The Difficult Heritage Europe Consortium is set up and led by three partner organizations from Poland: FestivALT from Krakow, Zapomniane Foundation from Warsaw and The Urban Memory Foundation from Wroclaw. The partners have been cooperating since 2020 and are implementing two major projects funded by the European Union from the Citizens, Equality, Rights and Values program: “NeDiPa – Negotiating Difficult Pasts” (2022-2024) and “MultiMemo – Multidirectional Memory: Remembering for Social Justice” (2023-2025).
The core of the partners’ interest is dealing with neglected Jewish heritage sites in Poland, where Polish, German, Jewish and other minority histories and legacies overlap and intertwine, pointing to the difficult European experience of the Holocaust and WWII. Currently there are no standards of working with such sites and the partners have an ambitious goal to develop best practices and policy recommendations on municipal, national and European levels. The partners form an expertise-based consortium that allows them to support each other with knowledge, know-how and best practice when working on specific cases.
In addition to the three partners the Consortium is formed by associate members:
- CEJI – A Jewish contribution to an inclusive Europe (Brussels, Belgium)
- Zbliżenia Jewish Festival (Gdańsk, Poland)
- Jewish Community (Gdańsk, Poland)
- Foundation Formy Wspólne (Warsaw, Poland)
- JCC Warsaw (Poland)
- Foundation for Documentation of Jewish Cemeteries (Warsaw, Poland)
- Brama Cukermana (Będzin, Poland)
- Lviv Centre for Urban History (Lviv, Ukraine)
- The Hochschule für Jüdische Studien Heidelberg (Germany)
- Jaw Dikh Foundation (Krakow, Poland)
The destruction of Polish and Central-Eastern European Jewish communities left behind a very troubling legacy that can be defined as „difficult heritage”. This difficult heritage consists of very different types of sites, such as abandoned, destroyed or inappropriately repurposed architectural heritage (synagogues, bathhouses, schools, etc.), neglected or desecrated Jewish cemeteries, unmarked burial sites of Jewish victims of the Holocaust, as well as material remains of the infrastructure of genocide. Many of them have not been studied, precise locations of many burials remain unknown, which does not allow for the remains to be properly protected. Similarly the biographies of many of the victims are unknown. In the light of the raise of nationalism and mainstream nationalistic narratives across Europe as well as in the face of the ongoing violence and war in Ukraine, gathering and sharing knowledge of the long-lasting legacy of the Nazi genocide seems to be an urgent and relevant task. Particularly with respect to engaging with local communities and facilitating exchange of knowledge and best practices, which is one of the principle values of the partnership.