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Staging Memories of Forced Migration in Jan Klata's Transfer!


Jan Klata Transfer! Polish identity Wrocław theatre Second World War migration memory directing Polish-German relations testimony Yalta collective remembering


Paul Vickers received his PhD from the University of Glasgow. His current research examines the relationship between censorship, memory, and national identity in post-war Poland as expressed in rural Poles’ communist-era memoirs. He is also a translator working regularly on scholarly and specialist titles. His translation of Juliusz Osterwa’s selected writings, Through Theatre, Beyond Theatre, edited by Ireneusz Guszpit, will be published in 2015.

1. Introduction

This paper investigates the Polish-German theatre project Transfer!, directed by the Polish director Jan Klata.[1] Transfer! had its world and Polish premiere at Wrocław’s Teatr Współczesny (Contemporary Theatre) on 18 November 2006, and its German premiere on 18 January 2007 at Berlin’s Hebbel-am-Ufer Theater. The production concentrates on forced migration affecting both Poles and Germans at the end of World War II.[2] Three professional actors, positioned on a platform at centre stage, play the ‘Big Three’ world leaders of the period: Churchill, Stalin, and Roosevelt.[3] Dressed to replicate photographs from the 1945 Yalta Conference, they perform songs by British band Joy Division and scenes from Yalta (scripted by Klata), thus acting as a Chorus offering commentaries on events taking place below. Performing beneath and around them are ten amateurs or non-actors: the Witnesses – five Poles and four Germans who experienced forced migration during and after World War II, alongside one younger German, a descendant of deportees.[4] The Witnesses present personal and family memories of forced migration following a script constructed from their testimonies, which were collected during oral history interviews conducted by historians Ulrike Dittrich and Zbigniew Aleksy. The script was then arranged in conjunction with Klata by dramaturges Sebastian Majewski, a Pole, and Dunja Funke, a German.

The Witnesses’ testimonies are punctuated by the Big Three’s performances. The opposition between historical authorities above and individuals’ histories below has two principal effects: firstly, it indicates the Big Three’s apparent control over the fates of those below. Secondly, the staging suggests that histories from below could challenge the dominant historical narratives that overwrite individuals’ experiences and memories.

Jan Klata’s Transfer! at the Teatr Współczesny in Wrocław. Photograph: Bartłomiej Sowa.

Jan Klata’s Transfer! at the Teatr Współczesny in Wrocław. Photograph: Bartłomiej Sowa.

This article explores interactions and intersections of memory, history, the individual, the nation, and identity. It examines whether Transfer!’s staged confrontation of the family and private memories of two national groups critiques and challenges dominant tropes of ‘national memory’ or reaffirms them. Following historian Timothy Snyder’s definition, ‘National memory is a means of organising the past such as to preserve the dignity of the group with which we identify, and thus bolsters our pride as individual human beings’.[5] I examine how Transfer!’s confrontation of competing narratives of the past reflects or affects national self-images and dominant imaginings of the neighbouring Other. Following this, I investigate how the discourses of victims and perpetrators intersect in Transfer!, and how they serve to frame the performance’s proposed model for Polish-German dialogue and, potentially, reconciliation. I ask whether the project can contribute to dialogue beyond theatre buildings, despite suggestions of Transfer! ‘smoothing out the Polish-German past, subordinating it to a reconciliatory imperative’, as Polish theatre critic Bartosz Wieliński has claimed.[6] Inspired by Polish and German historiography and cultural thought on forced migrations, reconciliation, and social history, I examine these questions through close readings of several scenes, focusing on their staging and media reception.

2. The Concept of Dialogue

Framing my investigation is a concept of reconciliatory dialogue constructed through readings of works by Polish historians and thinkers. Most influential here are Artur Hajnicz, Jan Józef Lipski, and Kazimierz Wóycicki. In his 1995 essay ‘Belka i oko’ (The Plank and the Eye) Wóycicki asserts:

Poles prepared to enter into dialogue do not oppose establishing the extent of Polish responsibility for Germans’ tragedy. Germans prepared to enter into dialogue with Poles attempt to see the expulsions as a consequence of the war and their ‘own’ German crimes. This is the model for dialogue between two parties who in approaching one another employ the wisdom of the Gospel story of the splinter in the eye. […] First Poles experienced the most acute suffering, but later themselves became perpetrators. Germans started the criminal war, but eventually became its victims.[7]

Also embracing the Christian themes and thought that have shaped the most significant efforts towards Polish-German dialogue (Wóycicki’s essay is inspired by Matthew 7: 3-5),[8] Jan Józef Lipski’s 1981 essay ‘Dwie Ojczyzny, Dwa Patriotyzmy’ (Two Fatherlands, Two Patriotisms) contrasts Polish wrongs with the false memories that affirm a mythologized national self-image and preclude fulfilment of the commandment to ‘love thy neighbour’. Lipski refutes arguments that suggest deporting Germans was a legitimate ‘lesser evil’ given the evil done unto ‘us’ by that neighbour. He argues instead that Poles should confront questions of individual and national responsibility.[9] Lipski illustrates the intimate connection of historically honest memory to good patriotism, while suggesting that a national memory based on falsification and uncritical patriotism is hubristic, hence:

The burden of guilt for making fallacious judgements about the past, for perpetuating morally false national myths which serve national megalomania, for remaining blind to the blemishes of our history is […] the premise of evil and the path to future evil. Every time we romanticize our past and obscure facts with omissions and half-truths, every time silence is kept and the atrocities perpetrated by our nation glossed over, the fires of national megalomania are fuelled. It is an illness. Every evasion of acknowledging one’s own guilt defiles the national ethos.[10]

Acknowledgment of the Other’s memory and historical narratives is crucial to dialogue, and might consequently alter ‘our’ imagination of the Other. In working towards deep reconciliation, any re-imagination of the Other and confrontation with Others’ private and national memories could subsequently disrupt entrenched national self-images. This disruption becomes possible if the model for dialogue involves establishing not only the historical and political background and mechanisms leading to forced migration, but also works towards moral judgements regarding individual responsibility for individuals’ suffering.[11] Ideally, then, this would result in a proportionally representative combination of national perpetrators’ and victims’ discourses. As Hajnicz argues: ‘Engaging in dialogue requires not only historical judgements as to the causes and circumstances of expulsions, but also moral judgements regarding individual responsibility. It demands reconsideration of one’s attitudes, and revisions to the self-image to which we are attached’.[12] Hajnicz subsequently illustrates the Polish self-image that demands revision through dialogue and historical investigation:

Part of Polish society is burdened by an ‘eternally innocent victim’ complex, believing the nation has been harmed and betrayed by everyone while itself maintaining unblemished innocence. This is an essentially pathological attitude making communication with others difficult, pushing the nation towards isolation and xenophobia.[13]

A combination of the above thinkers’ key thoughts alongside German concepts of Vergangenheitsbewältigung approaches an ideal-type historico-moral framework around which reconciliatory Polish-German dialogue might be constructed. According to Alon Confino and Peter Fritzsche, ‘The basic imperative of German memory is widely regarded to be the collective responsibility of coming to terms with the past, or Vergangenheitsbewältigung’. They add that it not a process that leads to reconciliation with Nazi crimes but rather a process of learning how to live with the realization that Nazi crimes are part of your history and identity, and nothing, in a sense, can reconcile you to them. At the same time, the idea of mastering the past is so open-ended that no matter how German society confronts it, there can always be people who can say this is not enough.[14]

Vergangenheitsbewältigung as a process endeavours towards bringing the nation’s ‘blemishes’ and crimes into the general public’s historical consciousness, causing these events to intersect with self-images constructed in the private sphere. Consequently, national memory – on individual, collective, and official levels – preserves a nation’s dignity by manifesting a critical approach to the past, combining narratives of victimhood with a perpetrators’ discourse.

To what extent does Transfer! fulfil this ideal-type dialogue? Does Transfer! work towards deep reconciliation by constructing a Polish Vergangenheitsbewältigung discourse through confronting troubling memories and events, through approaching Polish perpetration as well as victimhood, and thus challenging established national self-images? Or does the project limit itself to symbolic reconciliation, hoping to preserve Polish and German dignity by staging an exchange of victims’ monologues on shared stages?

In an essay preceding the premieres of Transfer!, Klata examined the ‘moral dilemma’ confronting him when tackling the difficulties posed by staging private memories. Torn between his roles as Transfer!’s director and historian, he is troubled by having to balance the extent to which he, on the one hand, contextualises the testimonies through a historical framework and, on the other, leaves the Witnesses to speak freely, whatever relationship their testimonies bear to historically verifiable events. Klata believes that, ‘[a]s a director I attempt to limit my manipulations to the extent that I focus [ogniskować] their stories through theatrical mechanisms’.[15] However, Klata’s role as the project’s historian conflicts with his ‘focusing’ role as director. Consequently he develops a highly ambiguous solution to the ‘moral dilemma’ of his paradoxical role in Transfer!: ‘In our work we never simply present individual experiences or pass judgement on them. Our work involves understanding and respecting individual fates’.[16] Most crucial, he says, is ‘respecting the individual fates’. It is clear that Klata intends for there to be a balance between allowing the Witnesses to speak and judging, or contextualising, their statements.

However, Klata’s struggle to meet the challenge of balancing representation and judgement emerges in his essay. He states that everyone participating in Transfer! is ‘fully aware of the historical context of the evacuations and expulsions’. At the same time, however, he also emphasises the German participants’ reluctance to mention any time before 1945 or their parents’ role in supporting the Nazi regime, whether actively or through indifference.[17] There is a noticeable discrepancy and inconsistency between Klata’s public statements on Transfer! and what the German Witnesses actually say in the performance. Klata comments at length on the problems of encountering historical inaccuracies or silences within the testimonies of the German Witnesses, while there is not even a hint of such blind-spots among the Poles. My close readings of several scenes focus on three key devices of Klata’s staging: the sequencing of testimony, the projection of selections from the testimonies as text onto the rear wall behind the stage, and the Big Three’s ‘commentaries’ as the Yalta Chorus.[18]

3. Sequencing of Testimony and Directorial Interventions

Hanne-Lore Pretzsch, born and raised near Stolp (Słupsk in Polish), Pomerania, moved to West Germany after World War II. Speaking of her membership of the Bund Deutscher Mädel/Mädchen (BDM) – a kind of Hitler Youth for girls – she recalls, ‘it was great… Hitler’s future we were… I could be the Führerin’. Contrary to expectations raised by Klata’s pre-emptive essay, this German Witness clearly confronts her own private Nazi past as a part of that of Germany. She recalls the traumatic experiences of herself and her family, along with her relatives’ participation in Nazi organisations. Hanne-Lore situates her memory in a historical and social context, emphasising postwar renegotiations of German national memory through a perpetrators’ discourse associated with the somewhat mythologised 1968 generation.[19] As Hanne-Lore shows, national memory can be a critical organisation of a nation’s past, preserving national dignity by confronting a troubling history, i.e. Vergangenheitsbewältigung. Realising the critical potential of Hanne-Lore’s memory, Klata uses her testimony on stage to focus and challenge conservative or decontextualised constructions of the past inherent to another strand of German national memory: he consistently sequences Hanne-Lore in juxtaposition with Ilse Bode, using Hanne-Lore’s testimony as a corrective to her compatriot’s suspected ‘manipulations of history’, to use Klata’s term.

