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Thou Shall Not Kill…Your Brother: Victim−Perpetrator Cultural Closeness and Moral Disapproval of Polish Atrocities against Jews after the Holocaust


  • This research was supported by grants from the Polish Ministry of Science and Higher Education, N N106 0886 33 “Psychological Threat and Intergroup Relations,” and Statutory Research Grant BST from the Psychology Faculty, University of Warsaw. PS would like to acknowledge linguistic help and support of her husband Edward Loh. Moreover, special thanks are due to two proofreaders of earlier versions of this paper, Agnieszka and Miroslaw Kowaluk.

Correspondence concerning this article should be addressed to Miroslaw Kofta, Faculty of Psychology, University of Warsaw, Stawki 5/7, 00-183 Warszawa, Poland [e-mail:].


This paper addresses the role of collective memory of post-Holocaust crimes in contemporary PolishJewish relations. We examined how reminding Polish participants of ingroup atrocities affects constructive as well as destructive attitudes and behavioral intentions toward the Jewish victim group. We address the question of how experimentally induced feelings of cultural closeness between the outgroup and the ingroup modify the effects of these reminders on intergroup relations. Our two experiments suggest that perceived sharing of culture is a crucial factor in dealing constructively with the “problematic past” in intergroup relations. In the baseline condition (where cultural closeness of Jews and Poles was not made salient), reminders of ingroup atrocities activated group-defensive strategies, resulting in more negative intergroup attitudes and dehumanization of Jews. In stark contrast, in the “culturally close” condition (where feelings of shared culture were induced), reminders of ingroup atrocities actually resulted in more positive intergroup attitudes and humanization of Jews.