Introduction: Reconstructing the Past

  • A. Kemp-Welch
Part of the International Council for Central and East European Studies book series


Following the fall of Polish communism, nationalists of the right called for the screening (lustracja) of those allegedly revealed by security archives to have ‘collaborated’ with the previous regime.2 But liberals of the centre replied that the use of archives in contemporary political struggles ‘lacked dignity’ and recalled Max Weber’s admonition that ‘every new document that comes to light after decades revives undignified lamentations, hatred and scorn, instead of allowing the conflict to be buried, at least morally’.3 Political questions about past guilt, ‘if such guilt exists at all’, could never be resolved by current politics.4 Poland’s first post-communist Prime Minister Mazowiecki agreed. His inaugural address to parliament — anticipating Mandela’s notion of building a future on ‘truth and reconciliation’ — announced that his government was ‘marking off the past with a thick line’.5


Central Committee Cultural Policy Polish Communism Polish Society Contemporary History 
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© A. Kemp-Welch 1999

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