Ilse Bode was transferred into and out of Polish territory during World War II. Her testimony in Transfer! consists mainly of telling jokes from or about the Nazi era, or alternatively reading and commenting upon her father’s letters from the Eastern front in 1944. In his correspondence he expresses his yearning to return home to normal family life. However, he was killed in 1944 near Vilnius during the German retreat. Between two of Ilse’s letter recitals, Hanne-Lore recalls her Uncle Erich’s return on leave from the Eastern front. He brought with him reports of Wehrmacht soldiers who had refused involvement in campaigns against civilians and had been transferred, unpunished, to other units. Hanne-Lore applies her interpretation of this family memory to the national historical context: ‘it is simply not true that you had to follow orders. This is only my view, but you could say no, you could refuse orders’. By emphasising that ‘this is only my view’ [nur aus meiner Sicht], she underscores both her awareness of her memory’s potential to disrupt established German victims’ discourses, as well as the independence of her historical analysis. Hanne-Lore demonstrates that Nazi Germany was not irresistibly monolithic. More importantly, her family’s experiences ensure that she remembers that it was not this way. She undermines that strand of German national memory which decouples deportation from the context of many Germans’ enthusiasm for Nazi Germany between 1933 and 1944. She is fulfilling Wóycicki’s fundamental principles for Polish-German dialogue.

Following Hanne-Lore’s recollection of Uncle Erich, Ilse depicts her flight and evacuation from Polish territory, during which the family’s Polish forced labourer escaped.[20] Hanne-Lore follows immediately, recalling her reading of Mein Kampf during the 1960s. The problem was, she argues, everyone had owned Mein Kampf during the Nazi period, but nobody read it at the time; had they done so, she believes, the Führer cult might have met stronger resistance. ‘Everything was in there. Everything’, she says. Hanne-Lore challenges safe, uncritical constructions of the past. Klata’s subsequent sequencing of her mother’s wartime experiences creates a deliberate contrast with Ilse’s father’s experiences with the Wehrmacht. Following another of Ilse’s father’s letters, Hanne-Lore recalls how her mother was repeatedly raped by Red Army soldiers. Hanne-Lore and her mother left Stolp together for Berlin where her mother had an abortion. They then returned ‘home’ to Słupsk.

Klata proves himself, at this point, to be a skilled director, using the testimony of Hanne-Lore to rupture the privileging of patriarchal narratives in memoirs that commemorate the Wehrmacht ‘saviours’ against Red Army brutality. Such memoirs reacted to the increased prominence of perpetrators’ discourses by appropriating certain victims’ experiences, including German women’s experience of rape. Effectively, male authors employed rape as a metaphor symbolising the experience of the whole German nation at the hands of the Red Army. Such memoirs privileged male heroism while silencing remembrance of the real victims: German women.[21] Ilse’s re-telling of her father’s experience resembles attempts to rehabilitate the memory of the defeated army.[22]

Günther Linke is later also sequenced into this series of testimonies, serving as a further critique of Ilse’s decontextualised memory. Living in East Germany after the war, Günther undermines patriarchal amnesia of Nazism. Challenging his father’s silences, Günther, aged 14, asks: ‘Vati, were there really concentration camps?’ He receives the reply, ‘Get lost with your politics’. Confronting the past in near-impossible circumstances, Günther reads Mein Kampf in the GDR where, as Dorothee Wierling argues, ‘the parent generation’s involvement in Nazi Germany’ was silenced ‘in the private realm in order to secure this sphere’s crucial protective function. […] The potential historical guilt of the parents’ generation could be used by the state at any time. The result was a tacit agreement between the generations not to touch this question in the private sphere’.[23] Günther ruptured this silence ensuring that ‘I have no more doubts. Now I begin living independently’. He offers Mein Kampf to the audience, challenging them to confront troubling pasts today.

Klata’s sequencing thus reveals contested memory within national groups and members of the same generation, undermining the assumption that contestation exists primarily between nations and generations. Günther and Hanne-Lore indicate the disruptive potential of histories from below, emerging from the family sphere. Their testimonies highlight the role of family memory in Vergangenheitsbewältigung, where a critical combination of memories of victimhood and perpetration can emerge. Klata and the dramaturges sequence Ilse’s uncritical family memory in such a way that it is undermined by the critical memories of her compatriots. Given the thematic links between the three Witnesses’ remembrances, this clearly seems a deliberate device and a conscious selection, demonstrating the director’s and writers’ skills as historians and theatre-makers.

Yet immediately after Hanne-Lore’s Mein Kampf scene, Klata chooses to play – at a deafening volume – a recording of Goebbels’ speech from the rally at Berlin’s Sportpalast on 18 February 1943. Goebbels screams, ‘Wollt Ihr den totalen Krieg!?’ (Do you want total war!?). ‘JA!’ is the crowd’s thunderous reply. Klata feels justified in including this sequence, since, according to his historical vision, ‘the events of 1945 are an emphatic reply to Goebbels’ question posed at the Sportpalast in February 1943, “Do you want total war?”’.[24] Klata thus thrusts upon the Witnesses and audiences a declaration of German collective responsibility for forced migration. Germans got what they deserved, he seems to be suggesting, whoever they were – soldiers, elderly men, women, or children. While Klata’s Goebbels screams, Ilse shields her ears from the Nazi-issued Volksempfänger radio or ‘Goebbels snout’, as she calls it. As Goebbels subsides, Ilse protests: ‘my parents are not guilty. They lived in the system and could do nothing against it. I won’t have it that my parents are guilty’. But with Hanne-Lore’s critical testimony and family memory fresh in the spectators’ memory, and Goebbels’ words ringing in their ears, Ilse’s declarations of innocence are deliberately staged to appear implausible. Empathy with her fate is erased. However, even without Goebbels, the staging of the Witnesses had already produced the same critical effect through the more subtle sequencing device.

Nevertheless, Klata rounds off his ‘contextualisation’ emphatically. His audio intervention shifts from archival recordings to centre stage: his Yalta Chorus performs Joy Division’s ‘Transmission’, using the song’s chorus to underscore the view that Germans did ‘dance, dance, dance to the radio’.[25] The director’s rather brash audio interventions drown out critical engagement with the testimonies by overwhelming his subtle sequencing device. Differences in Germans’ opinions, memories, and experiences are smothered in a soundtrack of collective guilt. The Günthers and Hanne-Lores of Germany are lumped together with Ilse’s father and the Nazi high command.

Jan Klata rehearsing Transfer! in Wrocław. Photograph: Bartłomiej Sowa.

Jan Klata rehearsing Transfer! in Wrocław. Photograph: Bartłomiej Sowa.

Klata’s unequivocal interventions engendered some simplified critical responses to the performance, which actually ignore or even distort the Witnesses’ memories. This is best exemplified by Jacek Cieślak’s review in the respected Polish broadsheet Rzeczpospolita. Cieślak, an experienced critic, writes:

Without Klata reminding the audience through Goebbels’ speech, exposing the enthusiastic reception of plans for total war, not one German expellee would have admitted that Hitler’s actions had their families’ assent. At the time they silenced the facts about the millions murdered. Now they must think nostalgia for their haimat [sic] explains away their historical responsibility for concentration camps. They should listen to the opinion of a Polish deportee [i.e. Jan Charewicz – P.V.]: Germans suffered too. But they are themselves guilty, because they didn’t oppose Hitler.[26]

Cieślak’s review commits ‘systematic distortion’, reconstructing Witness testimonies according to expectations embedded in the dominant view of Germans held by particular generations of Poles.[27] Indeed, in Cieślak’s vision, Klata would have allowed the Witnesses to speak and then pounded them with Goebbels’ speech in order to trigger their corrected memories. Cieślak even revises the testimonies in order to satisfy his image of Germans. He writes, ominously, that ‘German hubris is rearing its head again’,[28] before adding:

Disdain for nations deemed inferior is again being revealed. This disdain was the foundation of the Nazi death machine. Even after the experiences of Auschwitz and Kolyma it seems that some expellees from Wrocław [Germans deported from Breslau – P.V.] still believe that for Polish displaced persons, more important than the lives of loved ones and a peaceful life in the Borderlands was the luxury of soaking in a post-German [poniemieckiej] bath.

Ignoring the fact that only one of the five Germans in Transfer! had any connection to Lower Silesia, Cieślak twists the testimony to reaffirm a Polish image of revanchist Germans unchanged and unrepentant since the Nazi era.[29] Cieślak omits to mention that it was Polish Witnesses themselves who expressed wonderment at baths and running water in their ‘post-German’ homes. Such facilities could only be dreamed of in the eastern Borderlands. Meanwhile, a Wrocław-based reviewer noted that Transfer!’s ‘Poles do not hide their admiration of Germans’ superior civilisation’.[30] Reading the performance with respect for the individual fates would reveal the obsolescence of Cieślak’s imagined German and this figure’s absence from the stage of Transfer!.[31] The reasons behind Cieślak’s numerous distortions are evident: Hanne-Lore and Günther, with their critical memories, endanger entrenched Polish images of Germans as unrepentant perpetrators and unjustified victims. And if this imagination of a revanchist neighbouring Other is disrupted, so is the Polish self-image of the ‘eternally innocent victim’, which depends on the permanence of an imagined, collectively ‘criminal’ German Other. Klata’s Chorus and Goebbels’ intervention uphold the engrained image of the German Other, along with resistance to a Polish Vergangenheitsbewältigung. Klata struggles to balance his roles as historian and director; as mediator between Polish and German memory and historical narratives. The subtle sequencing device was overwhelmed and the foundations for dialogue undermined.

4. Projections of Text

Another directorial focusing device involves the selection of citations from Witnesses’ testimonies for projection on a screen at the rear of the stage. Its most critical use accompanies Jan Charewicz’s memories of settling in Wrocław. He concludes a sequence of recollections of cohabitation that also involves Zygmunt Sobolewski and Karolina Kozak. In each case, cohabitation proved friendly, or at least amicable – spoiled only by Red Army officers or the communist order from above for Germans to leave Polish towns.

Jan Charewicz’s memory of cohabitation ends thus: ‘I returned home one afternoon and the Germans were gone… I don’t even know when they were taken away, I don’t know how, in what conditions’. Behind the platform the words ‘NIE WIEM’ appear – only in Polish, as if appealing directly to Polish spectators. Does the message implore Poles to challenge half-truths and omissions surrounding Germans’ fates? Perhaps the suggestion is that Transfer! remedies this ‘I don’t know’? It does not, of course. At least not in the case of the more than two million Germans who, following World War II, underwent official deportation under the auspices of ordinary Poles (the PUR colleagues of another of the Witnesses, Jan Kruczkowski) working in Poland’s Ziemie Odzyskane (Reclaimed or Recovered Territories), as they were known for some years after the war.[32] Transfer! also overlooks the ‘dzikie wysiedlenia’ (wild expulsions) committed by Polish migrants from Central Poland and by Soviet and Polish soldiers before the Potsdam-sanctioned ‘official’ deportations. Also ignored here are the szabrownictwo (looting) and robberies endured even during these official expulsions.

