2016_4_Behrends

Volume 5 Issue 4 CONTENTS

 

Rokossowski Coming Home: The Making and Breaking of an (Inter-)national Hero in Stalinist Poland (1949–1956)

Jan C. Behrends

Centre for Contemporary History, Potsdam

 

At the beginning was the Great Terror of 1937/38. It meant both the arrest of a Soviet officer of Polish origin, Konstantin Rokossowski, and the destruction of interwar Polish communism.1 While Rokossowski was freed before the German invasion and survived to serve as a distinguished commander in World War II, Polish communism did not recover from Stalin’s onslaught. It had to be reinvented and rebuilt during the war, and it underwent nationalization, Stalinization, and de-Stalinization in the period between 1941 and 1956. This essay uses the tenure of Rokossowski as Polish Minister of Defense between 1949 and 1956 to shed light on the tension between nationalist rhetoric and Sovietization and the ways in which Polish society and popular opinion reacted to these processes.

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