Wednesday, March 30, 2016

History and Memory: Poland and Ireland

Jan Gross

Tablet magazine reports on the campaign of the new nationalist government of Poland against the Polish-American historian Jan Gross, a professor at Princeton University, for his research and publications on Polish anti-semitism during the Second World War. Apparently the Polish Criminal Code states that “Publicly insulting the Polish Nation or Republic is punishable by imprisonment for up to 3 years.” As a result of Gross's historical scholarship, the state prosecution service has opened an investigation under this heading. The president of Poland is seeking to have Polish honours and recognition previously given to Gross revoked.

It's a different situation, maybe not to be compared closely, but I was struck last weekend by the number of historical pieces published on the centenary of Ireland's Easter Rising of 1916, in which commentators of Irish-Catholic descent -- Denis O'Donaghue, Michael Enright, Warren Kinsella -- cheered (even with reservations) for their own side, as if the murderous terrorism of Patrick Pearse and his colleagues were forgivable because shamrocks and Guinness and a terrible beauty and top o' the morning to ye. Pearse: “We may make mistakes in the beginning, and shoot the wrong people; but bloodshed is a cleansing and a sanctifying thing.”

No, it is not. I have some Irish-Catholic ancestry myself, but a lot of the Easter Rising commemoration seemed too much like aid and comfort to the Provos and the Omagh bombers and the gunmen, now mostly discredited but still waiting in the shadows.
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