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Anna Machcewicz

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William Rosenberg Senior Scholar (Spring 2020)

Dr. Anna Machcewicz is an Assistant Professor in the Institute of Political Studies in the Polish Academy of Sciences in Warsaw. In 2015 she received her PhD in Political Science with the dissertation „Rebellion: Strikes in the Tri-City in August 1980. This book was awarded by the Jan Długosz Award in 2016. Her other book, Prison letters of Zofia and Kazimierz Moczarski (Warsaw 2015) was also awarded in 2016. Her first monograph was a biography of Kazimierz Moczarski, the Polish journalist and member of the Polish anti-Nazi resistance movement who spent years in a communist prison (including ten months with the Nazi perpetrator Juergen Stroop, which Moczarski described in his famous book, Conversations with an Executioner). The English version will be published in 2020 ( Peter Lang). In 2016 she had a fellowship at the Imre Kertész Kolleg in Jena ( Germany); with the research project : “Prisoners in Poland 1944-1956 - an anthropological and comparative approach within the framework of East Central European experience”. Now she is working on a book „The forms and mechanisms of building social relationship and strategies for survival in the conditions of the prison system shaped by the authoritarian regime in Poland 1944-1956”. In 1944 – 1956, prisons in Poland held inmates, who formed a heterogeneous community – diverse in terms of nationality, age, occupation, education or social position. A significant number of prisoners were not criminals in the sense of the rule of law, having been imprisoned as victims of the ideology and violence of the state. She aproaches this unique prison microcosm from a following perspective: - firstly, looking at the behavior of people in the situation of imprisonment, universal in the anthropological dimension, but in this research contained in a specific socio-political situation in the Stalinist system, which created a specific framework for the functioning of prisons (including overpopulation and extremely oppressive prison rules, the lack of a rehabilitation program for criminals, constant pressure and ideological control used against both prison wardens and prisoners); - Secondly, asking about the relationship between the subject and power. According to Michael Foucault, resistance is always possible if the subject has minimum of space to practice their freedom, which happens even in the conditions of prison. The problem to examine concerns the relationship between the individual and power in the Stalinist system, in the specific Polish prison reality. Drawing on manifold sources - official statements and reports, letters and petitions of prisoners sent to the authorities, in-depth interviews, accounts and memoirs – she systematically examines what strategies of surviving the prison oppression inmates adopted, what determined them, to what extent the attitudes of adaptation and withdrawal dominated, and to what - resistance. As a result, she considers whether and to what extent the attitudes of opposition in the prison world impeded the system and influenced its evolution. These questions are part of the still unresolved dilemma whether the system was effective, to what extent it shook the cultural background, and whether it fully controlled social life.

The experience of a prisoner, or simply a man who is trying to save himself, is, after all, a universal one, regardless of time and place.

Fortunoff Video Archive for Holocaust Testimonies