The Challenge of Populist Memory Laws for Poland

The liberal core of democracy has become strained by populism and the attack on fundamental rights where the protection of national identity is frequently juxtaposed to European values. Within this context, memory laws securing certain historical narratives by excluding or even criminalising different views have been introduced in the region of CEE. Most often, such policies can be seen as deliberate attempts to construct a historical orthodoxy in the service of the ruling elite. Poland’s attempt to criminalise the attribution of wartime Nazi Germany crimes to the Polish state or nation (2018) and other legal changes introduced in the area of memory and the Past are some of the most telling examples. At the same time, the rise of similar memory laws can be considered as part of a broader pattern marking the decline of liberal democracies. Against this backdrop, this presentation intends to explore memory laws as symptoms of populist developments in recent legal developments in Poland.