It is interesting to note that what is absent from Transfer! – in its representation and mediation of Polish living memory of forced migration and settling – parallels events that communist-era Polish censors had previously condemned to near-oblivion. As the historian Tomasz Szarota recalls of a visit to the censor’s office: ‘Information on the so-called “wild expulsions” of Germans in June and July 1945 was removed from my work […] as well as part of the information on looters active in the “Reclaimed Territories”’.[33] As Szarota states, however, only part of the information on looting was removed from the published version of his doctoral thesis.[34] Communist censors were – like Klata – sensitive to questions of national dignity.[35] However, they realised that so widespread was the looting of the formerly German, Jewish, and State property, that a historical work or collection of memoirs on the Polish resettlement that failed to mention this would appear obviously incomplete, and unfaithful to the memories held by ordinary people.

Hundreds of thousands of Poles, many belonging to the same generation as Transfer!’s Polish Witnesses, contributed to state-approved memoir competitions.[36] Tens of thousands of texts refer to the Reclaimed Territories, hundreds of which were selected and edited for publication in numerous volumes.[37] Taking just one example, the visibly censored four-volume series Wieś Polska 1939-1948 (Rural Poland 1939-1948): the memoirs were written in 1948 but only published in the late 1960s when they were compiled and edited by the historians Tomasz Szarota and Krystyna Kersten. This series contains at least thirty different memoirs involving looting.[38] Naturally, in these memoirs and other publications there are many expressions of anger and hatred towards Germans – expressions that are all the more intense the closer the memoir was written to the end of the war. Some communist-era memoirs do nonetheless include details of Germans’ escapes or deportations from Poland, including Polish misdeeds against Germans on the part of the authorities and of ordinary Poles.[39] Admittedly such narratives are rare, partly because further examples were cut from published texts by editors or were censored before publication. The communist authorities’ mediation from above of histories from below nevertheless left some traces of Polish misdeeds that caused German suffering, regardless of the implications for national identity of this fidelity to living memory.[40] However, the selection process of the creators of Transfer! seems geared towards presenting a monolithic memory of Polish innocence and tragic victimhood. The performance might therefore be treated primarily not as a document of Polish and German experiences of forced migration, but rather as a document of early twenty-first century Polish national memory or ‘usable past’, which displays symptoms of the strengthening of the ‘eternally innocent victim’ complex that was prevalent during the rise of Solidarity and the independence movement in the 1980s. At the same time, the selection process and staging of the performance ensures that Transfer! Documents Polish imagining of the German Other, rather than representing German historical consciousness.

Some critics, usually from the political Right, perceive Klata’s theatre as a threat to seemingly inviolable pillars of Polishness. Conversely, some liberal critics consider him a taboo-breaker and demytholgiser. Several of his works prior to Transfer! employed images taken from Polish national mythology, including the figure of Pope John Paul II, who features in Uśmiech grejpruta (Graperuit Smile; Wrocław, 2003),[41] Lochy Watykanu (The Vatican Cellars, after Gide; Wrocław, 2004), Fanta$y (Gdańsk, 2005), and Weź, przestań (Just Stop It; Warsaw, 2006). Meanwhile, imagery from Solidarity was employed in Klata’s version of Hamlet, entitled H. (staged in the Gdańsk shipyards, 2004)[42] and …córka Fizdejki (Fizdejko’s Daughter, after Witkacy’s Janulka, Daughter of Fizdejko; Wałbrzych, 2004). A reading of these works that foregrounds Klata’s reputation as the enfant terrible of Polish theatre or even the public face of the Polish theatre’s ‘New Left’,[43] might interpret Klata’s staged pile-up of images from the national pantheon as an attack on these values – sacrilegious or courageous depending on one’s standpoint. It is more probable, however, that Klata’s juxtaposition of national iconography and pop culture (in H., Hamlet’s father appears as a mounted Polish hussar transposed to the Gdańsk shipyard – the fount of Solidarity – while the nouveau riche H. is dressed in fencing gear, clutches a golf club, and is backed by music from the White Stripes) reveals him to be a realist of the early twenty-first century Polish theatre.

Klata depicts Polishness and Poland as torn between a mythologised and honourable past and a threatening, perhaps amoral, future.[44] This is particularly visible in Weź przestań and …córka Fizdejki. In the former, the conflicting realities of the contemporary Warsaw cityscape meet in an underground passage, ‘blessed by the blood of Polish martyrs’. The underclass and nouveau riche literally piss on Poland’s past, while praising the Pope and witnessing boy scouts paying homage to fallen heroes. Perhaps Klata’s personal image – he sports a Mohawk, often appears in military attire, and carries a rosary in his pocket – is expressive of his theatre’s conception of Polishness. His work becomes a document of the Polish ‘now’ – a non-existent moment, since Polishness is in flux, torn between the legacy of a gloriously tragic past and the fear of a future in which God, Honour, and Fatherland are denied their seemingly inviolable position. In Klata’s vision, the pursuit of wealth now overwrites these pillars of Polishness.

Jan Klata. Photograph: Bartłomiej Sowa.

Jan Klata. Photograph: Bartłomiej Sowa.

Klata’s adaptation of Witkacy’s Janulka, córka Fizdejki in Wałbrzych is perhaps his most explicit documentation of the disruption facing the Polish self-image. Premiering six months after Poland’s entry into the European Union, ‘neo-Teutonic knights’ emerge against the backdrop of Matejko’s epic painting The Battle of Grunwald, as agents for the Westernisation of Wałbrzych’s backward ‘Lithuanians’. The Neo-Teutons are haunted by the ghosts of their past – monsters in striped concentration camp uniforms – while the Polish-Lithuanians are haunted by their once glorious past, which looms over them in the form of Matejko’s images. However, as critic Tadeusz Nyczek highlights, rather than challenging or undermining Polish national mythology or the imagining of their western neighbour, such stereotypes are granted legitimacy in Klata’s performance. Nevertheless, it could be said Klata documented the current Polish national consciousness and the popular perception of Germans predominant at the time of Poland’s entry into the EU.[45] Klata’s reputation preceded him during work on Transfer!. Some critics, and even sections of the Polish political class, believed the so-called ‘enfant terrible’ of Polish theatre would attack what was sacred to Polish memory and provide ammunition for ‘revanchist’ German organisations, such as Erika Steinbach’s Bund der Vertriebenen (BdV: League of Expellees). In the end, those overcome by such concerns had nothing to fear, despite the best efforts of reviewers, including Jacek Cieślak, to detect a sense of German hubris or revanchism on the stage. In fairness, the creators may well have feared that staging memories of animosity – in an institutional theatre – might exacerbate current Polish-German divisions, especially given ongoing tensions over BdV, projects for a museum of expulsion, and fears over reparations.[46] Many German crimes against Poles are thus overlooked as well, such as the transportation of Poles to German camps or to undertake forced labour, torments suffering during the German invasion in 1939, the wartime appropriation of Polish homes by German officials, and the incursion into eastern Poland in 1941. These omissions may perhaps also serve to legitimise the exclusion of Polish misdeeds from the stage.[47]

In any case, it is clear that with so many omissions, it is difficult to consider Transfer! a foundation for dialogue, let alone deep reconciliation. Instead we see many examples of what Wóycicki calls ‘exceptional cases’:[48] ‘All the emotions attached to the departure of one’s home [Zuhause] and moving into another house [Haus] must be mentioned, described, and analysed. In order to write openly about suffering endured, we must also search for the “Righteous Ten”, i.e. we must find examples of sympathy for the neighbour’.[49]

Wóycicki calls for a fair balance between memories of animosity and the rarer cases of Polish-German compassion. He emphasises that ‘the cohabitation of Poles and Germans […] did not always take the form of conflict in the difficult immediate post-war period. […] Even if in the majority of cases this cohabitation was not harmonious, it is nevertheless worth documenting the exceptional cases’.[50] Indeed, reconciliation can benefit from showing examples of good Poles and good Germans, but it must be clear that these are exceptional cases requiring historical contextualisation. According to Paul Ricoeur, there is a form of ‘forgetting by avoidance (fuite)’ that is ‘the expression of bad faith and its strategy of evasion motivated by an obscure will not to inform oneself, not to investigate the harm done by the citizen’s environment, in short by a wanting-not-to-know’.[51] Klata’s failure to remedy Jan Charewicz’s ‘nie wiem’ reflects fuite: the conscious wanting-not-to-know of Polish national memory.

Although the gaps and omissions in Transfer! might exist because of the creators’ fear that recalling animosity would prove divisive, Ricoeur’s concept of the reserve of forgetting highlights an alternative approach, equally feasible in Klata’s theatrical form.[52] This reserve ensures that suffering and harm endured or perpetrated in the past can still be recalled after having been worked through deliberately and consciously. Following this process, the memories can be cast aside at the same time, since both sides maintain an awareness of the mutual significance that they hold. On this basis it is possible to proceed towards reconciliation and forgiveness. However, Transfer!, seeking to avoid controversy, employs fuite, omitting memories of actual suffering during forced migration while nevertheless emphasising the status of the Witnesses as victims. Of course, only the Polish victims in Transfer! are fully innocent. While some German Witnesses demonstrate a willingness to promote self-critical national memory, Transfer! emphasises their collective guilt in an attempt to preserve the established Polish image of Germans who must be reminded to carry with them the ghosts of those who fell victim to their nation. Polishness requires this unrepentant, forgetful Other to sustain national memory of the eternally innocent Polish victims.

While Transfer! seeks to teach the Germans a lesson about their past, Klata passionately defends Polish national memory when it is threatened by suggestions of Polish accountability for suffering. During a post-show discussion in Berlin, a German audience-member sought to contextualise Transfer!. She mentioned that Poland’s communist rulers, initially based in Lublin from July 1944, approved of the deportation of Germans. Klata’s reply was not, ‘indeed, that is in accordance with historical fact, but please remember that this government was imposed on the Poles and on Poland’. Instead, Klata shouted: ‘What are you getting at?! Because of the servants of that government, Mr Charewicz had to escape from the Borderlands to the Western Territories’.[53] Klata’s reply is symptomatic of the project as a whole: the complicity of Poles – albeit communists – in the deportations of Germans is contorted into a defence and assertion of Polish victimhood – this time at the hands of communists, those pariahs of the Polish imagined community. This episode highlights how Polish efforts to investigate forced migration and establish Polish-German dialogue are inherently bound up in difficulties with coming to terms with Poland’s communist past.

It might be argued that Transfer!’s representation of Polishness and the framing historical narrative emanating from the Yalta scenes derive from Klata’s upbringing in a family of Solidarity activists. His father was released from prison in 1986, when Klata was fourteen. Rafał Węgrzyniak believes that among twenty-first century works by the younger generation in institutional theatres ‘it was only Klata in Transfer! who vented Russophobic and anti-communist views, to the great disappointment of his left-wing supporters’.[54] Indeed, this device attempts to provide a shared foundation for Polish and German victimhood. ‘Left-wing’ critics, such as Łukasz Drewniak in Przekroj, critiqued Transfer! not for its anti-communism but for its polonocentric depiction of Polish and German forced migration. Certainly such polonocentrism could be a result of the Solidarity-inspired vision of Polishness. However, this polonocentric vision might also result from fears being stoked around the time of Transfer!’s creation concerning German ‘revanchism’.

