Absent heritage. The case of Gliwice
The memory of the German heritage of Silesian cities can become a burden. It is also a story of erasing and avoiding this heritage, an attitude necessary to build the national identity. At the same time elements of the German heritage are incorporated not so much into a reconstructed local identity, but into a reviving regional identity of Silesia as well as city marketing and image strategies. What happened in Silesian towns and cities in 1945–1989 made it impossible to draw on the German tradition in the construction of the identity of their residents. This tradition was doubly alien and doubly unacceptable. It was rejected as a legacy of the capitalist era and of the German past. It could not be reconciled with the realist socialist model of the world as well as with the belief in the uniformity of national culture and myth of the eternal Polishness of Silesia. Nor could it be reconciled with the long-standing (though of a varying intensity) use of the German threat to legitimise the communist authorities. The places that might have become the essence of the new identity were hidden in the constructs of the past imposed by the government or were interpreted in a specific manner, with the authorities emphasising the significance of other traces. Paradoxically, elements of the German cultural heritage do appear, but only after they have been adapted as elements of the Silesian heritage. The impression is that the potential of this heritage is not well used. It is used more to build the city’s image and boost tourism rather than to build identity.