Littman Library of Jewish Civilization

Polin: Studies in Polish Jewry, Volume 20

Making Holocaust Memory
Edited by Gabriel N. Finder, Natalia Aleksiun, Antony Polonsky and Jan Schwarz

The reconciliation of Jewish and Polish memories of the Holocaust is the central issue in contemporary Polish-Jewish relations, yet this is the first volume to examine Poles’ and Jews’ shared yet divisive memory of the Holocaust in a comprehensive way. The ‘New Views’ section features several examples of recent innovative research in other areas of Polish–Jewish studies, including the history of the New Synagogue in Poznan which was converted by the Nazis into a swimming-pool.

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Although the reconciliation of Jewish and Polish memories of the Holocaust is the central issue in contemporary Polish­Jewish relations, this is the first attempt to examine these divisive memories in a comprehensive way. Until 1989, Polish consciousness of the Second World War subsumed the destruction of Polish Jewry within a communist narrative of Polish martyrdom and heroism. Post-war Jewish memory, in contrast, has been concerned mostly with Jewish martyrdom and heroism (and barely acknowledged the plight of Poles under German occupation). Since the 1980s, however, a significant number of Jews and Poles have sought to identify a common ground and have met with partial but increasing success, notwithstanding the new debates that have emerged in recent years concerning Polish behaviour during the Nazi genocide of the Jews that Poles had ignored for half a century. This volume considers these contentious issues from different angles.

Among the topics covered are Jewish memorial projects, both in Poland and beyond its borders; the Polish approach to Holocaust memory under communist rule; and post-communist efforts both to retrieve the Jewish dimension to Polish wartime memory and to reckon with the dark side of the Polish national past. An interview with acclaimed author Henryk Grynberg touches on many of these issues from the personal perspective of one who as a child survived the Holocaust hidden in the Polish countryside, as do the three of his poems reproduced here.

The 'New Views' section features innovative research in other areas of Polish­Jewish studies. A special section is devoted to research concerning the New Synagogue in Poznan, built in 1907, which is still standing only because the Nazis turned it into a swimming-pool.


About the editors

Natalia Aleksiun is Assistant Professor in Eastern European Jewish History, Touro College, New York. Her publications include Dokad dalej: Ruch syjonistyczny w Polsce, 1944–1949 (Where further? The Zionist Movement in Poland, 1944–1949) and more than twenty scholarly articles.

Gabriel N. Finder is Associate Professor in the Department of Germanic Languages and Literatures at the University of Virginia. He is writing a book on the role of the politics of memory in rebuilding Jewish life in post-war Poland; he has published articles in the journals Polin, Gal-Ed, and East European Jewish Affairs and contributed to the forthcoming YIVO Encyclopedia of Jews in Eastern Europe

Antony Polonsky is Albert Abramson Professor of Holocaust Studies at Brandeis University and the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum and Chief Historian of the Permanent Collection of the Museum of the History of Polish Jews, Warsaw. He is the author of Politics in Independent Poland (1972), The Little Dictators (1975), The Great Powers and the Polish Question (1976), The Jews in Poland and Russia, Volume 1 and 2 (forthcoming), and co-author of A History of Modern Poland (1980) and The Beginnings of Communist Rule in Poland (1981).

Jan Schwarz is Senior Lecturer in the Department of Germanic Studies, University of Chicago, and author of Imagining Lives: Autobiographical Fiction of Yiddish Writers.