Thus Klata’s unequivocal denial in Berlin of Polish co-responsibility for German suffering harmonises with statements by Dorota Arciszewska-Milewczyk, the PiS (Law and Justice Party) senator who wrote to Wrocław’s Teatr Wspołczesny in March 2006 asking to see the (at that point non-existent) script for Transfer!. Arciszewska-Milewczyk declared: ‘This process [‘the mass escape of German inhabitants of Wrocław towards the end of World War II’] is currently exploited instrumentally by German nationalist groups who declare to anyone who’ll listen that it was Poles who carried out the deportation of Germans’.[55] Any suggestion that Poles organised, participated in, and supported the deportation of Germans automatically classifies its author as sympathetic towards ‘German nationalists’. Klata and Arciszewska-Milewczyk demonstrate that the national self-image remains entrenched in stereotypes and binary oppositions of ‘us-them’ and ‘victim-perpetrator’, which thwart constructive dialogue.

Arciszewska-Milewczyk does not indicate who actually carried out the deportations – indeed her use of the term ucieczka (flight) even suggests that Germans may not have been compelled to leave. Klata shouts down any suggestion of Polish involvement. But in Transfer!, Jan Charewicz has found the guilty party, despite his earlier ‘I don’t know’: ‘The Germans are poor people, expelled just as we [Poles] were. They experienced the same things. I had nothing to return to. They left everything behind. But the Germans expelled Germans. Hitler.’ Saying this, he raises his arm in a Nazi salute. Evidently deportation is considered a just consequence of German aggression; whether Poles were involved is considered irrelevant, regardless of the production’s reconciliatory imperative. Similar ‘justifications’ were employed in communist-era studies of the ‘transfer’ of Germans, although even in such justifications Polish participation in the expulsion is explicit.[56] In Jan Charewicz’s testimony, Germans can be co-victims alongside Poles only if they accept collective guilt, taking absolute responsibility for the sufferings of both nations.

One German reviewer, however, refutes the collective guilt ascribed by Jan Charewicz and the staging of Transfer!. Berliner Zeitung’s Detlef Friedrich agrees with Jan’s statements (and thus acknowledges Polish victimhood) with the exception of the latter’s final sentence: ‘Germans expelled Germans’. In drawing attention to Polish omissions of responsibility, Friedrich in fact omits Jan’s final word: ‘Hitler’.[57] Friedrich thus presents the statement as Polish denial rather than attempted historicisation. While focusing on Polish responsibility, Friedrich decontextualises (or forgets) Germans’ responsibility for voting in Hitler, which ultimately produced the conditions for forced migration. Wóycicki’s principle is not fulfilled, and Klata’s sense of German denial or ahistoricism is satisfied by this review. When neighbouring Others’ declarations of innocence are most pronounced, both Poles and Germans resort to denials and mutual declarations of guilt. The limits to a reconciliation founded on a forgetting-by-avoidance thus become evident.

Another German reviewer, Die Welt’s Gerhard Gnauck, demonstrates that respected German media can also be immune to Vergangenheitsbewältigung, promoting an uncritical victims’ discourse. ‘In peaceful Silesian and Pomeranian villages’, he announces, ‘the 1945 expulsions came like a bolt from the blue, devoid of any context [wie ein kontextloser Blitz aus heiterem Himmel]’.[58] (Gnauck’s evocation of a ‘Blitz’, immediately calls to mind the term ‘Blitzkrieg’.) While these areas had seen little fighting, these events did not emerge in a vacuum. Gnauck ignores testimonies such as Hanne-Lore’s Pomeranian family memories, which contextualise the deportations: they resulted not only from Red Army aggression or Polish lust for revenge, but also from Germans’ blind faith in the Führer. Obviously, Vergangenheitsbewältigung has not permeated all sections of German media and society. Lacking consideration of the Witnesses’ individual fates, Klata and several German and Polish reviewers employ falsifications, distortions, and omissions in defending the dignity of their imagined communities’ memory – hence the urge to manipulate rather than contemplate the testimonies. After all, media pronouncements on Transfer! reach larger audiences than the performance itself, and incorrect or distorted assertions regarding the performance are thus unlikely to be rectified among the wider public. Of course, manipulation and unbalanced historical framing of forced migration is not limited to media statements, but is also inherent to the structure of the performance.

5. Responsibility, Higher Powers, and Yalta

The memories of fortified Breslau (Festung Breslau) of another witness, Angela Hubrich, are clearly presented within the context of the war, Nazism, and German crimes – both against other nations and eventually their compatriots. In Angela’s case, it is legitimate to ascribe responsibility to higher powers. The Nazi authorities’ order to evacuate the city’s women, children, and elderly came too late, leaving many to shelter within the besieged city.

Angela’s testimony is often sequenced in parallel to that of the Pole Karolina Kozak. For example, the women’s remembrances of losing their fathers are juxtaposed and the theme of cemeteries is intertwined. Karolina mentions Germans returning today to her village outside Wrocław: ‘What they find most difficult to come to terms with is that the cemeteries were destroyed. It was the state that ordered the destruction’. Indeed the state might have ordered the cemeteries’ destruction – but individuals had to carry it out. Ordinary Poles, perhaps? Possibly even without state impetus? Polish national memory often projects responsibility onto impersonal or communist ‘higher powers’, thus denying a wider responsibility. Karolina’s statement immediately precedes Angela’s memories of visiting her sister’s grave during the war. Angela has since returned to the spot, now a children’s playground. ‘A nice place’, she says. This is a remarkably reconciliatory stance – all the more so against a background of Polish transferral of responsibility.

The Witnesses in Transfer!: Karolina Kozak (foreground); in the background, from left to right: Matthias Göritz, Jan Kruczkowski, Jan Charewicz, and Zygmunt Sobolewski. Photograph: Bartłomiej Sowa.

The Witnesses in Transfer!: Karolina Kozak (foreground); in the background, from left to right: Matthias Göritz, Jan Kruczkowski, Jan Charewicz, and Zygmunt Sobolewski. Photograph: Bartłomiej Sowa.

Does Klata’s sequencing have critical intent – condemning Poles’ destruction of German cemeteries? Does he intend that Poles recognise German forgiveness, or is the role of the communist state emphasised to ensure that Polish actions are depersonalised, denationalised, and thus forgivable? Given Klata’s reaction in Berlin, I would suggest that the second is the much more likely interpretation. However, this means that directorial interventions against Poles and Germans are evidently unequal. Germans’ attempts to transfer responsibility to higher powers (what Ilse calls ‘the system’) are subjected to Klata’s alienation effects, while those of the Poles (Karolina’s ‘communist state’) are not. Transfer!’s Polish director dictates the conditions of the reconciliatory imperative – the main basis for ‘reconciliation’ is in creating common, impersonal enemy-perpetrators: namely Russians, communists, Nazis, but above all, the perpetrators of the Yalta ‘betrayal’.

Polish cultural mythology is reinforced by Transfer!’s obsessive focus on Yalta, an event fundamental to Polish collective memories of World War II and communism, and thus to constructions of national identity. Often it forms the limit of popular historical consciousness.[59] Hajnicz demonstrates the centrality of the Yalta ‘betrayal’ to a Polish usable past:

I do not believe the shifting of Polish territory and the expulsions – here I shall commit terrible heresy – were a consequence of the Yalta conference. The Yalta agreements were just one part of the whole war. To speak of the Yalta ‘betrayal’ is a huge simplification, although Polish and German public opinion subscribes to this view. In such an approach I perceive attempts to consider history selectively and from a specific national standpoint, in accordance with social feelings. […] The participants of the Yalta and Potsdam conferences were not demiurges who could shape the war or the execution and outcome of military campaigns at will.[60]

Marcin Hałas’s review of Transfer! in Gazeta Polska demonstrates the accuracy of Hajnicz’s description of his thesis on Yalta as ‘heretical’. Hałas asserts:

Somewhere in politicians’ declarations an indisputable truth was inscribed: the fates of Poles and Germans cannot be measured against each other. The first are victims, the others – to use a quotation from an entirely different context [zupełnie skądinąd] – brought about their own fate [sami sobie zgotowali swój los].[61]

Hałas is certain of historical truth, despite its clearly mythical origins. Evidently conscious of the potential of private memory to rupture established identities of ‘eternally innocent victimhood’, Hałas consequently dismisses it. But in his defensiveness, he mistakes Klata’s grotesque-ironic presentation of the leaders for an attack on the Yalta betrayal myth and ‘the indisputable truth’ upholding Polish national memory: ‘...statements concerning historical truth come from the mouths of actors playing the Big Three in a cabaret-style. Trivial [drobne] extracts from individual fates come from people who experienced the events. But they, of course, are more believable’.[62]

The ‘Big Three’: Churchill (Wiesław Cichy), Stalin (played here by Przemysław Bluszcz; also by Wojciech Ziemiański), and Roosevelt (Zdzisław Kuźniar). Photograph: Bartłomiej Sowa.

The ‘Big Three’: Churchill (Wiesław Cichy), Stalin (played here by Przemysław Bluszcz; also by Wojciech Ziemiański), and Roosevelt (Zdzisław Kuźniar). Photograph: Bartłomiej Sowa.

In contrast, I would suggest that the Big Three’s foolish facade actually makes them appear more demiurgic or ‘divinely omnipotent’. Transfer!’s opening scene sees them playing Joy Division’s ‘Day of the Lords’ – the title of which gives some indication as to Klata’s intentions. The Witnesses then speak at once, representing the cacophony of the memory boom on forced migration. Although Klata respects their individual fates by granting them space to present their testimonies, the opening scene asserts Klata’s authority over the historical contextualisation. Stalin, the most demiurgic of the Yalta trinity, rises up, commands the Witnesses to be silent, and shouts ‘AWAY!’, ordering them backstage. We might interpret the Witnesses’ subsequent reappearance as a rebellion of the survivors, a symbolic act of vengeance against their chief tormentor. However, this scene, and the mise-en-scène in general, emphasises the centrality of Klata’s Big Three and the indisputable authority of the historical vision that frames the coming testimonies. The scene continues with details of Stalin’s duplicity and the leaders’ indifference towards the individual fates – expressed, it seems, exclusively at Yalta. This leaves no doubt as to the Big Three’s responsibility for forced migration, an assertion that frames the entire performance and its reconciliatory imperative. We can take Klata’s word for this; this is his reading of Yalta, justifying the inclusion of these scenes in the production:

At the table at Yalta millions of people were moved from one end of the continent to the other by means of three matches. For me it is terribly important to contrast the human realities of the fates of those below with the divine omnipotence of those above. They didn’t even have a proper map of Poland when deciding the borders. Someone ripped out a map from Life magazine; that was their entire documentation. Churchill showed Stalin his proposal for shifting Poland’s borders using three matches. That is why we want to show Yalta in the convention of the grotesque.[63]

Obviously, Yalta also shifted German borders, although Klata’s polonocentric historical vision can appear to overlook this. While Klata prevents German Witnesses from ‘manipulating’ historical fact, he has no qualms about doing so himself in the Yalta scenes – blurring fact, reportage, citation, and fiction. Perhaps this makes the grotesque scenes appear all the more realistic, in that it documents the construction of contemporary Polish popular historical consciousness: a mishmash of fact, fiction, reportage, rumour, and stereotypes. The scene with Churchill’s matchsticks is actually a verbatim citation from Churchill’s work, The Second World War, Volume Five:

Stalin said the Russians did not want anything belonging to other people, although they might have a bite at Germany. Eden said that what Poland lost in the east she might gain in the west. Stalin replied that she possibly might, but he did not know. I then demonstrated with the help of three matches my idea of Poland moving westwards. This pleased Stalin, and on this note our group parted for the moment.[64]

The matchsticks are actually from the Tripartite conference in Teheran, in 1943. At Yalta, as Churchill writes in Volume Six, he had an entire map room.[65] So why present the Big Three exclusively at Yalta? Appealing to the conception of this event embedded in Polish national memory reinforces the mythology of Polish victimhood and betrayal by the West – Stalin’s willing collaborators. Halina Filipowicz considers that ‘Poles still nourish a collective memory of having suffered unjustly, of having been betrayed by the West, of having been victimized by history. Without the myth of victimization, who are we?’[66] Klata presents Polish national memory as the foundation for a Polish-German community of victims. He privileges Polish memory and thus disregards German Witnesses’ attempts to combine victims’ and perpetrators’ discourses, linking family, private, and national memories with official, political, or historical discourses.

