Collected papers on Neighbours: Polish-German relations in archaeology
- part 1 to 1945
Collected papers on Neighbours: Polish-German relations in archaeology
- part 2 after 1945
Journals in English but produced in non-English-speaking countries are some of the most interesting and stimulating to read. They are particularly useful for the largely language-illiterate English-speaking readership whose range of sources is increasingly restricted to their own, limited network. It is, therefore, a pleasure to receive these journals full of refreshingly new information and ideas. Among the rising number of them, Archaeologia Polona is different to the others in that it is common to find an issue dedicated to discussing a specific theme. On a number of occasions the subject dealt with has been identity, focusing in a range of topics from ethnicity (vol 29, 1991), to an analysis of relevant figures such as Gordon Childe in ‘Archaeology in the 20th century: ideas – people – research’ (vols 35-36, 1997-98). In the volumes under review, 42 and 43 (2004-05), Jacek Lech (Polish Academy of Sciences), together with Zbigniew Kobylinski in the case of volume 43, have put together a series of articles which consider an under-studied aspect of the history of archaeology. The aim of both volumes is to explore how the tensions and hostilities between neighbouring countries and, in particular, those between twentieth-century Poland and Germany, have influenced the practice of archaeology. The first volume (volume 42) deals with the period to 1945 and the second (volume 43) covers the years after 1945. The type of archaeology at the centre of the relations between both countries refers to the whole range of periods in Polish archaeology, but perhaps there is an emphasis in prehistoric archaeology. It is worth noting that ‘Neighbours: Polish-German relations in archaeology’ represents a step forward in the field of the history of archaeology. This is so because its subject is not nationalism, or the study of the influence politics may have had in the development of archaeology in one specific country in isolation, a topic revisited several times in the 1990s and early 2000s (Biehl et al. 2002; Díaz-Andreu & Champion 1996; Kohl & Fawcett 1995). Instead, the volumes edited by Lech go beyond this. They look at how politics influence the interaction between archaeologists from different countries. It is, therefore, not the national but the international context which is put under the spotlight.
The need for this debate was first explored at an AREA network – Archives of European Archaeology (see Schlanger 2002) – meeting in Poznań in 2003. It was further discussed in a conference in Warsaw organised by the History of Archaeology Commission in the Pre- and Protohistorical Sciences Committee of the Polish Academy of Sciences in 2004. Perhaps inevitably, given the location of both meetings in Poland, the resulting publication in the form of these two Archaeologia Polona volumes shows a certain unbalance in the depth with which Poland and Germany are treated, in favour of the first. Efforts to avoid this mismatch were made by the editor, Jacek Lech, but invitations to other scholars to contribute met with a reluctance by some to revisit a painful period for the history of the relationship between both countries. Nortwithstanding, Lech managed to involve in the project some well-known specialists on the history of German and Polish archaeology and the result is an important in-depth, incisive reflection on a selection of the conflicts, tensions, mutual influences and cooperation between the archaeology of these two European countries.
In the very first article of the compendium Jacek Lech provides an insightful overview of the links between Polish and German archaeology. His work covers the eighteenth to today, in this way serving as an introduction to both volumes. To begin with, his account briefly delves into eighteenth-century antiquarian archaeology and into the influence of nineteenth-century Romanticism on a then divided Poland (Poland had been split into three areas, belonging to Prussia, Austria and Russia). Understandibly the bulk of the article deals with twentieth-century archaeology. First he revisits the debate between the German prehistorian Gustaf Kossinna on one hand and, on the other, his Polish colleagues Erazm Majewski and Jósef Kostrzewski. The fate of archaeology and archaeologists during World War II is the focus of the following section. The account of what happened to Leon Kozłowski’s and Aleksandra Kaprińska may lead some to establish a comparison to Gerhard Bersu’s situation, despite the many differences between both. Lech’s account of the post-war period is, again, perceptive. He is much more explicit than the authors in Volume 43 (dealing with the period after 1945) regarding the differences in the practice of archaeology brought about by the division of Germany into two states. Perhaps because of the greater number of contributors from Poland, it is indeed strange to find, in volume 43, Germany referred to as if it were a single entity before 1990. Given the different trajectories of archaeology in the Federal Republic of Germany (FRG) and the German Democratic Republic (GDR), the unequal relationship of Polish archaeologists with their colleagues from one or the other part of Germany should have been spelled out more explicitly in the second volume of this compendium. Jacek Lech is, however, aware of this unbalance, and includes an interesting quote. This was made by the, by then, elderly professor, the prehistorian Józef Kostrzewski (1886-1969), who in the 1960s said that in the two German states ‘the attitudes towards scientific truth are diametrically different’. Personally, I would have liked to find more information about the relations between Poland and the GDR as one example of those between states integrated into the Eastern Block during the Cold War. The influence of the Cold War in the archaeology of the Eastern Block is an under-studied aspect in the history of archaeology about which any additional information is always welcome. Lech’s article finishes with a consideration of the relationships between Polish and German archaeology after the end of the Cold War.
