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Introduction
Maps

      • East Central Europe, 1815
      • East Central Europe, 1910
      • East Central Europe, ca. 1930
      • East Central Europe, after World War II
      • East Central Europe, ca. 1992

Introduction

When a great many Americans and Israelis land at Chopin airport in Warsaw, they have no intention of visiting Poland. They have come to visit the Holocaust.

That is not what Centropa is all about. We see Poland as it is in 2015: a dynamic country that, since throwing off Communist rule in 1989, has become an important member of NATO, a vital voice in the European Union and a strong ally of the United States and Israel. No other country in post-Communist Europe has developed so thoroughly, so profoundly in such a short period of time, and Poland has created a vigorous multi-party democracy where a new generation of self-confident young Poles have proven their entrepreneurial zeal while putting Poland’s stamp on the international cultural landscape—in theater, film and literature. And when nearly every country saw its fortunes plummet during the world economic crisis in 2008, Poland’s economy continued to surge ahead.

Every Polish family was horribly scarred by the events of the 20th century—war, revolution, occupation, massive destruction and four decades of a failed economic system that crushed spirits and ruined lives.

Before the First World War, Poland didn’t even exist, and had been torn asunder in 1795 by Prussia, Russia and Austria. Between the two world wars, the country struggled to knit itself back together while warding off the Soviets on one side, the Nazis on the other. Polish democracy had only a brief window before it was slammed shut in 1926, and during the Second World War, Poland lost 20% of its population and nearly its entire Jewish population to the Nazi onslaught.

 Poland’s history with its Jewish population is as complex as it is long: from being one of the few kingdoms where European Jews were welcomed, to pogroms being carried out in its shtetls, there is much to discuss, debate and learn. There is even a modest rebirth of Jewish life in Poland today, but even more relevant is that throughout the country, a growing number of Poles now see their country’s Jewish history, heritage and culture as belonging to them, too.

 Centropa’s Summer Academy is being held in Poland because no matter where you teach, here is a country where literature, history, Holocaust, social studies and English educators will find a plethora of projects and programs to engage their students with. And we have more than 30 highly active high schools in Poland where teenagers are keen to work alongside your students while they create videos on My Town’s Jewish History as well as The Story of Solidarity.

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