It seems that Marcin Hałas really had nothing to fear – while the Witnesses’ memories apparently take centre stage in Transfer!, the project in fact foregrounds the polonocentric historical narrative, which limits responsibility to demagogic, treacherous, non-Polish politicians and impersonal events. This restricts the potential for dialogue and consequently reconciliation. To recall the words of Hajnicz: ‘Engaging in dialogue requires not only historical judgements as to the causes and circumstances of expulsions, but also moral judgements regarding individual responsibility. It demands reconsideration of one’s attitudes, and revisions to the self-image to which we are attached’.[67] This must surely apply to cultural efforts towards dialogue, as well as to academic, historical, or political endeavours. Transfer! might have achieved greater success in these respects without the polonocentric Big Three and other audiovisual interventions, and with greater attention to the individual fates that contextualised the experiences of forced migration.

If it was the intention that Transfer! should appeal to a Polish audience of repatriants and deportees, then, of course, the use of the Yalta narratives is theatrically justified. However, Transfer! also has German and other international audiences with which to contend.[68] In each country it also seeks to appeal to younger audiences – younger even than Klata’s generation. While using Joy Division and political cabaret might seem appealing,[69] sections of the younger generation of Poles, let alone foreign audiences, will find it difficult to accept uncritically the content of Klata’s historico-political framing device, the Yalta Chorus.

Roman Pawłowski suggests Klata’s theatre of memory evokes Tadeusz Kantor’s Theatre of Death.[70] Modestly, Klata repeated this opinion for the benefit of those present in Berlin. However, Klata’s Transfer! bears greater resemblance to Brechtian epic theatre: the alienation effect, achieved through lay performers, songs, pauses for contemplation, and the Yalta Chorus commentary, allows audiences to critique what appears on stage. But, as in Brecht’s epic theatre, the director’s interpretation of justice and socio-historical reality shapes the critique and conclusions. Della Pollock, examining relations of performance and history, states:

The potentially combustive effect of dialogue is fuelled by the irony that the harder one tries to engage an ‘other’ in appreciation of a singular point of view, the more subject one’s own point of view is to transformation by the ‘other’. The effort to change an-other in and through dialogue redounds to the speaking self. The speaker who expresses her agency in the act of claiming rights and access to language use thus becomes the agent of her own transformation. Of course, monologue may be and usually is asserted at the expense of dialogue. A speaker or speakers may simply deny or refuse the reciprocations of ‘otherness’.[71]

Like Hajnicz, Pollock presents an ideal-type dialogue, possibly resulting in revisions of the self-image. However, Transfer!’s mechanisms of authority ensure that Klata’s vision appropriates centre-stage. While intra-national dialogue between the German Witnesses is constructed by Klata, the Poles and Germans together form a mosaic of monologues within the director’s broader framework around Yalta. Klata’s epic theatre leaves little middle ground, permitting only acceptance or rejection: either the polonocentric reconciliatory imperative and its historical framework are accepted, or reconciliation fails and divisions remain. And Germans can be blamed for this since they fail to appreciate what for many Poles is a self-evident, indisputable historical ‘truth’.

6. Conclusion

Transfer! fails to build upon the foundations for Polish-German dialogue laid over forty years ago by the exchange of letters between Polish and German Bishops. Padraic Kenney describes the Bishops’ exchange thus: ‘The goal of this lesson in history was not to remember but to forgive by putting aside; and Polish suffering was offered as the basis for reconciliation’.[72] In the same way, Transfer! privileges Polish suffering, while forgetting, or avoiding, details of perpetration. Although the Polish Bishops’ 1965 letter stating ‘udzielamy wybaczenia i prosimy o nie’ (we offer forgiveness and ask for the same)[73] was undeniably bold in the climate of communist Poland, it is necessary today, in an increasingly open Europe, to confront details of the nation’s misdeeds, given their persistent presence in the neighbouring Other’s memory. A blanket offer of ‘forget and forgive’ will not engender reconciliation. Consequently, the ‘reconciliation’ willed by so many Polish reviewers of Transfer! is limited to the symbolic gesture of a shared stage. Bartosz Wieliński goes even further than most in claiming that the Witnesses ‘forgive’ each other on stage.[74] As with the Bishops’ letter, we must ask of Transfer!: What is being forgiven? Who forgives whom? Is one victim forgiving another? One nation another? Who were the perpetrators?

The production’s most effective scene, in terms of a symbolic reconciliation achieved by staging ‘exceptional cases’, is Zygmunt Sobolewski’s recollection of sharing Christmas with the German Teisler family. The two families cohabited in Wrocław/Breslau. Their shared Christian heritage, despite differences in national traditions, reveals a reconciliatory potential. The Germans begin singing ‘Stille Nacht’ and the Poles join in with ‘Cicha noc’ – differing words harmonising to the same melody (‘Silent Night’). With minimal intervention from the director, the Witnesses take centre stage in this highly effective staging of symbolic reconciliation.

Zygmunt Sobolewski in Transfer!. Photograph: Bartłomiej Sowa.

Zygmunt Sobolewski in Transfer!. Photograph: Bartłomiej Sowa.

Yet this scene, along with many others, was cut from the revised version of Transfer! following Günther’s departure from the project in summer 2007, despite him not featuring in the scene. Why? The Christmas scene had been preceded by Günther challenging Poles and Germans over their neglect of their hybrid, shared heritage. He criticises both nations’ resistance to examining challenging but potentially reconciliatory histories and spaces, now shared in the memories of their German and Polish inhabitants. In order to realise the reconciliatory potential of ‘exceptional cases’ they must be balanced by a critical self-perception, open to the challenge posed by confronting the Other’s perception of ‘us’.

To some extent, Transfer! documents Polish efforts to come to terms with the consequences of the Europeanisation of memory. Greater contact with Germans will inevitably trouble efforts to reaffirm entrenched Polish images of Germans, which is something that Klata also sensed in …córka Fizdejki. The staging mechanisms in Transfer! may even suggest a model for future cultural efforts towards dialogue. The sequencing device in particular indicates a theatrical form engendering self-critical approaches to national memory and identity. Unfortunately, this was applied only to the German Witnesses’ testimony, overwriting the potential self-critical reciprocations of otherness engendered by dialogue. Klata presents a monolithic vision of the Polish national memory of the Transfer! generation. It is staged as a harmonic, multi-vocal narrative of the nation’s heroically tragic past, free of contestation.

Nevertheless, in Transfer! spectators witness the struggles of Polish national memory – as mediated for popular consumption – to satisfy its domestic and international public. For primarily domestic audiences of other productions, Klata was prepared to subject certain apparently inviolable pillars of Polishness to his grotesque-ironic treatment, and to question them even if they eventually emerged unscathed. This international production leaves the grotesque-ironic treatment of Yalta inviolate, and this trope of national historical consciousness is actually reaffirmed.

Foreign audiences might be suspected of having ‘forgotten’ Polish victimhood in the light of recently well-publicised controversies surrounding Polish-Jewish relations, such as Jedwabne and Kielce.[75] Indeed, Transfer! features a powerful scene highlighting Poles’ less-than-innocent behaviour towards Jews during the war. Zygmunt Sobolewski witnessed a Ukrainian woman and a Pole, his friend’s mother, fighting over a quilt looted from the home of a Jewish family captured by Ukrainian police under German authority. The quilt rips apart in the struggle. From above the front of the stage drift feathers, covering the soil laid on the stage floor. That Sobolewski knew the Polish woman indicates the inseparability of Jewish suffering from the wartime memories of eastern Poles. It was impossible not to be a witness. Sobolewski also observed the Jewish ghetto’s liquidation in his hometown, Borszczów (Borshchiv). Klata’s symbolic intervention highlighting Poles’ partial responsibility for Jews’ suffering – Ukrainians, alongside Germans, bear a large share of the blame in this testimony – challenges the national self-image of eternally innocent victims. We might argue that as a result of Jan T. Gross’ studies, Neighbors and Fear, there is now a generally widespread knowledge and recognition in Poland of Polish misdeeds regarding Polish-Jewish relations, as well as an awareness that the Holocaust shapes foreigners’ perceptions of Polish war stories. This scene shows the world that Poles can be repentant and sensitive to Jewish suffering, caused in part by Poles.

However, the fact that such sensitivity is not revealed in the field of Polish-German relations in a performance dedicated to forced migration raises intriguing questions. Is Transfer! dominated by the need to satisfy a domestic audience? Polish guilt regarding German suffering would likely have led to a domestic backlash against the production, whereas if a German backlash were to emerge, Klata has structured Transfer! such that it can be used as evidence for a lack of contrition in German national memory. While a precedent exists for a nascent popular Polish Vergangenheitsbewältigung in questions of Polish-Jewish relations, which Transfer! follows, popular Polish attitudes towards German suffering have been primarily defensive, reiterating a monologue of Polish victimhood, without any self-transformation. Transfer! follows this precedent too, and is not pioneering in terms of building German-Polish reconciliation. As Confino and Fritzsche state, ‘the idea of [Vergangenheitsbewältigung] is so open-ended that no matter how German society confronts it, there will always be people who can say this is not enough’.[76] Regardless of the German Witnesses’ self-critical testimonies, the director’s theatrical devices and historical narrative ensure the perpetuation of traditional images of Germans together with existing boundaries of Polish-German victimhood and perpetration.

It thus becomes evident why no young Pole prepared to confront the ‘blemishes’ of Polish memory appears on stage. However, Matthias Göritz, in his late thirties, represents the younger generations of Germans who inherit the legacy of forced migration through family memories while growing up in a climate of ‘official’, or politicised, Vergangenheitsbewältigung. Towards the end of the performance Matthias echoes Günther (and perhaps even Jan Charewicz?) in asserting: ‘Germans lost their Heimat because of a yearning for Heimat. Germans only have themselves to blame… It is only possible to have a home now if we confront the past’. An admission of national, and consequently personal, moral responsibility could not be more explicit. And yet, many Polish reviewers grasped the opportunities granted by Klata’s interventions and the staging of Yalta to affirm their image of unrepentant Germans, regardless of individual fates. Since this was a common practice, committed unconsciously or otherwise by several reviewers, it is necessary to conclude that Klata’s Yalta scenes are the primary source of Transfer!’s failings, assuming that his intentions to ‘respect the individual fates’ and contribute to reconciliation were genuine.

