The Experience of Two Totalitarianisms: Interpretations

6 April 2017


Drawing on a long and distinguished intellectual tradition, both Polish and international, a number of scholars are attempting to rethink the Polish experience of confronting two totalitarian regimes in the twentieth century.

In January 2017, the Witold Pilecki Center for Totalitarian Studies launched its first research project, The Experience of Two Totalitarianisms: Interpretations.

Eight representatives of the humanities and social sciences will attempt a creative and in-depth interpretation of the impact of two totalitarian systems (German and Soviet) on Polish history and culture. Their research combines sensitivities and investigative methods specific to a range of different disciplines: anthropology, philosophy, history, literary studies, political science, law, sociology, and others.

Together, they will consider how Polish art reacted and continues to react to the experience of Communism and Nazism, and how these phenomena were and are presented in culture.

In December 2017, members of the research group will each present an essay proposing an original interpretation of a significant aspect of the Polish experience of two totalitarianisms. In 2018, the Center will publish the texts in a special volume.

Members of the group are conducting research in the following areas:

  • The experience of totalitarianism in national and émigré post-war Polish historiography
  • Polish thought faced with the challenge of totalitarianism
  • Totalitarianism as a phenomenon of politics – the main global narratives
  • Images of totalitarianism in history of culture
  • Totalitarianism and the experience of disrupted continuity
  • The memory of two totalitarianisms



Dr. Ewa Borkowska, philologist and literary scholar, Siedlce University of Natural Sciences and Humanities

Dr. Tomasz Ceran, historian, Institute of National Remembrance

Dr. Arkadiusz Górnisiewicz, political scientist, Jagiellonian University

Dr. Katarzyna Korzeniewska, sociologist and historian, editor of The Polish Diplomatic Review

Maciej Mazurkiewicz, MA, European studies expert, Nicolaus Copernicus University in Toruń

Dr. Jan Olaszek, historian, Institute of National Remembrance

Dr. Wojciech Rechlewicz, philosopher, Leon Schiller National Higher School of Film, Television and Theatre in Łódź

Dr. Artur Wysocki, sociologist, Maria Curie-Skłodowska University in Lublin


Academic supervisors


Prof. Piotr Madajczyk (Institute of Political Studies, Polish Academy of Sciences; Łazarski University) – historian. His research interests include national minorities in Poland, Polish-German relations in the twentieth century, forced migrations in Central Europe after World War II and the recent history of Poland. In addition to scholarly work, he is also a commentator on historical issues and contemporary Germany and Austria. Author of Inżynieria społeczna. Między totalitarną utopią a cząstkowym pragmatyzmem [Social Engineering: Between Totalitarian Utopia and Partial Pragmatism] (ed., 2012) and Czystki etniczne i klasowe w Europie w XX wieku [Ethnic Cleansing and Class Purges in Europe in the Twentieth Century] (2010).


Prof. Paweł Kaczorowski (Institute of Political Science, Cardinal Stefan Wyszyński University in Warsaw) – political scientist, historian of philosophy, historian of political thought. His areas of interest include the theory of the state, political theology, and the history of German political and legal thought. Regular holder of DAAD and IWM (Institute for Human Sciences, Vienna) scholarships. In 2005-2015, he was editor-in-chief of the periodical Civitas. Studia z Filozofii Polityki [Civitas: Studies in the Philosophy of Politics]. He has authored My i oni. Państwo jako jedność polityczna [We and Them: The State as a Political Unity], Filozofia polityczna Carla Schmitta w okresie republiki weimarskiej [The Political Philosophy of Carl Schmitt During the Weimar Republic] (1998) and Państwo w czasach demokracji [The State in Times of Democracy] (2005).


Prof. Marek Kornat (Institute of History, Polish Academy of Sciences; Faculty of Law and Administration, Cardinal Stefan Wyszyński University) – historian and Sovietologist. His areas of interest include the history of diplomacy and international relations in the twentieth century, the history of Polish and Western political thought, and Sovietology. A visiting scholar at the Centre national de la recherche scientifique in Paris, Columbia University in New York, and the Leibniz-Institut für Europäische Geschichte in Mainz. Recipient of numerous awards and scholarships. Author of Bolszewizm – totalitaryzm – rewolucja – Rosja. Początki sowietologii i studiów nad systemami totalitarnymi w Polsce (1918-1939) [Bolshevism – Totalitarianism – Revolution – Russia. The Beginnings of Sovietology and Studies into Totalitarian Systems in Poland (1918-1939)] (2003-2004), Polityka zagraniczna Polski 1938–1939. Cztery decyzje Józefa Becka [Polish Foreign Policy 1938-1939: Four Decisions of Józef Beck] (2012).


Dr. Joanna Lubecka (Ignatianum Academy in Kraków; Institute of National Remembrance) – historian and political scientist. Her fields of interest include the impact of history on contemporary international relations (historical narratives and memory, historical policy), Polish-German relations, and the history of the Third Reich. Author of numerous academic and popular publications on the role of historical memory in Polish-German relations and on the prosecution of German crimes committed during World War II.

Photos: Patrycja Mic

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