On 15-18 March 2019, members of the Historical Memory and Education Working Group met for a Study Tour of Lower Silesia to learn and work on their project about forced migrations in Europe after World War Two. The whole Silesian region is a special place in this respect, as the population here changed in their entirety. The territory was taken from Germany and awarded to the Polish state in return for the Eastern borderlands annexed by the Soviet Union. Poles were expelled from Soviet Ukraine, while Germans were forced to leave the Polish People’s Republic.

On Saturday the Group visited the Central Museum of Prisoners of War in Łambinowice on site of a POW camp that in its long history 1870-1945 served also as a resettlement camp. In the 1920’s it held German refugees from areas of Upper Silesia under Polish control, while in 1945-1946 it was a labour camp for people from surrounding towns and villages undergoing national verification before their exile to Germany. The Working Group was welcomed by the director Violetta Rezler-Wasielewska and her team that do their utmost to research and accommodate the multiple histories of the place. Later that day the Group also visited the Centre for the Documentation of the Tragedy of Upper Silesians in Radzionków dedicated to the commemoration of over 46,000 forced labourers sent to the Soviet Union in 1945. The group was accompanied by Adam Dziurok from the Institute of National Remembrance who explained the complex regional identity and the consequences of these deportations.

Sunday was spent in the headquarters of the Jan Nowak-Jeziorański College of Eastern Europe in Wojnowice Castle. Here the Group welcomed Anna Kurpiel from the Willy Brandt Centre for a presentation about Greek and Macedonian refugees of 1946-1949 in Lower Silesia. In the late afternoon the Group was joined by guest visitors for the opening of a photograph exhibition about the early post-war years in the neighbouring Mrozów area, which was followed by an emotional conversation with women who as children were forced to move with their families from the Eastern provinces of Poland to Lower Silesia in 1945. On Monday the members of the Group had the pleasure of a guided tour of the Depot History Centre that tells the story of Wroclaw since 1945. It was given by its director Marek Mutor who joined our team for a discussion about politics of memory.

Half of the Study Tour the Working Group spent discussing, drafting and elaborating an educational project on forced migrations. Members agreed to prepare an 8-case resource about migrations to be published in 2020 for the 75th anniversary of WWII. Other ideas included an educational project about street names in places inhabited by forced migrants and a research project on post-1989 film and TV representations of deportations. The concluding session was held in the National Ossolinski Institute that is an interesting case of a whole institution transferred from Lviv to Wroclaw.

Participants of the Study Tour: Larisa Knoll (Centre for German Culture and Reconciliation, Saint Petersburg), Anke Giesen (Memorial Deutschland, Berlin), Alexandra Polivanova (International Memorial, Moscow), Robert Latypov (Youth Memorial, Perm), Štefan Čok (Memorial Italy and the Slovenian National Library, Triest), Nikola Mokrović (Documenta, Zagreb), Christop Meissner (German-Russian Exchange and Karlhorst Museum, Berlin), Stanislav Linchevsky (CSF Secretariat, Berlin) and Laurynas Vaičiūnas (College of Eastern Europe).

Author: Laurynas Vaičiūnas (College of Eastern Europe)