Transfer!’s epilogue – absent from the television version – sees Hanne-Lore emerge alone on stage, the Big Three having departed. Hanne-Lore has apparently forgotten the name of the BdV president, Erika Steinbach: ‘Steinwald… Steinbaum… Schwein… ach, egal!’, she says and leaves the stage. ‘Egal?’ is then projected onto the wall behind the stage. The projection asks – only in German, thus the question addresses primarily one section of the audience – is everyone ‘Indifferent?’ to institutions and authorities overwriting ordinary people’s experiences? And – implicitly – are Germans sensitive to the Polish standpoint, namely Polish fears of revanchism, the prism through which an organised discourse of German victims is most commonly perceived?[77] What Klata’s appeal for understanding to the German audience overlooks is that a politicised expulsion discourse has always run alongside other, more critical discourses in Germany. However, the politicised discourse is now arguably less influential than in the past when, for example, the GB/BHE[78] was part of West Germany’s ruling coalition (1953-1957). Nevertheless, Polish imagination foregrounds this politicised aspect of German memory and identity. As long as Germans are imagined in this way, the resistance of Poles towards engaging with their own past is granted a sense of legitimation. Klata ensures we depart the auditorium with this image of Germans, leaving Polishness inviolate. In a remarkable coup, Klata even has Hanne-Lore perform for him this polonocentric imagining of Germans.

There is no Polish Matthias because Polish national memory of forced migration maintains ‘dignity’ by resisting historical awareness of victimhood and perpetration, while constantly calling on Germans to openly confront their past and simultaneously ignoring German efforts to do so. Hence the national obsession with Steinbach. As Polish historian Maria Podlasek suggests, Polish ‘national memory resists accepting facts which do not necessarily present us – the Poles – in a good light’.[79] Thus Polish family memories, as presented here, rarely stray beyond national martyrology, a combination of heroism and victimhood. For many, at least while the image of revanchist Germans can be presented to appear feasible, no controversies exist with which it is necessary to come to terms. The need for a Polish Matthias cannot be imagined – regardless of Matthew 7: 3-5. As Hajnicz states, ‘Even if we consider the expulsions, from a Polish point of view, a necessary evil, we certainly cannot be indifferent to the manner in which they were carried out’.[80] And until details of individual responsibility enter the popular consciousness (to which Transfer! undoubtedly appeals), deep Polish-German reconciliation remains limited to symbolic gestures. Again, in Hajnicz’s words: ‘I cannot offer forgiveness if I consider myself absolutely innocent or incapable of evil’.[81]

There is little evidence in Transfer! itself, or in many Polish media reactions towards it, to suggest that a remedy for the ‘eternally innocent victim’ complex is being widely sought. As a character in Klata’s earlier Polish-German performance …córka Fizdejki says: ‘The skeleton in the cupboard will always come out and ruin the ball of mutual forgiveness’.[82] Klata, however, holds the keys to the cupboard containing Transfer!’s skeletons, meaning the ball of mutual forgiveness continues – with even the German Witnesses dancing to Klata’s Polish tune, played by Stalin on bass, Churchill on guitar, and Roosevelt on keyboards. Klata, meanwhile, controls the vocals.


