoption of restitution laws at the beginning of the 1990s, while in Poland the situation was marked by legislative silence and far-reaching legal continuity with the communist legal order.


Location:
Cappella, Villa Schifanoia - SCHIFANOIA

Affiliation:
Department of History and Civilization

Type:
Thesis defence

Supervisor:
Prof. Jay Winter (Yale University)

Examiner:
Pavel Kolar (EUI - Department of History and Civilization)
Prof. Jiri Priban (Cardiff University & Charles University)
Prof. Wojciech Roszkowski (Polish Academy of Sciences)

Defendant:
Stanislaw Tyszka
 

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