John-Paul Himka and Joanna Beata Michlic

Bringing the Dark Past to Light

The Reception of the Holocaust in Postcommunist Europe

University of Nebraska Press 2013

New Books in Eastern European StudiesNew Books in Genocide StudiesNew Books in HistoryNew Books in Peoples & PlacesNew Books in Politics & SocietyNew Books in Russian and Eurasian StudiesNew Books Network April 29, 2015 Kelly McFall

I’ll be leaving soon to take students on a European travel course. During the three weeks we’ll be gone, in addition to cathedrals, museums...

I’ll be leaving soon to take students on a European travel course. During the three weeks we’ll be gone, in addition to cathedrals, museums and castles, they’ll visit Auschwitz, the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe and a variety of other Holocaust related sights.  And I’ll ask them to think about what we can say about how people in East-Central Europe remember the Holocaust based on the places they’ve visited.

This is not simply a matter of historical reckoning.  The responses to the recent op-ed by FBI director James Comey show how important the question is in contemporary politics.   They also show how limited our understanding of the dynamics of memory in Eastern Europe has been.

My answers to the students’ questions will be enormously more sophisticated and thoughtful after having read the work of John-Paul Himka and Joanna Beata Michlic.  Their recent edited collection titled Bringing the Dark Past to Light: The Reception of the Holocaust in Postcommunist Europe (University of Nebraska Press, 2013) is a remarkable collection of essays.  The book surveys the state of memory and memorialization in each of the countries of the former Soviet Block.  It highlights broadly similar responses while explaining differences between the countries.  And the editors explain why they believe it is so important to, as they say, bring the dark past to light.  In doing so, they begin the process of bringing our understanding of the memory of the Holocaust in this region to the same level of sophistication we now bring to the subject in Western Europe.

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