Contributions to Volume 42 (the first of the two under discussion) cover a wide range of subjects. Wojciech Nowakowski focuses in a historical analysis of the archaeology of East Prussia (including post-World War II archaeology!), and Jolanta Małecka-Kukawka and Bogusłwa Wawrzykowska centre their attention on that of today’s Polish town of Torún (Thorn in German). Jarmila Kaczmarek undertakes an interesting examination of archaeology in the dispute over the national character of the Great Poland (Wielkopolska) region in the nineteenth and early-twentieth century, whereas Wiebke Rohrer looks at the use of archaeology in the context of the political tensions surrounding the disputed territory of Upper Silesia in the interwar period. Hubert Fehr’s article also assesses archaeologists’ role in providing further justification for Germany’s claim to her right to expand towards the East, but he looks into this by assessing the interpretations of the excavations at Zantoch. The actions of German archaeologists in occupied Poland are analysed in three case-studies: Werner Radig (Petra Schweizer-Strobel and Michael Strobel); the State Archaeological Museum in Warsaw (Danuta Piotrowska); and propaganda in the city of Łodź (Maria M Blomberg).
Volume 43 deals with the period after 1945. Propaganda, but now directed at the justification of Polish rights to the ‘Recovered Territories’ after World War II, is the theme developed by Zbigniew Kobyliński and Graiżyna Rutkowska. It is preceded by a first essay by Tomasz Mikocki explaining the state of research related to the fate of the former German collections of antiquities after World War II. The character of the relationship between Polish and German archaeology seems to change from the better from this point in the volume. The figure of the Polish archaeologist Jan Żak, and his efforts to overcome the long-term period of conflicts and tensions between Polish and German archaeologies, is examined by Danuta Minta-Tworzowska and Włodzimierz Rączkowski. Collaboration between German and Polish archaeologists is the keyword that unifies the last five articles of the volume. All of them deal with recent projects undertaken by mixed teams of Polish and German archaeologists. Lech Leciejewicz, the author of the first of these articles, looks into a project on the Oder River. This is followed by Paweł Valde-Nowak who writes about highland settlement in Middle Europe during Neolithic times. The third, by Janusz Czebreszuk and Johannes Müller, looks at a Polish-German research project into a Bronze Age fortified settlement at Bruszczewo in Wielkopolska. Forthly, Marek Dulinicz discusses the studies on the Early-Middle Ages in Poland conducted by the Institute of Archaeology and Ethnology, Polish Academy of Sciences, in cooperation with German researchers. Finally, Judith Oexle provides in her article some information about the Foundation ‘Pro Archaeologia Saxoniae’, a new platform for sponsoring research in Central European archaeology. In addition to all these articles, each of the volumes contain an obituary (professors Waldemar Chmielewski and Lech Krzyżaniak) and volume 43 is crowned by a discussion article written by Stanisław Tabaczyński dealing with the question of whether archaeologist have access to the past.
One cannot but congratulate the editor of Archaeologia Polona for having produced, yet again, two extremely interesting volumes with a wealth of new data ready to be digested for by all those who want to reflect upon the history of our own discipline. This work will be essential reading for future historians of the international context of the history of twentieth-century archaeology in Europe.
Review Submitted: August 2007
The views expressed in this review are not necessarily those
of the Society or the Reviews Editor.
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