On the Polish military cemetery in Lommel rest more than two hundred fifty Polish Division soldiers who were killed in action during the liberation of Flanders in 1944. During the Cold War, it was a scene of a battle but of more political sort. The Polish Consulate and the 'anticommunist' or 'free' Polish Union each organized on the cemetery a yearly ceremony, but avoided direct contact with each other. The commemoration concentrated on the inclusion of sympathizers and the complete disregard of opponents. It focused on an own monument, an own discourse and an own ritual. The first part of the article shows how the organizers of both political camps each tried to legitimize their own ceremony and how this legitimization changed over the years. It demonstrates why and how specific groups of Polish migrants were successively mobilized to embody the legitimization of a certain period of time. From the end of the 1960s the organizers focused on the surviving Polish Division's ex-combatants for this purpose. The second part of the article contains an analysis of fifteen interviews with twelve Polish Division's ex-combatants (one of them the author visited twice) and two interviews with Polish migrants. The analysis indicates that quite a lot of respondents dealt pragmatically with the political struggle and/or were not aware of their mobilization. However, this did not prevent a selective memory of the war cemetery. The way of commemorating the dead has indeed influenced the collective memory of these Polish Division's ex-combatants. Most of them did remember the event in agreement with the organizers' design and developed an innocent explanation for the monument of the other camp in order to not trouble this remembrance.
Financed by the National Centre for Research and Development under grant No. SP/I/1/77065/10 by the strategic scientific research and experimental development program:
SYNAT - “Interdisciplinary System for Interactive Scientific and Scientific-Technical Information”.