A mayor of the city could declare martial law
Rafał Dutkiewicz is a politician, entrepreneur, university lecturer and activist. From 2002 to 2018 Dutkiewicz was mayor of the city of Wroclaw. Before his tenure, Dutkiewicz was a lecturer for over ten years, teaching logic and mathematics. During the time of martial law he was active in the underground movement "Solidarność" in Wroclaw. During his tenure, Wroclaw recorded the highest public investment in post-war history.
Mr. Dutkiewicz, as mayor of Wrocław / Breslau, in 2008 you had a “Memorial of Common Remembrance” erected. What is meant by this?
During the communist era, old cemeteries in Wroclaw were removed - along with their tombs from Wroclaw residents: Germans, Jews, Czechs, .... At the beginning of this century, there was the idea of stonemasons in Wroclaw and the surrounding area to buy off all the tombstones that still exist and to use them to erect a “memorial to common memory”. It was important to me that the relatives of people who were buried there have a place to go to light candles. As early as 2008, when the memorial was erected, people from Wroclaw went there and lit candles there too. This has happened every year since then.
So is there a common culture of remembrance?
As for the culture of remembrance: in the case of Wroclaw, it really does exist. We have double roots, so to speak. When the Germans were expelled from Wroclaw at the end and after the end of the war and the partially expelled Poles came to Wroclaw, a complete “exchange” of the population took place. However, the history of the city still matters today. A young Wroclaw would say, “We had 10 Nobel Prize winners in Wroclaw” - that is part of Wroclaw history, but not Polish history. Even so, a young Wroclaw man would emphasize that they are “our” Nobel Prize winners. This phenomenon seems to me to be European in the sense that we have embraced the complex history of the city.
You come from a small town and came to Wrocław for the first time in the 1960s, where you were mayor for 16 years. As a fellow of the Robert Bosch Academy, you now live in Berlin. What do these cities have in common for you?
Before the war, Kurt Tucholsky said: "Every decent Berliner comes from Breslau." When I look out the window of my office here, I see Hedwig's Cathedral - St. Hedwig is a saint of Lower Silesia - and until 1939 Berlin was part of it of the Archdiocese of Wroclaw. So, historically speaking, the cities are very closely connected. Today there remains a cultural bond. In 2016, Wroclaw was the European Capital of Culture and in the course of this we carried out projects in both cities. Luneta / Fernrohr was a multimedia installation in front of the Berlin Friedrichstrasse train station and the main train station in Wroclaw. People could see and hear what was happening in the other city through screens and microphones, and school classes or artists could discuss with one another. That worked great. So it is not only the history and administration of both cities that come into contact, there are also citizens and artists.
On Memorial Day we commemorate the victims of wars and violence of all nations. What can the memory of the past teach us for our present?
The Second World War began 80 years ago. So you could say: That was so long ago! We may think that peace and democracy are forever given to us. But that is not the case, you have to take care of them. Today in Europe, including my own country, there are clear problems with liberal democracy and the rule of law. It is our job to remember that peace does not last forever and that the European Union was our continent's most beautiful answer to the tragedy of World War II. So the day of national mourning is a connection between the past and the future.
“We think that peace and democracy are forever given to us. That's not the case"
You are a Richard von Weizsäcker Fellow at the Robert Bosch Academy. What is it about you at the Academy?
I deal with two topics at the Academy. First: With the deepening of European integration and the question of whether cities or municipalities could play a more important role in this. And secondly, I deal with the topic of Ukraine and Ukrainian integration. There are currently more than 100,000 Ukrainians living in Wroclaw who have emigrated to Poland for economic reasons.
Nowadays, our daily life takes place mainly in cities. And the national still plays a role, but can only be realized in an international framework. In our case that means: with the help of the European Union. We are currently observing two phenomena. European integration is in a crisis, as the example of Brexit shows. On the other hand, the turnout in the European elections was much higher than before and a clear majority of Europeans said: We want to stand up for Europe.
So when the citizens say that Europe is important to us, then local politics should become more and more involved here too. For me, it is mainly about exchange, human, personal and intellectual - in other words, benefiting from the cultural complexity of Europe - and that often happens in the cities.
Breslau / Wrocław in the southwest of Poland has an eventful past. As a result of the Silesian Wars from 1741, the city first fell under Prussian and later under German rule. After the Second World War, the German population was almost completely resettled and Wroclaw was re-annexed to Poland. With the German-Polish border treaty of November 1990, the Federal Republic of Germany officially recognized Wroclaw again as part of Poland.
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