Imre Kertész Kolleg Jena

Professor Paweł Machcewicz

January - September 2019

Paweł Machcewicz was a fellow at the Imre Kertész Kolleg from January until the end of September 2019. He is professor of history at the Polish Academy of Science. In 2008-2017 he was founding director of the Museum of the Second World War in Gdańsk, dismissed from his position by the Law and Justice government immediately after opening the Museum to the public; in 2017 he taught at the Université Libre de Bruxelles holding the International Chair for the History of the Second World War; in 2006 -2013 he was professor of the Warsaw University and the Nicolaus Copernicus University in Toruń and in 2000 was a co-founder of the Institute of National Remembrance, in 2000-2006 was its director for research and education; in 2017-2018 he was a fellow at the Wissenschaftskolleg zu Berlin, in 2017, 2013, 2007, and 1994 a Cold War History Project fellow and a History and Public policy fellow at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars (Washington DC), in 1997-1998 a Fulbright fellow at the Georgetown University. He received his MA (1989) and PhD (1993) at the Department of History of the Warsaw University.

Research project at the Kolleg

Retributive Justice after   World War II and the Fall of Dictatorial Regimes in Europe, Latin America, and South Africa: A Comparative Approach

The goal of the project is a comparative study of   various models  of coming to terms   with legacies of crimes committed during WW II and the reign of dictatorial regimes in the second half of the XX-the century.   

The project addresses one of the central issues that are confronted by states and nations in  transitional periods, after the end of wars or collapse of dictatorships. This problem usually becomes fundamental   in the initial phases of post-war or post-authoritarian reconstruction. However,  in some countries it gains political and social importance in delayed ways, long time after  the conclusion of   war  or occupation (e.g. France and the legacy of the Vichy regime) or after the collapse of dictatorial regimes (Spain and the legacy of the Franco regime and of the Civil War 1936-1939; Poland with the most intense public interest and institutional arrangements starting approximately 10 years after the collapse of the Communism). One of the most important questions is the impact of legal and political retribution (or its absence) upon consolidation of new, emerging regimes. One approach suggests that retributive justice might become  detrimental and dysfunctional for consolidation of democratic regimes which replaced dictatorships or for the prospects of social integration of societies torn by war-time conflicts. On the other hand, one may find examples that the absence of retribution leads to widespread feelings of frustration and anger, which may give birth to radical movements becoming serious challenges to democratic systems. 

Another pivotal issue  is a wide variety of legal (or extra-legal)  mechanisms of coming to terms with the legacies of political  crimes and difficult war-time or dictatorial  past. In some instances these were post-war purges (spontaneous or institutional), like in France or Italy after  WW II. In other countries  (Latin America, South Africa) truth-commissions sought to reveal  crimes committed by past dictatorial regimes. In Poland and some other post-Communist countries special institutions were created (e.g. Polish Institute of National Remembrance), which attempt to provide a complex approach to the past: opening of the archives and so called lustration, research and education, legal prosecution of political crimes.

Main areas of research

  • History  of the XXth century
  • Retributive and transitional justice
  • Politics of memory
  • Public history and musealisation of history

Positions and memberships

  • Professor of history at the Institute of Political Studies of the Polish Academy of Science, Warsaw
  • Member of the editorial board  of the Taylor&Francis Group publication series Cold War in  Eastern Europe: Foreign Office files on communist states.
  • Member of the editorial board of the series Polskie Dokumenty Dyplomatyczne (Polish Diplomatic Documents)
  • 2012-2018 – member of the International Auschwitz Council


Der umkämpfte Krieg. Das Museum des Zweiten Weltkriegs in Danizg. Enstehung und Streit, Wiesbaden: Harrassowitz Verlag,  2018
Muzeum, Kraków: ZNAK,  2017
Poland`s War on Radio Free Europe, 1950-1989, Washington DC and Stanford,  California:  Woodrow Wilson Center Press/Stanford University Press, 2014
Spory o historię 2000-2011, Kraków: ZNAK,  2012
Rebellious Satellite. Poland 1956, Washington DC and Stanford,  California:  Woodrow Wilson Center Press/Stanford University Press,  2009
<Monachijska menażeria>. Walka z Radiem Wolna Europa 1950-1989, Warszawa:  Instytut Studiów Politycznych PAN/Instytut Pamięci Narodowej, 2007
Der Beginn der Vernichtung. Zum Mord an den Juden in Jedwabne und Umgebung in Sommer 1941. Neue Forschungsergebnisse polnischer Historiker[mit Edmund Dmitrow  und Tomasz Szarota],  Osnabrück: Fibre,  2004 
Emigracja w polityce międzynarodowej,  Warszawa: Biblioteka “Więzi”, 1999
Historia Hiszpanii (with Tadeusz Miłkowski), Wrocław: Ossolineum, 1998 (second edition: 2002, third edition:  2009).
Władysław Gomułka, Warszawa:   Wydawnictwa Szkolne i Pedagogiczne, 1995
Polski Rok 1956, Warszawa: Oficyna Wydawnicza „Mówią Wieki”, 1993


Edited volumes

Polskie Dokumenty Dyplomatyczne 1975, edit. by  Paweł .Machcewicz, Warszawa: Polski Instytut Spraw Międzynarodowych,  2010

Bydgoszcz 3-4 września 1939. Studia i dokumenty,  edit. by  Tomasz Chinciński and Paweł  Machcewicz, Warszawa: Instytut Pamięci Narodowej,  2008

Wokół Jedwabnego, tom 1: Studia, tom 2: Dokumenty, edit, by  Paweł Machcewicz  and Krzysztof Persak,  Warszawa: Instytut Pamięci Narodowej,  2002

Kampania wyborcza i wybory do Sejmu 20 stycznia 1957 r., edit. by Paweł Machcewicz, Warszawa: Wydawnictwo Sejmowe,  2000


"Representing violence and death in the Museum of the Second World War in Gdańsk", Przegląd Historyczny, vol. CVII, 2016, no 1
„The Institute of National Remembrance and the Legacy of Communism in Poland”, in: Z.Krasnodębski, S.Garsztecki, R.Ritter (Eds.), Politics, History and Collective Memory in East Central Europe, Hamburg: Kramer Verlag, 2012„<Museum statt Stacheldrahtverhaue>. Das Museum des Zweiten Welkriegs in Danzig – Konzeption und Kontroversen”, in: W. Borodziej, J. v. Puttkamer (Hrsg.), Europa und sein Osten. Geschichtskulturelle Herausforderungen München: Oldenburg Verlag, 2012   „Die polnische Krise von 1980/81”, in: B. Greiner, Ch. Th. Müller, D. Walter (Hrsg.), Krisen im Kalten Krieg, Hamburg: Institut für  Sozialforschung, 2008  
“Jedwabne 1941. Le débat sur le conflit judéo-polonais dans le Nord-Est de la Pologne sous l`occupation nazie”, in: L`Europe et ses passés douloureux, sous la direction de: G. Mink, L. Neumayer, Paris: La Découverte,  2007“Poland 1986-1989: From <Cooptation> to Negotiated Revolution”, Cold War International History Project Bulletin, issue 12/13, Fall/Winter 2001
“Intellectuals and Mass Movements. The Study of the Political Dissent in Poland in 1956”, European History Quarterly, 3/1997