Contributor information

Natalia Aleksiun, Assistant Professor in Eastern European Jewish History, Touo College, New York
Jolanta Ambrosewicz-Jacobs, Head, Section for Holocaust Studies, Centre for European Studies, Jagiellonian University, Kraków; curator, International Centre for  Education about Auschwitz and the Holocaust, Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum
Boaz Cohen, teacher in Jewish and Holocaust Studies, Shaanan and Western Galilee Colleges, northern Israel
Judith Cohen, Director of the Photographic Reference Collection, United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, Washington DC
Gabriel N. Finder, Associate Professor, Department of Germanic Languages and Literatures, University of Virginia
Rebecca Golbert, researcher
Regina Grol, Professor of Comparative Literature, Empire State College, State University of New York
Jonathan Huener, Associate Professor of History, University of Vermont
Carol Herselle Krinsky, Professor of Fine Arts, New York University
Marta Kurkowska, Lecturer, Institute of History, Jagiellonian, University, Kraków
Joanna B. Michlic, Assistant Professor, Holocaust and Genocide Program, Richard Stockton College, Pomona, New Jersey
Eva Plach, Assistant Professor of History, Wilfrid Laurier University, Waterloo, Canada
Antony Polonsky, Albert Abramson Professor of Holocaust Studies at Brandeis University and the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum and Chief Historian of the Permanent Collection of the Museum of the History of Polish Jews, Warsaw.
Alexander V. Prusin, Associate Professor of History, New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology, Socorro
Jan Schwarz, Senior Lecturer, Department of Germanic Studies, University of Chicago
Maxim D. Shrayer, Professor of Russian and English, Chair of the Department of Slavic and Eastern Languages, Co-Director, Jewish Studies Program, Boston College
Michael C. Steinlauf, Professor of Jewish History and Culture, Gratz College, Pennsylvania
Robert Szuchta, History teacher, Stanislaw I. Witkiewicz High School, Warsaw
Joanna Tokarska-Bakir, Lectuer in Cultural Anthroplogy, Warsaw University; Chair, Department of Cultural Anthropology, Collegium Civitas, Poland
Scott Ury, Post-Doctoral Fellow, Department of Jewish History, Tel Aviv University
Bret Werb, United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, Washington DC
Seth L. Wolitz, Gale Chair of Jewish Studies and Professor of Comparative Literature, University of Texas at Austin



Note on Place Names
Note on Transliteration


Gabriel N. Finder

Memento Mori: Photographs from the Grave
Gabriel N. Finder and Judith R. Cohen

The Central Jewish Historical Commission in Poland, 1944–1947
Natalia Aleksiun

Who Am I? Jewish Children’s Search for Identity in Post-War Poland, 1945–1949
Joanna B. Michlic

Jewish Collaborators on Trial in Poland, 1944–1956
Gabriel N. Finder and Alexander V. Prusin

Auschwitz and the Politics of Martyrdom and Memory, 1945–1947
Jonathan Huener

A Library of Hope and Destruction: The Yiddish Book Series Dos poylishe yidntum (Polish Jewry), 1946–1956
Jan Schwarz

Rachel Auerbach and Israeli Holocaust Memory
Boaz Cohen

Holocaust Memorialization in Ukraine
Rebecca Golbert

Jedwabne and Wizna: Monuments and Memory in the Łomża Region
Marta Kurkowska

So Many Questions: The Development of Holocaust Education in Post-Communist Poland
Jolanta Ambrosewicz-Jjacobs

From Silence to Reconstruction: The Holocaust in Polish Education since 1989
Robert Szuchta

What Story to Tell? Shaping the Narrative of the Museum of the History of Polish Jews
Michael C. Steinlauf

Bearing Witness: Henryk Grynberg’s Path from Child Survivor to Artist (An Interview with Henryk Grynberg)
Joanna B. Michlic


‘On the Gallows’: The ‘Politics of Assimilation’ in Turn-of-the-Century Warsaw
Scott Ury

Shabes, yontef un rosh-khoydesh: A Close Analysis of the First Line of Goldfadn’s Song
Seth L. Wolitz

Jozefa Singer, the Inspiration for Rachela in Stanislaw Wyspianski’s Wesele, 1901
Regina Grol

Introducing Miss Judaea of 1929: The Politics of Beauty, Race, and Zionism in Interwar Poland
Eva Plach

Shmerke Kaczerginski, the Partisan-Troubadour
Bret Werb

You from Jedwabne
Joanna Tokarska-Bakir


The Synagogues of Poznan
Carol Herselle Krinsky

The Dedication of the New Synagogue in Poznan (Posen)
Antony Polonsky


A Selection from Part 1 of Lev Levanda’s Seething Times
Maxim R. Schrayer

Notes on Contributors