Microhistories from a Polish–Jewish town: 1918 – 1956

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4 December 2018 - 5:30 PM

Agnieszka Wierzcholska (Osteuropainstitut, Freie Universität, Berlin)

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Tarnów in southern Poland has been a Polish-Jewish town for centuries. Prior to the Second World War almost 50% of the town’s inhabitants were Jewish and the remaining half were Catholics. Relations between Jews and non-Jews were a normal part of everyday life among neighbors, schoolmates, and in local politics. During the Shoah the murder of the town’s Jews took place on the streets of the town, right before the eyes of the non-Jewish neighbors. Of the 25,000 Jews who lived in Tarnów in 1939, only a mere thousand returned, and only a few hundred stayed. What happens to a town where the German occupier destroyed the Polish-Jewish Lebenswelt? The social fabric changed dramatically since 1939 and the local community became an occupied society. The antisemitism that arose in the town in the late 1930s intertwined with German anti-Jewish policies in many ways. Due to the proximity of violence, non-Jewish Poles were implicated in the Shoah. On the other hand, we must also ask which local networks proved to be resilient, what friendships turned out to be lifesaving, and what contacts proved to be dangerous? Finally, what happened to the town when the German occupier left in January 1945 and half of its population – the Jewish part – was gone? This talk retraces the everyday life of a Polish Jewish town, bridging the caesuras of World War Two in order to retrace the continuities within the upheavals and to reiterate individual life stories.

More about Agnieszka Wierzcholska here.


Modern Jewish History Seminar

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The seminar is intended to provide a platform for academic discussion about the latest research on Jewish history especially of the last three centuries. Though primarily focused on the Jews of central and east central Europe, the seminar also includes topics related to the Jews of other regions. The seminar is further enriched by including topics not directly concerned with Jews, but enabling one to see Jewish history from other perspectives (for instance, the perspective of other marginalized communities).

Despite our preference for the methods of historical research, the organizers welcome multidisciplinary approaches to the topics, including those of sociology, political science, religious studies, and art history.

The seminar is held in the library of CEFRES, Na Florenci 3, Prague 1 always at 5:30 p.m. The language of the seminar is English. The seminar is organized by Kateřina Čapková and Michal Frankl. Since 2018/2019 the seminar is included into the MA program of the Prague Center for Jewish Studies at the Charles University. Due to Michal Frankl’s stay abroad this academic year, all the questions and suggestions should be sent to Kateřina Čapková (capkova@usd.cas.cz).