  1. ^ This article is a revised and extended version of ‘The Staging of Family Memories of Forced Migration in Jan Klata’s Transfer!’, in Rodzina-Pamięć-Tożsamość/Family-Identity-Memory, ed. by Maria Kujawska, Izabela Skórzyńska, and Grażyna Teusz (Poznań: WSNHiD, 2009), pp. 171-96. My sincere thanks to Dr Elwira Grossman of Glasgow University for her critical and inspiring thoughts, supervision, and support during two years’ work on, among many topics, Polishness, theatre, and Transfer!; Dr John Bates of Glasgow University for his insightful assistance and remarks on earlier versions of this paper, on censorship, communist Poland, and Polish-German relations; Dr Magdalena Gołaczyńska of Wrocław University for the inspiring exchanges on Transfer! and encouraging me to engage critically with Wrocław theatre; Sebastian Majewski for taking me behind the scenes of Transfer!. Thanks also to the organisers and participants of the ‘Family, Identity, Memory’ conference in Poznań at the Adam Mickiewicz University and the School for Humanities and Journalism (WSNHiD) in October 2008 for their perceptive remarks on my presentation. I also express my gratitude to the editors and reviewers on the board of PTP for their constructive critical reading of earlier drafts of this paper.
  2. ^ Although Transfer! focuses on the period at the end of the war, both Poland and Germany had been subject to involuntary population movements throughout and after the conflict. The Potsdam Conference of July 1945 officially placed former German lands in Pomerania, Silesia, the Oder-Neisse region, and part of East Prussia under Polish administration. Earlier, the Soviet Union had effectively annexed western Ukraine, western Belarus, and part of Lithuania from Polish control in 1939 and then again in 1944, during the Soviet advance west. Some of the German population of lands ceded to Poland fled as the Red Army encroached, while others were subsequently deported when they attempted to return home to the then-occupied territories. Some Germans were subject to so-called ‘wild expulsions’ [wilde Vertreibungen/dzikie wysiedlenia] prior to the deportations officially sanctioned by the Potsdam Agreement. From 1943 onwards, many Poles escaping ethnic conflict – primarily in western Ukraine – found themselves within the territory designated by today’s Polish borders. Others arrived in Poland in official transportations from the eastern Borderlands (Kresy) between 1945 and 1949, or made their way back to the ‘new’ Poland from further afield, including Siberia, Kazakhstan, and the United Kingdom. A number of Poles also found themselves within the new Polish borders because they had been working as forced labourers in German industry or on German farms, or interned in German prison camps situated within these territories.
  3. ^ Churchill is played by Wiesław Cichy, Stalin by Przemysław Bluszcz or Wojciech Ziemiański, and Roosevelt by Zdzisław Kuźniar.
  4. ^ The Poles are Jan Charewicz, Karolina Kozak, Jan Kruczkowski, Zygmunt Sobolewski, and Andrzej Ursyn Szantyr. The older Germans are Ilse Bode, Angela Hubrich, Günther Linke, and Hanne-Lore Pretzsch. Matthias Göritz is the younger German. In this article I examine the original version of Transfer!, which featured Günther Linke until he quit the project in summer 2007. He was replaced by Dietrich Garbrecht, who spent the war in Posen/Poznań and now lives in Hamburg. This personnel change significantly altered the structure and content of the performance. The latter version was filmed for Polish television and broadcast on TVP Kultura in December 2008; it is also available online, published by Narodowy Instytut Audiowizualny, at <>. This paper consequently refers to a version of the performance that is no longer performed, even though Transfer! continues to tour around Europe – most recently in Lyon (September 2009). (For more on the forced migrations and the Polish Ziemie Odzyskane (Recovered or Reclaimed Territories), see also Elżbieta Matynia, ‘Between the Local and the Global’, elsewhere in this volume (pp. 355-362 of the print edition). Eds.)
  5. ^ Timothy Snyder, ‘Memory of sovereignty and sovereignty over memory: Poland, Lithuania and Ukraine, 1939- 1999’, in Memory and Power in Post-War Europe: Studies in the Presence of the Past, ed. by Jan Werner-Müller (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2002), pp. 39-58 (p. 55).
  6. ^ Wieliński writes, ‘Perhaps Transfer! is too politically correct, smoothing out the Polish-German past, subordinating it to the reconciliatory imperative?’ Bartosz T. Wieliński, ‘Pojednanie na berlińskiej scenie’ (Reconciliation on the Berlin stage), Gazeta Wyborcza, 22 January 2007 <> [accessed 20 August 2007]. All translations are my own unless otherwise stated – P. V.
  7. ^ Kazimierz Wóycicki, ‘Belka i oko’, in Kompleks wypędzenia (The Expulsion Complex), ed. by Włodzimierz Borodziej and Artur Hajnicz (Kraków: Znak, 1998), pp. 45-57 (p. 50).
  8. ^ Matthew 7: 3-5: ‘Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, “Let me take the speck out of your eye”, when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye’.
  9. ^ ‘Evil done unto us, even the greatest evil, is not and cannot be a justification of evil which we have done unto others. The eviction of people from their homes can be, at most, a lesser evil – and never something good. […] Evil is evil, and never good, even if it is a lesser and unavoidable evil. It is a tough choice: either one wants to be a Christian or not…’ Jan Józef Lipski, ‘Dwie Ojczyzny, Dwa Patriotyzmy’ (1981) < kraj/1,75688,3640733.html?as=1&ias=4&startsz=x> [accessed 24 October 2008].
  10. ^ Lipski, ‘Dwie ojczyzny’, translated as: ‘Two Fatherlands, Two Patriotisms’, in Between East and West: Writings from Kultura, ed. and trans. by Robert Kostrzewa (New York: Hill & Wang, 1990), pp. 52-71 (p. 53). The published English translation is somewhat altered from the original, omitting Lipski’s numerous examples of events silenced in Polish history and instead providing a summary of his arguments.
  11. ^ Klaus Bachmann and Artur Hajnicz, in an exchange of views in the Polish broadsheet Rzeczpospolita, illustrate the potential of historical discourse to approach dialogue by working through the historico-political and individual levels of responsibility. See: Bachmann, ‘Przeprosić za wypędzenie?’ (To Apologise for Expulsion?), Rzeczpospolita, 22-23 July 1995, and Hajnicz, ‘Zbrodnia i kara’ (Crime and Punishment), Rzeczpospolita, 26 July 1995. Reprinted in German in Verlorene Heimat: Die Vertreibungsdebatte in Polen (Lost Homeland: the Expulsion Debate in Poland), ed. by Bachmann and Kranz (Bonn: Bouvier, 1998), pp. 147-57.
  12. ^ Artur Hajnicz, ‘Dialog: założenia, obawy, oczekiwania’ (Dialogue: Principles, Fears, Expectations), in Kompleks wypędzenia, ed. by Borodziej and Hajnicz, pp. 22-44 (p. 38).
  13. ^ Hajnicz, ‘Dialog’, p. 43.
  14. ^ Alon Confino and Peter Fritzsche, ‘Introduction’, in The Work of Memory: New directions in the study of German society and culture, ed. by Confino and Fritszche (Urbana, Il.: University of Illinois Press, 2002) [unpaginated ebook; available at: <>].
  15. ^ Jan Klata, ‘Pojedyncze losy’ (Individual Fates), Tygodnik Powszechny, 1 December 2006 <,1375901,dzial.html> [accessed 24 June 2007]. The original version of Klata’s essay was published in a German journal: ‘Wollt Ihr den totalen Krieg oder Im Kreuzefeuer der Geschichte’ (Do You Want Total War, or: Caught in the Crossfire of History), Theater der Zeit, 10 (2006), 26-27.
  16. ^ Klata, ‘Pojedyncze losy’.
  17. ^ Klata, ‘Pojedyncze losy’: ‘We are fully aware of the historical context of flight and expulsion: Hitler, together with the Nazi Party, was chosen in free elections, achieving particularly high levels of support in Lower Silesian constituencies. During our research into the subject and our conversations with the German witnesses most of them either refused or were unable to talk about responsibility for the historical situation in that period. They preferred instead to concentrate on the period of escape and expulsion. […] Many Germans, when confronted with questions about their own or their parents’ party membership or voting preferences, reply, “my parents were not interested in politics” or “everyone had to” or “of course my father was a soldier, but he was just an ordinary soldier and had to carry out orders”. Here we encounter the fundamental problem involved in approaching various versions of historical events. Should we accept them without question? In my view that would be a manipulation of history. Or should we correct them through the historical context?’
  18. ^ The projections were removed from the later version of Transfer!.
  19. ^ It is the 1968 generation, with whom Hanne-Lore sympathised, that is credited with beginning the process of Vergangenheitsbewältigung, ensuring that critical national memory entered public and private discourses. But, as Ruth Wittlinger indicates, ‘in terms of dealing with the Nazi past, it needs to be stressed that the changes had started to occur earlier’, and with differing intentions from sections of the more radical 1968 generation, which culminated in the Rote Armee Faction. Ruth Wittlinger, ‘Taboo or Tradition? The “Germans as Victims” Theme in the Federal Republic until the mid-1990s’, in Germans as Victims: Remembering the Past in Contemporary Germany, ed. by Bill Niven (Basingstoke and New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2006) pp. 62-75, (p. 68).
  20. ^ Although this labourer is mentioned in the first version and its programme, he seems to be absent from the second version.
  21. ^ For more on this metaphor, see Robert G. Moeller, War Stories: The Search for a Usable Past in the Federal Republic of Germany (Berkeley, Los Angeles, and London: University of California Press, 2001), pp. 7 and 65-70.
  22. ^ Stefan Berger illustrates that with the strengthening of the perpetrators’ discourse in the 1970s, a spate of Wehrmacht memoirs appeared. These ‘depicted the German soldiers as tragic victims of Hitler and the Nazis, fulfilling their duty to the fatherland whilst being misled by a demonic Führer. Germans could be proud of their military achievements and remember their own suffering’. Stefan Berger, ‘On Taboos, Traumas and Other Myths: Why the Debate about the German Victims of the Second World War is not a Historians’ Controversy’, in Germans as Victims, pp. 210-224 (p. 213).
  23. ^ Dorothee Wierling, ‘Generations and Generational Conflicts in East and West Germany’, in The Divided Past: Rewriting Post-War German History, ed. by Christopher Kleßmann (Oxford and New York: Berg, 2001), pp. 69-89 (p. 84).
  24. ^ Klata, ‘Pojedyncze losy’. The televised version indicates that Goebbels’ speech remains in Transfer!’s revised version, but it has been toned down. Goebbels asks only about a ‘final victory’ and not ‘total war’. Nevertheless, the crowd is still enthusiastic and Ilse remains troubled by the ‘evidence’ of collective guilt provided by the director.
  25. ^ Joy Division, ‘Transmission’, single, (Factory Records: 1979); also available on the compilation album Substance (Factory Records: 1988).
  26. ^ Jacek Cieślak, ‘Spektakl o wojennych krzywdach wypędzonych’ (A Performance about the Wartime Sufferings of Expellees), Rzeczpospolita, 21 November 2006 <> [accessed 20 August 2007].
  27. ^ The concept of ‘systematic distortion’ comes from James V. Wertsch, Voices of Collective Remembering (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2002), p. 9.
  28. ^ ‘Znowu daje o sobie znać niemiecka pycha’.
  29. ^ Only one German Witness, Angela Hubrich, is from Breslau/Wrocław. Günther was born and raised in Łódź. Hanne-Lore lived in Stolp/Słupsk, Pomerania. Ilse ended up somewhere in central Poland during the war and was probably from Berlin originally. Matthias Göritz’ family was from the Memelland, now in Lithuania. The regular insistence by the Polish press and Klata that Transfer! is essentially about people who moved into and out of the same space (Lower Silesia or Wrocław/Breslau) seems to be something of a mystification which indeed overlooks the ‘individual fates’ – primarily those of the Germans.
  30. ^ Rafał Węgrzyniak, ‘Seans pamięci wypędzonych’ (Expellees’ Séance of Memory), Odra, 1 (2007) <http://> [accessed 24 October 2008].
  31. ^ The superficiality of Cieślak’s reading of Transfer! is evident. Two months later, following the Berlin premiere, he wrote a review entitled, ‘Wypędzeni pojednali się na scenie’ (Expellees Reconciled on Stage). What was his evidence for this sudden reconciliation, given that the testimonies had remained unchanged? The Witnesses ‘held hands leaving the stage and embraced each other sensitively, the healthier Witnesses assisted the less able and weaker ones’, and they were no longer, apparently, divided by history or political controversies. The symbolic nature of this theatrical reconciliation is clear. Rzeczpospolita, 22 January 2007 <http://rzeczpospolita. pl/gazeta/wydanie_070122/kultura/kultura_a_1.html> [accessed 24 January 2007].
  32. ^ Jan Kruczkowski arrived from the east in one of the last official transportations. He remained ‘at home’ after the war, working for the PUR – the State Repatriation Authority – organising transportations of Poles from what had become the USSR to the new Poland. ‘He was 17 and found work in the Repatriation Authority. Instead of attending school, he went to the loading ramp by the railway and helped organise departures. He recalls the tears that were shed when a train left the station’. From an interview with Jan Kruczkowski in Roman Pawłowski and Tomasz Wysocki, ‘Mój transfer’ (My Transfer), Gazeta Wyborcza, 14 November 2006, Duży Format supplement <> [accessed 20 August 2007].
  33. ^ Cenzura w PRL. Relacje historyków (Censorship in the People’s Republic of Poland: Accounts from Historians), ed. by Zbigniew Romek (Warsaw: Neriton/Instytut Historii PAN 2000) pp. 207-208; cited in John M. Bates, ‘Cenzura wobec problemu niemieckiego w literaturze polskiej (1948-1955)’ (Censorship and the German Question in Polish Literature), in Presja i ekspresja: Zjazd szczeciński i socrealizm (Pressure and Expression: The Szczecin Conference and Socialist Realism), ed. by Danuta Dąbrowska and Piotr Michałowski (Szczecin: Wydawnictwo Naukowe Uniwersytetu Szczecińskiego, 2002), pp. 79-92 (p. 82).
  34. ^ Tomasz Szarota, Osadnictwo miejskie na Dolnym Śląsku w latach 1945-1948 (Urban Settlement in Lower Silesia from 1945-1948) (Wrocław: Ossolineum, 1969).
  35. ^ As Szarota states, ‘The raison d’état was understood, for example, in such a way that efforts were made to eliminate all mention of behaviour which might detract from Poles’ good name’. Romek, pp. 207-8.
