OSA | Visions after the Fall: Program

Visions after the Fall: Museums, Archives and Cinema in Reshaping Popular Perceptions of the Socialist Past

Piotr Jakubowski: History Meeting House — Witnesses and Testimonies of the 20th Century

It is impossible to understand contemporary Central and Eastern Europe without some knowledge of the region's 20th century history. In particular, you need to be aware of the traumatic experiences related to two totalitarian regimes: Nazism and Communism, which swept through the continent. The History Meeting House (HMH) in Warsaw is a unique place of contact with the testimonies of the 20th century history of Poland and Central and Eastern Europe. Its major feature is a multimedia exhibition entitled The Faces of Totalitarianism, which describes the crux of the totalitarian experience of the last century in Europe from several national perspectives. The exhibition, prepared in Polish, English, German and Russian, describes the great historical process that started with the birth of totalitarian ideologies, continued with their triumph during WWII and culminated in the fall of Nazism and the further expansion of Communism. The exhibition features mainly historical documents. Apart from a succinct commentary, each part of the exhibition offers the visitors only genuine source materials. In addition to carefully selected fragments of individual testimonies (memoirs, diaries, reports) and documents, the exhibition comprises over 700 archival photographs and propaganda posters (many of them exhibited for the first time) as well as montages of films from Polish, Russian and German archives. Using headphones, you can hear original recordings of the voices of witnesses and participants of these events.
The exhibition has been designed as a labyrinth, in which you pass from one hall to another. The protagonists are different personalities: theoreticians and functionaries of the system, opportunists and rebels, underground activists and undercover agents, perpetrators and victims… Some of them are simply observers who happened to stand in the way of the fulfilled ideologies. This story pertains mainly to (pre- and post-WWII) Poland and the nations that lived there and played different roles, as well as the fortunes of Poles and Polish citizens of different nationalities who lived there before the war, and who were driven to different parts of Europe and Asia by the totalitarian regimes. This does not mean, however, that the Polish point of view dominates, as different standpoints are presented parallel with each other.
The Faces of Totalitarianism exhibition is the basis of the educational offering of the History Meeting House. Its content and the accompanying multimedia presentation provide a basis for classes for pupils from schools above primary level. Witnesses and their accounts are also in the focus of interest of other HMH departments. We have a Media Library, which collects and propagates documentaries and archival photographs on the 20th century. The most important part of the Media Library is the Oral History Archives: Poland's largest and still growing collection of accounts by the witnesses of last century's history, which comprises over 2000 recordings. Moreover, the History Meeting House stages temporary exhibitions, series of film screenings, book launches, meetings with witnesses of historical events, and international debates on history. Our main goal for the coming years is to make the Meeting House a centre popularizing 20th century history on a local (Warsaw), national and international scale.

Piotr Jakubowski has received his Ph.D. in History from the Warsaw University, where he specialized in the 20th century world history (1991). In 1993 he joined the Karta Center Foundation and became its director in 1999. Piotr Jakubowski is also the head of the Warsaw's History Meeting House - a new municipal culture institution in Warsaw established on the KC initiative and based on its archival holdings. He has organized several historical exhibitions, including The End of Yalta (1999), Gates of Freedom. From "Solidarity" to the Unification of Germany (1999–2001), The Days of Solidarity (2000), 50 Years After (2003), Europe Through Solidarity (2004), 20th Century Europe. The Faces of Totalitarianism (at the History Meeting House in Warsaw 2005).

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Date: June 9, Friday

Time: 12-12.30 pm



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