Leaders like Kaczynski, the de facto head of the Law and Justice party (and supposed power behind the Polish president), admit that Schmidt is important to him, as is Machiavelli. Which is worrying for some because the memory of these paramilitaries has become connected to an agenda that allows for anti-democratic, pro-authoritarian (or at least problematically-nationalist) tendencies to surface at a high political level. And so a set of dirty, hungry, doomed soldiers fighting what proved to be a last, exhausting battle happened to become very, very important chess pieces. Which makes any attempt to resist this public, selective memory an act of betrayal or suspicion (see the story of the Polish museum
In the past, says Felix, it was mostly football fans who promoted irregular fighters as a symbol of heroism and nationalism. But since 2016, at least in Poland, the state took up the job and introduced official commemorization into public institutions. The irregular fighters were portrayed almost exclusively as protectors of the people, rescuers of Jews and so on. But, like in Ukraine (where independence fighters had, for a time, collaborated with Hitler), there are dark parts of that history that are neither recognized nor dealt with. And when another country (Russia, for example) knows those dark bits and still sees 'democratic' gov'ts propping them up as heroes, then they call the West out on their bullshit and use it as propaganda for their own purposes.
But that's all the time we have today – we're about to head out on an excursion
. People complain that Slubice and Frankfurt are a little ugly. "Yes that's true," Felix says, "but remember this is the result of war and border changes. It's not just a place struggling with memory, but with the reality of war." There was a beautiful medieval town once. It was bombed: we're looking at a place built up from scratch. With little a bell installed on the riverbank dedicated, in 1953, to peace. But meanwhile, in forests thousands of kilometres to the east, the last partisans were still fighting and still dying. And badly at that.
But luckily their ghosts were preserved in a freezer only to be proved, in our day, very useful indeed.