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Abstract

Projects of Punishment in Postwar Poland: War Criminals, Collaborators, Traitors, and the (Re)Construction of the Nation traces the development and deployment of two “technologies of retribution” in Poland in the immediate aftermath of World War II: the Main Commission to Investigate German War Crimes, an organization tasked with coordinating the investigation and punishment of Nazi war criminals in international and domestic courts of law, and the project of constructing the legal and procedural infrastructure to punish Polish collaborators within the reactivated interwar criminal justice system. It uses these large-scale, justice-seeking projects as a framework in which to analyze how the social solidarities that undergird local communities are (re)forged in the aftermath of widespread atrocities. In doing so, it highlights how these “technologies of retribution” were shaped by the dynamic interactions between socialist political elites, interwar legal personnel who had been reinstated to help steer these projects, and finally, by individuals and local communities seeking retribution for acts of wartime wrongdoing. As these actors struggled to realize these projects of punishment, new forms of self- and national identification were produced that anchored local communities to the new postwar Polish socialist state.

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