Saxon Palace reconstruction in Warsaw plays key role in conflict over Polish heritage, says Polish professor

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The Saxon Palace plays a major role in Polish history and holds a special place in Poland’s cultural heritage, which is helping fuel the conflict over is reconstruction in Warsaw, writes Professor Andrzej Nowak.

The professor noted that the palace’s reconstruction a microcosm for the symbolism of a greater struggle over Poland’s past and future.

He explained that the former palace of Polish kings was one of the symbols of the 1794 Kościuszko’s Uprising, the cradle of Frederick Chopin’s talent, the headquarters of defending Poland from the 1920 Soviet invasion, and the location where cryptologists worked to break the Enigma code.

“Is this enough to consider this a place of memory worthy of rebuilding in an independent Poland? It is if we consider Warsaw its capital, and we are not outraged by the ‘heart of Poland’ metaphor. It is not if we prefer to think of Warsaw as purely an island of modernity and European aspirations,” he wrote.

Nowak also referred to Warsaw Mayor Rafał Trzaskowski’s criticism of the idea of rebuilding the palace.

“The current mayor of Warsaw, who is criticizing the idea of rebuilding the Saxon Palace as an expression of megalomania, once stated that it wasn’t worth building the Central Communication Port in Poland because such an airport was being built in Berlin,” he noted.

The professor pointed out that Berlin had very recently finished reconstructing the Hohenzollern Castle.

“Perhaps this will be seen as some sort of argument to not rebuild the Saxon Palace? After all, if they reconstructed a castle in Berlin, then why do we need a palace in Warsaw?” he underlined.

Moreover, in context of the struggle over heritage, professor Nowak mentioned the left’s idea to abolish the Institute of National Remembrance and replace it with an institute to monitor “right-wing extremism”.

“Perhaps we should instead rebuild the Russian Orthodox Alexander Newsky Cathedral on the Saxon Square as a museum of atheism? At the same time, we will be able to discover here that the Red Army came to liberate Poland in 1920 and Chopin was actually a woman?” he asked.

Nowak stressed that the struggle over heritage in Poland is fundamental.

“The decision concerning reconstructing the Saxon Palace, with pride and not with shame, is key in this conflict today,” he stated.

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