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Arts: Visual and Performing

Jason Francisco, PhD
ECAS: Film & Media Studies
Renewing the Memory of Genocide: The Former Paszów Camp in Kraków.

About four kilometers south of Kraków’s main square is the open space known as Paszów, site of a an important German forced labor, transit and death camp during the Second World War. Approximately 150,000 people passed through Paszów between 1942 and 1945, mostly Polish Jews. Slave laborers numbered some 30,000 at the camps height in 1944, and some 10,000 died in the camp, by disease, starvation, exhaustion, sadistic beating, and firing squad. In the contemporary city of Kraków, Paszów remains a deeply ambivalent space. Unlike other former Nazi camps in Poland, it is not under the oversight of a museum or cultural institution. It is publicly signed as a site of genocide, but mostly used for leisure and recreation, especially in the warm months, when it is a popular place to sunbathe, picnic, and drink. My overall goal is to help transform the site into a place of dignity and remembrance, not by imposing change from without, but by building a coalition that would bring it about organically. My own relationship with the place began in 2010, when I began to photograph its misshapen landscape in various moods and seasons, and also the myriad things that locals do there. In 2015, I conducted more than 60 detailed interviews with ordinary people at Paszów about their understandings of the site, as well as with leading academics, and cultural and religious leaders. I will use the URC grant to finish an interdisciplinary photographic book which I believe has the capacity to play a catalytic role in the long process of healing the wounds of history in Poland.