IHJR Polish-Jewish Reconciliation Project
The Polish Jewish Reconciliation project is both an academic project and an exercise in reconciliation. It is part of an historical dialogue intended to work towards writing a shared narrative which can be accepted by most people and groups involved. Despite a sharp increase in dialogue and collaborative work over the past decade and a half between Poles and Jews, their rich and tragic common history still holds many highly contentious issues that undermine reconciliation. The project is intended to be enlarged to include other nationalities in the borderlands, primarily Ukrainians and Byelorussian.
Project Objectives & Description
The basic agenda for the Polish-Jewish case was set at a meeting of scholars to plan the commission in Leipzig in April 2003. As a result of the first workshop the project focused on two academic efforts:
- A synthesis of the history of Jews and non-Jews as depicted in Polish history in the 20th century
- A reexamination of the events that took place in eastern Poland from 1939 to 1941. A second workshop in January 2005 in Leipzig explored this topic in greater detail.
The Synthetic History Project
The project’s mission is to produce an historical narrative or “synthetic” history researched and written by respected scholars. It will be accessible to the general educated public and appropriate for use as a university-level textbook. Eventually accompanying material which can be used for secondary school history classes will be produced as well. The goal is to elucidate the major areas of agreement and disagreement in scholarly works on Jews and non-Jews interactions in twentieth century Polish history. It will be written in collaboration by scholars whose work focuses on Jewish and non-Jewish Poles. Attention will be given both to how the groups viewed each another in the past and the different ways in which contemporary historians perceive those relations today. In addition, the volume will identify which are the periods and topics in need of further research, and cases in which differing interpretations may remain irreconcilable.
The book will be organized as follows: 1) Late Partition Period; 2) Second Republic; 3) Second World War; 4) Communist Domination; and 5) Contemporary Poland. After the chapter drafts will be written, the IHJR will invite the authors to convene and discuss their findings and the process. The goal is to identify major areas of agreement and disagreement, and then to discuss the best structure as a basis for revisions and collaboration. It is intended that each period would be covered by one essay to be written jointly by scholars from different perspectives. The single essay will not obfuscate differences but rather place them in a more accepted context. In instances where this is not possible, a more traditional approach will be taken of having two (or possibly three) essays per period which will represent alternative perspectives. The final structure for the book will be one of the main topics of the workshop. Each chapter will consider a set of comparable questions in order to facilitate a cohesive narrative later. The first drafts will pre-circulate, as will the penultimate drafts texts.
The principal editor of the editorial board is Professor David Engel of New York University. Most of the contributors are senior leading scholars on Polish Jewish relations, as well as eight young scholars from Poland, Israel and the United States. The project is intended to last until 2007. Currently scholars are engaged in the process of drafting narratives, exchanging drafts and reviewing revisions.
Following the completion of the academic work in each of the sub projects, the IHJR will engage educators, public opinion leaders, and media representatives, in promoting public awareness and discussion. This process will include the production and dissemination of educational materials for schools, the dissemination of information to the media, and the engagement of community leaders in public discussions. Initially, the IHJR will seek to identify key public individuals and engage them and pertinent institutions in the working group discussions, and work with them to bring the information to broad public and educators’ attention.
The research project has resulted in a volume published in April 2008 “Shared History – Divided Memory. Jews and Others in Soviet-Occupied Poland, 1939-1941”.
This project, originally sponsored by the Carnegie Council on Ethics and International Affairs [CCEIA] in New York, is currently supported in part by the Sigrid Rausing Trust, the Arcadia Trust (formerly the Lisbet Rausing Charitable Fund), and the Simon Dubnow Institute in Leipzig.
The Institute for Historical Justice and Reconciliation (IHJR) works with educational and public policy institutions to organize and sponsor historical discourse in pursuit of acknowledgement, and the resolution of historical disputes. Founded in 2004, the Institute for Historical Justice and Reconciliation (IHJR) is an independent, nonprofit institution based in The Hague.
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2011 has been a fruitful and eventful year as during which the Institute has been able to make a meaningful contribution to the field of transitional justice. This annual report draws special attention to the outcomes of IHJR projects. The year 2011 was marked by the release of 8 volumes on shared history of the former Yugoslavia, the Middle East, Kenya, considerable progress on the project in Armenia and Turkey and a diverse range of dissemination activities.
Center for History, Democracy and Reconciliation
The CHDR is an outcome of the IHJR Project in the Former Yugoslavia.