  36. ^ Such competitions continued a pre-war Polish sociological trend, whose most prominent figures were Florian Znaniecki, Józef Chałasiński, and Ludwik Krzywicki. In communist Poland the memoir movement gathered pace after 1956, and peaked in the early 1970s with the foundation of the Society of Friends of Memoirs (TPP) in which Chałasiński, Bronisław Gołębiowski, and Franciszek Jakubczak were the leading names. Memoir competitions saw academic institutions, social and political organisations and press organs collaborating in gathering ordinary Poles’ autobiographies, either on specific experiences or their life stories in general. Selected texts were then published in the press and books, while the manuscripts were used in academic studies and also shaped social policy
  37. ^ The most thorough bibliography of memoir competitions and subsequent publications is Franciszek Jakubczak, ‘Bibliografia pamiętników polskich wydanych w latach 1918-1978’ (Bibliography of Polish Memoirs published from 1918-1978), in Pamiętnik Polaków (Polish Memoirs), ed. by Jakubczak et al (Warsaw: Ludowa Spółdzielnia Wydawnicza, 1983), III, pp. 524-630. An English translation of certain theoretical and methodological texts, as well as an abridged bibliography, appeared in Sisyphus Sociological Studies, vol. 2 – The Polish Memoir Sociology: Origins, Dilemmas, Hopes (Warsaw: PWN, 1982).
  38. ^ Wieś polska 1939-1948: Materiały konkursowe (Rural Poland 1939-1948: Competition Materials) 4 vols, ed. by Krystyna Kersten and Tomasz Szarota (Warsaw: PWN, 1967-71).
  39. ^ Memoirs of particular interest include: ‘Gmina w Nowogródku Pomorskim’, in Pamiętniki osadników Ziem Odzyskanych (Memoirs of Settlers in the Reclaimed Territories), ed. by Dulczewski and Kwilecki (Poznań: Wydawnictwo Poznańskie, 1963), pp. 431-42. In this memoir a woman describes the use of German labourers on Polish farms, which meant the area essentially became ‘a Polish colony’ after the war (p. 437). ‘Gorsze od głodu jest uczucie strachu’ (Worse than Hunger is Fear) in Odzyskanie młodości (Reclaiming Youth), Młode pokolenie wsi Polski Ludowej (The Young Generation of Rural People’s Poland) vol. 9 (Warsaw: LSW, 1980), pp. 471-79. Here a woman describes the lynching of a German from her village after the war (p. 485).
  40. ^ A striking example of this is the memoir published as ‘Pionier – restaurator’ (Pioneer – Restaurateur) in Pamiętniki osadników, ed. by Dulczewski and Kwilecki, pp. 315-21. The manuscript and other documents submitted with it are held in the archive of Instytut Zachodni, Poznań, call number P104. The published memoir is highly informative on the earlier days of Polish Szczecin/Stettin, while a comparison with the manuscript reveals how numerous depictions of Soviet soldiers’ misdeeds were cut, but also how the memory of Polish-German relations was mediated for public consumption by censors and editors. For example (the underlined sections are cut, the rest published): ‘When I saw that they [the Germans] were starving, my heart was overcome with pity; hundreds were dying, the streets were heaving, and the stench, corpses were lying in doorways. The worst – nice German girls had more luck because they got a piece of bread from the Soviet army. We drove out [replaced by: We removed] the Germans from the District Office and I took a room on the ground floor’ (P104, p. 11; Pamiętniki, p. 317). As in Transfer!, Poles can express pity for Germans’ suffering, although concrete details about the events are excluded. Unlike Transfer!, where Polish-German victimhood finds common ground by emphasising suffering at the hands of Soviets, the censors cut all mention of Soviet misdeeds. In this memoir, exceptionally, references to looting are also cut because of Soviet involvement in this, although the rest of the volume features numerous references to it.
  41. ^ Klata’s misspelling of ‘grejpfrut’ (grapefruit) is deliberate in this case.
  42. ^ H., dir. by Jan Klata, Polish Contemporary Shakespeare series (Warsaw: Narodowy Instytut Audiowizualny, 2009; recorded July 2006), on DVD with English subtitles. A recording of the performance is also available without subtitles at <>.
  43. ^ See Rafał Węgrzyniak, ‘Nowa lewica w teatrze’ (The New Left in the Theatre), Teatr, 5 (2007) <> [accessed 25 October 2009].
  44. ^ As Klata said in an interview, ‘Polishness is interesting for the reason that we are suspended between two worlds. We have a bit of Western wealth and a bit of Slavic disorder’. Katarzyna Janowska and Piotr Mucharski in conversation with Jan Klata, ‘Konserwatywna prowokacja’ (Conservative Provocation), Gazeta Wyborcza, 1 March 2006 <> [accessed 25 October 2009].
  45. ^ See Tadeusz Nyczek, ‘Teatr Klaty – rewolucja na niby’ (Klata’s Theatre – A Pretend Revolution), Gazeta Wyborcza, 17 December 2005 <> [accessed 25 October 2009].
  46. ^ Sebastian Majewski, one of the dramaturges on Transfer!, has a pedigree for sensitive treatment of Polish- German and indeed Polish-Jewish relations, which he examined in outstanding plays, performances, and happenings with his alternative [:]scena witkacego group in Wrocław. For example in Kamienica.das haus, Na zachód od Sao Paolo (West of Sao Paolo), or the Happening + – Nadodrze.
  47. ^ This argument is applicable above all to the first version of Transfer!. The second version features the intriguing figure of Dietrich Garbrecht, who came to Poland at the start of the war with his Nazi father, stationed in the occupied Poznań region.
  48. ^ Wóycicki, ‘Belka i oko’, p. 47.
  49. ^ Wóycicki, ‘Westverschiebung’ (Westward Shift), in Bachmann and Kranz, pp. 161-171, (p. 169). The ‘Righteous Ten’ is a reference to Jan Turnau’s book, Dziesięciu sprawiedliwych (Warsaw: Więź, 1986). Turnau published ten memoirs which depicted good Germans who assisted Poles during the War.
  50. ^ Wóycicki, ‘Belka i oko’, p. 47.
  51. ^ Paul Ricoeur, Memory, History, Forgetting, trans. by Kathleen Blamey and David Pellauer (Chicago: Chicago University Press, 2004), pp. 448-49.
  52. ^ On Ricoeur’s elaboration on the ‘reserve of forgetting and forgiveness’ see ibid., pp. 414, 428, 440-41, 457-506.
  53. ^ ‘Do czego Pani zmierza?! Przez pachołków tego rządu, pan Charewicz musiał uciekać z Kresów na Ziemie Zachodnie’.
  54. ^ Węgrzyniak, ‘Nowa lewica’.
  55. ^ Correspondence available on the website of Wrocławski Teatr Współczesny < php?p=1&lang=pl&sub=124> [accessed 5 December 2006].
  56. ^ Euzebiusz Basiński, for example, remarks on reports from US embassy workers who left Warsaw to travel around the disputed territories and assess the treatment of Germans, according to which there was little to complain about. However, he adds, ‘many complaints regarding poor treatment come from the Germans themselves who are behaving like cry-babies [płaczliwie] after losing the war and are now trying to present their current situation in the darkest terms possible. In order to understand the sporadic exceptions, i.e. Poles’ insufficiently decent behaviour towards the Germans, one need only see the results of the systematic destruction of Warsaw, proof of the inhuman behaviour of Nazis during the occupation, and the concentration camps of Majdanek, Auschwitz, and elsewhere. It is therefore hard to demand of Poles that they treat Germans with kid gloves at all times’. Euzebiusz Basiński, Od Lublina do Zgorzelca: Współdziałanie Polski i ZSRR w rozwiązywaniu problemu niemieckiego 1944- 1950 (From Lublin to Zgorzelec: Polish-Soviet Cooperation in Solving the German Question 1944-1950) (Warsaw: Książka i Wiedza, 1980), pp. 480-81, n. 47.
  57. ^ Detlef Friedrich, ‘Stalin am Bass, Churchill an der Gitarre’ (Stalin on Bass, Churchill on Guitar), Berliner Zeitung ‘Feuilleton’ section, 29 November 2006 < fcgi/2006/1129/feuilleton/0005/index.html> [accessed 3 August 2007].
  58. ^ Gerhard Gnauck, ‘Vertriebene erzählen Führerwitze’ (Expellees Tell Jokes about the Führer), Die Welt, 21 November 2006 <> [accessed 24 January 2007].
  59. ^ Jan Charewicz’s recollection of army life is reprinted in the programme for the original version of Transfer!: ‘I was one of the soldiers taking Pomerania in Berling’s Army [Polish forces subordinated to the Soviet command] and I learned that a conference had taken place in Yalta. […] I realised then that I had nowhere to return to’. Whether or not this statement is a true reflection of his historical consciousness at the time is debatable. What is clear, though, is that Yalta features today within a testimony and memory of heroic victimhood and, ultimately, betrayal. And this testimony is allocated a privileged position, since it features in the programme. However, it seems to have been cut from the televised version.
  60. ^ Hajnicz, ‘Dialog’, p. 36.
  61. ^ Marcin Hałas, ‘Znak równości’ (Equals Sign), Gazeta Polska, 11 April 2007 < 37703.html> [accessed 20 August 2007].
  62. ^ Hałas, ‘Znak równości’.
  63. ^ Klata speaking to Pawłowski and Wysocki, ‘Mój transfer’.
  64. ^ Winston S. Churchill, Closing the Ring, The Second World War, Vol. 5 (London and Toronto: Cassel, 1952), p. 320.
  65. ^ Churchill, Triumph and Tragedy, The Second World War, Vol. 6 (London and Toronto: Cassel, 1954), p. 304. At the conference ‘After the Wall was Over: Performing the New Europe’ held on 20 to 21 November 2009 at the University of Toronto, I presented another, shorter paper on Transfer!. This reading examined the performance in the context of Europeanisation through Marian Janion’s concept of the ‘Romantic paradigm’ of Polish national memory (see Janion, Do Europy tak, ale razem z naszymi umarłymi (To Europe – Yes, but Together with Our Dead) (Warsaw: Sic!, 2000)). I am grateful to the organisers and attendees for their comments on my work on Transfer!; the following comments stem from the feedback received with regard to the Toronto paper, above all from Halina Filipowicz: The Polish eastern border of 1945 closely follows the Curzon Line, indicating that the border question has a long history, as does the issue of Allied, especially British, foreign policy interest in the region. Anna Cienciala stresses that in the aftermath of World War I this was primarily dictated by interest in the oil fields around Boryslav, now in Ukraine, and British commercial interests with Russia (see Anna M. Cienciala and Titus Komarnicki, From Versailles to Locarno: Keys to Polish Foreign Policy, 1919-1925 (Lawrence, Kansas: University of Kansas Press, 1984), esp. pp. 6 and 170-73). Clearly, British diplomats were already well-acquainted with the area’s geography and geopolitics. British recognition of the Curzon Line in 1919 lent legitimacy to Soviet territorial claims following World War II. Meanwhile, the Polish-German frontier of 1945 was established further west than even the most ambitious Polish claims could initially envision. The Oder-Neisse frontier, however, afforded post-war Poland the shortest feasible border with Germany, which was strategically important. It was in 1944 that the Polish-Soviet military command began to consider the western Neisse (Lausitz Neisse/Nysa Łużycka) as the western limit of post-war Poland, an idea then still rejected by the exiled government in London (see Henryk Słabek, O historii społecznej Polski 1945- 1989 (On the Social History of Poland) (Warsaw: Książka i Wiedza, 2009), pp. 58 and 63). Eminent historian Andrzej Paczkowski further confirms that the working model for the Polish eastern border established at Teheran was the Curzon Line, while at that time the Oder was expected to form the western frontier (Paczkowski, Pół wieku dziejów Polski (Half a Century of Polish History) (Warsaw: PWN, 1995; fifth edition, 2007), pp.74 and 95).
  66. ^ Halina Filipowicz, ‘Shifting a Cultural Paradigm’, in Over the Wall/After the Fall: Post-Communist Cultures through an East-West Gaze, ed. by Sibelan Forrester, Magdalena J. Zaborowska, and Elena Gapova (Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Press, 2004), pp. 164-180 (p. 167).
  67. ^ Hajnicz, ‘Dialog’, p. 38.
  68. ^ So far the production has been performed in Poland, Germany, Slovakia, Belgium, Russia, and France.
  69. ^ In an interview preceding the broadcast of Transfer! on TVP Kultura, Klata explains that Joy Division is used in order to appeal to the younger generation and also because the music is evocative of the darker side of human existence.
  70. ^ Roman Pawłowski, ‘Umarła klasa XXI wieku’ (A Twenty-First Century Dead Class), Gazeta Wyborcza, 20 November 2006 <> [accessed 20 August 2007] This view has been repeated by Maciej Nowak, former director of the Instytut Teatralny in Warsaw and a theatre prize juror in Bydgoszcz. See: ‘Teatr zmusił do dyskusji’ (Theatre Provoked Discussions), Michalina Łubecka, Gazeta Wyborcza – Bydgoszcz, 8 October 2007 <> [accessed 24 October 2008].
  71. ^ Della Pollock, ‘Introduction: Making History Go’, in Exceptional Spaces: Essays in Performance and History, ed. by Pollock (Chapel Hill, NC, and London: University of North Carolina Press, 1998), pp. 1-45 (p. 23).
  72. ^ Padraic Kenney, ‘Martyrs and Neighbors: Sources of Reconciliation in Central Europe’, Common Knowledge, 13.1 (2007), 149-69, (p. 161)
  73. ^ Letter reproduced in Listy pasterskie Episkopatu Polski (1945-2000) (Pastoral Letters of the Polish Episcopacy, 1945-2000) (Marki: Michalineum, 2003); also available at: <> [accessed 24 October 2008]. It is interesting that the actual words of the Bishops are forgotten or overwritten in popular memory and universally replaced with the more emphatic phrase: ‘przebaczamy i prosimy o przebaczenie’ (we forgive and we ask for forgiveness). This phrase adorns, for example, the monument on Wrocław’s Ostrów Tumski, the island in the River Oder where the city’s cathedral stands.
  74. ^ Wieliński, ‘Pojednanie’.
  75. ^ On this subject, see the collected texts in ‘Reimagining the Jewish Legacy in Post-communist Poland: Dialogues’ (‘The Path to The Dybbuk’, ‘Life in a Cemetery’, and ‘Poland's Dybbuks: A response to the Warlikowski dialogues), elsewhere in this volume (pp. 87-114 of the print edition). Eds.
  76. ^ See Confino and Fritzsche, ‘Introduction’, in The Work of Memory.
  77. ^ Klata and dramaturge Dunja Funke discuss this ‘EGAL’ in detail in an interview with Julia Connert and Monika Hirschfeld, ‘Steinschweiger? Steinwald? Steinbaum? – Egal!’ < Klata.html> [accessed 10 November 2009].
  78. ^ Gesamtdeutscher Block/Bund der Heimatvertriebenen und Entrechteten (The All-German Bloc/League of Expellees and those Deprived of their Rights). The name was amended from the initial Bund der Heimatvertriebenen und Entrechteten (BHE) in 1952.
  79. ^ Maria Podlasek, Wypędzenie Niemców z terenów na wschód od Odry i Nysy Łużyckiej: Relacje świadków (The Expulsion of Germans from Lands East of the Oder and Neisse: Witness Testimonies) (Warsaw: Wydawnictwo Polsko-Niemieckie, 1995), p. 9.
  80. ^ Artur Hajnicz, ‘Dialog’, p. 41.
  81. ^ Hajnicz, ‘Gemeinsam auf die Geschichte blicken’ (To Look at History Together), in Verlorene Heimat, pp. 131-37 (p. 136).
  82. ^ Cited in Małgorzata Matuszewska, ‘Premiera …córki Fizdejki w wałbrzyskim Teatrze im. Szaniawskiego’, Gazeta Wyborcza – Wrocław, 18 December 2004 <> [accessed 25 October 2009].

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