KL Auschwitz in the Social Consciousness of Poles, A.D. 2000
Sixty years after KL Auschwitz had been established by the Nazis on the outskirts of Oświęcim, a town in occupied Poland, to serve primarily as a ‘concentration camp’ for the Polish political prisoners and later as the major site of the ‘final solution of the Jewish question’, and 55 years after its nightmare ended through the liberation by the Soviet Army, a national representative survey of public opinion was conducted to measure the significance, knowledge and symbolism of KL Auschwitz among Poles today.1 This was the first comprehensive nation-wide survey of public opinion about Auschwitz in Poland. It covered some of the issues addressed in earlier surveys carried out since 1995.2 The survey was a part of a larger research project that deals with the changing perception and attitudes of Poles to Auschwitz in 1990s. This project also includes archival research, content analysis of the media and school text books, and empirical quantitative and qualitative research among the Polish visitors to the State Museum Auschwitz-Birkenau in Oświęcim and the Museum’s staff. The project in general and the survey in particular have been undertaken to fill in the gap of knowledge and understanding of the Polish perceptions of and attitudes to what is a painful historical fact, a complex symbol and a matter of controversies. A research objective also was to provide cognitive background to educational activities about Auschwitz in Poland and world-wide, in particular to the activities of the State Museum Auschwitz-Birkenau as well as Polish and international school curricula designers and textbook writers.
KeywordsConcentration Camp Social Consciousness Polish Nation Main Camp Relative Majority
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- 7.In a survey that the author of this article carried out in 1996 ‘Oświęcim’ was chosen as the most important event of World War II by 31 percent of the respondents from a similar list of eight events, following the ‘German aggression’ (34 percent). The survey was done on 8–13 February 1996 on the random sample of 1,200 people representative of Poland’s adult population. Field work and analysis was by the CBOS pollster. Research design and report by the author of this article. See: Marek Kucia, Auschwitz in the Historical Consciousness of Poles (unpublished survey report, 1996).Google Scholar
- 8.This figure was determined by the Polish and Soviet commissions who inspected the site of the former camp shortly after its liberation in 1945. Cf. Franciszek Piper, Ilu ludzi zginęło w KL Auschwitz [How many people perished at KL Auschwitz] (Oświęcim: Publishing House of the State Museum Auschwitz-Birkenau, 1992), p.9.Google Scholar
- 13.For the numbers of the killed and died in the camp see: Francisek Piper, Ilu ludzi zginęło w KL Auschwitz, pp.92, 124 (table 31). For the numbers of the deported see p.122 (table 29). See also Franciszek Piper, ‘The political and racist principles of the Nazi policy of extermination and their realization at KL Auschwitz’, in: Franciszek Piper, Teresa Świebocka (eds), Auschwitz — Nazi Death Camp (Oświęcim: Publishing House of the State Museum Auschwitz-Birkenau, 1996), pp.11–20.Google Scholar
- 18.Danuta Czech, ‘Origins of the camp, its construction and expansion’, in: Franciszek Piper, Teresa Świebocka (eds), Auschwitz — Nazi Death Camp (Oświęcim: Publishing House of the State Museum Auschwitz-Birkenau, 1996), pp.28–37.Google Scholar
- 28.Jonathan Webber, ‘Personal Reflections on Auschwitz Today’, Teresa Świebocka (comp. and ed.), Jonathan Webber, Connie Wilsack (English eds), Auschwitz — A History in Photographs (Oświęcim: Publishing House of the State Museum Auschwitz-Birkenau, 1995), pp.283–285.Google Scholar
- 32.The 1995 surveys were designed and done by the CBOS pollster on 13–16 January and 3–6 February, on the random samples of 1,011 people (wave 1) and 1,226 people (wave 2) representative of Poland’s adult population. See: CBOS communiqués BS/21/16/95 and BS/54/45/95 and Marek Kucia, Auschwitz in the Collective Consciousness of the Poles. An Analysis of a Public Opinion Survey by CBOS (unpublished desk research report, 1996).Google Scholar