Gross, Magdalena H.
Struggling to deal with the difficult past.
Polish students confront the Holocaust.
This article examines the relationship between school and cultural knowledge of Second World War in contemporary Poland. Drawing on analysis of 126 student responses to well-known photographs (photo elicitation), the author addresses what it means for schoolchildren to learn about an aspect of a contested past, the Holocaust, within the frame of Second World War in Poland. This research illuminates shared cultural narratives about war. Importantly, this work unearthed dissonant responses from a subset of students who recognized a feature of the photograph that other students overlooked, and experienced the start of a schematic shift in understanding. The author builds on the tenets of schema theory and collective memory in attempting to explain how children learn about controversial events that do not fit social frameworks.