Reconquest, Reconstruction, Resumption: Churching Poland after the Second World War

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Abstract

This article examines how the Roman Catholic church in Poland navigated an enormous increase in the church buildings at its disposal at the end of the Second World War. This expansion was largely due to the mass acquisition of ‘post-German’ churches in lands transferred from Germany to Poland. But rapid reconstruction of most of the churches destroyed during the war, as well as the resumption of new construction, also played a role. Although access to increased worship space might seem to have been a boon for Poland’s post-war Catholic church, the appropriation, reconstruction and completion of thousands of church buildings presented the church with an array of challenges. Re-founding local Polish religious life in ‘post-German’, and often ‘post-Protestant’, houses of worship raised difficult questions about how various constituencies in newly formed communities could be made to feel at home in their new surroundings. Trade-offs between the expectations and customs of divergent groups were exacerbated by the prominence within the post-war church of Catholics who were themselves ‘post-German’, having spent the war categorized as German before being recategorized as Polish after 1945. Close attention to how Polish Catholics first encountered new sacred spaces and one another reveal the complex negotiations and balancing acts required to form an ostensibly ‘homogeneous’ religious-national community.
Original languageEnglish
JournalGerman History
Volume42
Issue number2
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 3 Oct 2023

Keywords

  • religion
  • Catholic Church
  • Germany
  • Poland
  • World War 2

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