Political Shift Has Poland Assessing Its Values


In Poland, the biggest former Communist nation in the European Union and NATO, the question is whether the liberty and European identity that meant so much to those who toppled Communism carry the same value today. The question applies especially for young people with no memory of divided Europe and Soviet bloc oppression, The New York Times reports:

The debate is playing out in various ways across the country. It has a special resonance in Wroclaw, a city of 630,000 that brims with tourists, Polish and foreign, and is home to more than 130,000 students. This year, it is a European capital of culture, a title bestowed by Brussels on one or two cities each year that brings publicity, hundreds of millions of euros in subsidies and scores of special events. ….

In Wroclaw, Mayor Dutkiewicz proudly showed photos with famous visitors, including Vaclav Havel, the former dissident and Czech president, and Fritz Stern, the prominent German-American historian who fled Breslau and the Nazis with his Jewish family in 1938. He settled in New York, where he died in May. When he turned 90 in February, Mr. Stern sounded strong warnings about democracy, Donald J. Trump and Europe’s slide rightward.

“I grew up with the death of a democracy,” Mr. Stern told German television, “and now I see democracy only in danger.”

Says one observer: Poland “has lost the thing that is most important for democracy, which is thinking about civil society.”


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