Exhibit at Mathers draws president of Poland’s Institute of National Remembrance to campus

An exhibit organized by the Institute of National Remembrance in Poland will be on display through Sept. 22 at the Mathers Museum of World Cultures, and the institute’s director will speak on the Bloomington campus on Sept. 10.

The exhibit, titled “Operation AB – Katyn: The Destruction of the Polish Elite at the Beginning of World War II,” uses historical photographs and imagery to tell the stories of the mass killing of more than 20,000 Polish nationals by the Soviet secret police in 1940 as part of a plan to weaken the Polish state. Nazi Germany’s Operation AB had similar parallel effects.

Lukasz Kaminski

Lukasz Kaminski

“We were approached by the Institute of National Memory, and it’s certainly hard to refuse this wonderful exhibit, which has been shown all over North America,” said Padraic Kenney, IU professor of history and international studies who also serves as director of the Russian and East European Institute and of the Polish Studies Center, which is sponsoring the exhibit.

He continued, “The exhibit showcases findings about the repressions of the Polish nation by the Nazis and Soviets during the first years of World War II. It includes a reproduction of some of the documents that show Stalin and his top aides making the explicit decision to kill soldiers in the Katyn forest; seeing his laconic note in the margins is very affecting. And it also brings to life the everyday individuals who lost their lives on either side of invaded Poland.”

Kenney said he’s excited to welcome Institute of National Remembrance president Lukasz Kaminski to campus.

“The exhibit has traveled quite a bit but, as far as we’re aware, we’re the only place where the Institute’s director will visit,” he said. “He’s quite an interesting figure in his own right, having taken the reins of the Institute in 2010 in somewhat difficult circumstances, following the death of his predecessor with other Polish officials in a plane crash in 2010.”

Kaminski will speak at 12:30 p.m. today, Sept. 10, in the Walnut Room of the Indiana Memorial Union. His lecture is titled “The Archives of Dictatorship — between Politics and Justice.”

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