Before WWII, Poland was home to the biggest Jewish population in the world – nearly 3,5 million people. The invasion of Poland by Germany in September 1939 and the subsequent occupation gave Nazi Germany a free hand in conducting its policy: first the “ghettoization,” and then extermination of the Jewish population of Poland. It is here that all of the “death factories” or extermination camps were located and Jews from all across Europe were brought here to their death.
This course will be conducted jointly with the recently opened Museum of the History of Polish Jews (POLIN). It will present the history of Jews in Poland from medieval times to the present day. Emphasis will be put on the development of the specific culture of Polish Jewry and its numerous connections with Polish culture. The course will also include a thorough study of the Holocaust. Anti-Semitism and xenophobia will be examined both in historical perspective and as a current issue in contemporary Polish politics and society. During the classes various types of historical and iconographical resources and documentary films will be used.
The course structure will be a combination of lectures, discussions, field trips to the sites connected with Jewish heritage and the Holocaust, film screenings, and workshops in the museums.
Apart from the formal lectures and the thorough examination of the core exhibition of the Museum of the History of Polish Jews, participants will also visit various Jewish sites in Warsaw, the medieval Jewish quarter in Kraków, and former Jewish “shtetlech” – little towns. They will meet with activists who work to preserve the Jewish history and those who promote open, tolerant attitudes in their communities. They will also meet with witnesses of the Holocaust (survivors and those who helped them) to gain a primary source perspective of the events that transpired. Participants will witness the ongoing and largely successful effort to rebuild a thriving Jewish culture in Poland.
- Introduction to the History of Poland
- Jews in Pre-Modern Poland
- Ideological Background of the Holocaust
- Between Tradition and Modernity
- The Beginning of the Holocaust
- The Rise of Anti-Semitism and Jewish Reactions
- The Final Solution
- Second Polish Republic
- The Fate of Jews in the Nazi Occupied Lands
- Polish-Jewish Relations 1945-1950
Coursework And Assessment:
Course grading will be based on active class participation and final paper (individual essay).