(Re)politicising the dead in post-Holocaust Poland
The afterlives of human remains at the Bełzec extermination camp
in Human remains in society

This chapter will focus on three extermination camps – Bełżec, Sobibór, and Treblinka – to understand the cultural and social importance of burial for the processes of mourning performed in post-catastrophic contexts. Often referred to as the most deadly and, at the same time, most forgotten camps, these sites in many respects differ from the other National Socialist camps erected in Nazi-occupied Poland due to their ceasing to operate and being dismantled as early as autumn 1943. They thus left a relatively small number of camp survivors and the absence of any material traces, as well as a lack of press coverage at the time of liberation.

The chapter will analyse the transformation of former camp sites into landscapes of memory and focus on the ethical and political motivations for and implications of the archaeological research and its role for reshaping the commemorative activities at the camp locations. It will be argued that the new commemorative idioms developed at and for the sites of former extermination camps not only reflect important changes in the approach to the Holocaust in post-1989 Poland, but can also be interpreted in terms of ‘commemorative reburial’: a politically and ethically charged effort aimed at performing the ‘buriability’ of the victims of the camps.

Human remains in society

Curation and exhibition in the aftermath of genocide and mass-violence

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