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Conference: 1968 in Poland and Czechoslovakia in Comparison

August 31, 2018 - September 1, 2018

The year 1968 was a momentous one in many spots on the globe, perhaps no more so than in Poland and Czechoslovakia. With a few exceptions, however, 1968 and its aftermath in these two countries largely have been studied in isolation from each other. This conference seeks to compare each “1968” while exploring transnational linkages that connected events, people, cultural expressions, and processes in Poland, Czechoslovakia, and beyond. Our goal is to explore a number of themes, including but not limited to Jewish history, the history of emigration, and the intertwining of performance, the arts, and politics.

The conference will also include public conversations with Communist-era dissident turned editor-in-chief of Gazeta Wyborcza Adam Michnik and celebrated scholar of Jewish life in Communist Czechoslovakia and 1968 émigré Alena Heitlinger. The first day will also include a screening of “Dworzec Gdański”, named after the train station from which many Polish Jews departed the country amidst the anti-Semitic campaigns of 1968. The conference will conclude with a cabaret performance in Person Recital Hall about the family, memory, and 1968 entitled “Rendezvous in Bratislava.” All events associated with the conference are free and open to the public.

Conference organizers: Karen Auerbach (History, UNC-Chapel Hill); Andrea Bohlman (Music, UNC-Chapel Hill); Chad Bryant (History, UNC-Chapel Hill)

View a PDF of the conference description and schedule.

Conference Schedule

Friday, August 31

University Room, Institute for the Arts and Humanities (map)

2:00-3:30 PM
The Legacies of 1968 in Central Europe in Comparison

  • Roundtable discussion with James Krapfl, Joanna Nalewajko-Kulikov, and Kieran Williams
    Moderator: Karen Auerbach

3:45-5:00 PM
Film showing and discussion: “Dworzec Gdański” (trailer)

5:30-7:00 PM
A conversation with Adam Michnik, interviewed by Dariusz Stola


Saturday, September 1

University Room, Institute for the Arts and Humanities (map)

9:30-11:00 AM
1968 and Jewish History in Comparison

  • Jacob Labendz, “A Czech-Jewish Face: Embracing and Fearing Complex Identities (and Loyalties) around 1968”
  • Karen Auerbach, “Following the Generation of 1968: Joanna Wiszniewicz’s ‘Life Cut in Two’”
  • Kateřina Čapková, “Antisemitism, Israel, and the Communist Reform Movements in Poland and Czechoslovakia”
  • Comment: Dariusz Stola

11:15 AM-12:15 PM
A conversation with Alena Heitlinger, interviewed by Rebekah Klein-Pejšová

1:30-2:45 PM
Anti-Semitism, Memory, and Politics

  • Ilana McQuinn, “How Poland’s Anti-Zionist Campaign Drove Intellectual Politics during the Prague Spring”
  • Cynthia Paces, “Art of Atonement: The Prague Spring, West Germany, and Lidice”
  • Comment: Chad Bryant

3:00-4:15 PM
The Arts of and from 1968

  • Kyrill Kunakhovich, “Polish Culture After March: Art, Politics, and the Crisis of State Socialism”
  • Lisa Jakelski, “Negotiating 1968 at the Warsaw Autumn International Festival of Contemporary Music”
  • Comment: Andrea Bohlman

Person Recital Hall

Participants and affiliations

  • Kateřina Čapková (Institute of Contemporary History, Czech Republic)
  • Henryk Grynberg (Independent scholar/writer)
  • Alena Heitlinger (Trent University)
  • Rebekah Klein-Pejšová (Purdue University)
  • James Krapfl (McGill University)
  • Kyrill Kunakhovich (University of Virginia)
  • Lisa Jakelski (Eastman School of Music)
  • Jacob Labendz (Youngstown State University)
  • Ilana McQuinn (University of Chicago)
  • Adam Michnik (Editor in Chief, Gazeta Wyborcza)
  • Joanna Nalewajko-Kulikov, (Tadeusz Manteuffel Institute of History, Polish Academy of Sciences)
  • Cynthia Paces (The College of New Jersey)
  • Dariusz Stola (Director, Museum of the History of Polish Jews)
  • Kieran Williams (Drake University)

Funding for the conference has been generously provided by the Center for Slavic, Eurasian, and East European Studies; the International Visegrad Fund; the Center for European Studies; the Carolina Center for Jewish Studies; the Institute for the Arts and Humanities; the History Department; the Music Department; the Department of Slavic Languages and Literatures; and the Curriculum in Global Studies.


August 31, 2018
September 1, 2018


Department of Music
Department of Music


UNC Institute for the Arts and Humanities, Hyde Hall
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