Research Forum, Seminars

Attacks on Holocaust survivors and pogroms in post-war Poland – a lecture by Dr. Edyta Gawron of Jagiellonian University

Dr. Edyta Gawron from Jagiellonian University in Krakow is visiting the Weiss-Livnat International MA in Holocaust Studies this week, offering one-on-one time with students who are particularly interested in her research, as well as giving two lectures to our students. She is an assistant professor at the Department of Jewish Studies as well as the Head of the new Centre for the Study of the History and Culture of Krakow Jews.

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Dr. Edyta Gawron

In her first lecture, Dr. Gawron discussed the difficulties Jews faced in reacclimating in post-war Poland.  Her second lecture was given during Dr. Lea David’s class, “Human Rights, Holocaust, Genocide: The Politics of Remembrance.” In this lecture she shared insights regarding post-war Poland. The thought in Poland remained, even after the war, that Jews had caused WWII, or at the very least the invasion of Poland. Nazi anti-Semitism was well known, and because Jews were being attacked in Germany, specifically after Kristallnacht, Poles feared the Nazis would invade to strike against the Polish Jews. Another rumor prevalent in post-war Poland was that the Jews brought the USSR to Poland because they were associated with Bolshevism, just as the Nazis linked Jews and Bolsheviks. These were not the only reasons for anti-Semitism in Poland, however they exemplify the idiocy of anti-Semitism that was rampant in Poland.

In 1945, immediately after the war, there were some pogroms in Poland where Jews were physically attacked and beaten, as well as emotionally attacked through social exile. Jews were essentially pushed out of the towns they used to call home.

Dr. Gawron shared an instance of a pogrom that took place in Krakow, approximately 70 km from Auschwitz, on Saturday morning April 11, 1945. A group of Holocaust survivors went to pray in the synagogue near an open air market  when a group of boys began throwing rocks at the synagogue. One of the boys entered the synagogue and ran out screaming “Jews are trying to kill me! I saw Christian blood in the synagogue!” In the post war situation, the crowd reacted without thinking, and the rumor was spread throughout the city that Jews were killing Christian children. The pogrom lasted for several hours, dozens were seriously injured and a Holocaust survivor named Roza Berger was shot in her apartment a short distance from the market. After the pogrom, the accusing boy admitted that he had been bribed to slander the Jews and lie to everyone that the Jews were killing Christian children for sacrifices or blood libel. This was a common fabrication to stir anti-Semitism.

The Kielce pogrom on July 4, 1946, was even more violent. 42 Jews were killed. An eighteen year-old-boy was missing for the weekend; he didn’t want to tell his parents the real reason he was missing (he had snuck out with friends), so he made up a story. However,the authorities directed the conversation and asked him if he had been kidnapped and he answered affirmatively. Then they asked him if he was kidnapped by strangers, to which he answered yes. Finally, they asked if his kidnappers were Jews, which he affirmed, adding that they lived in a building where many of the returning Jews lived. They ask him if they had also kidnapped other Christians and he again confirmed that they had. The resulting pogrom lead to the killing of 42 Jews, starting with those who lived in the specific building the authorities had pointed out. Then the whole town was involved, all hunting out the Jews who were running from the pogrom. After this event, all of the surviving Jews in Kielce banded together and left Poland.

Altogether, 1,500 Jews were killed in post-war Poland. Although Dr. Gawron mentioned that it’s not fair to say that all of the murders were inspired by anti-Semitism, there was a lot of violence in post-war Poland. Many people were were attacked and murdered on the road because it looked like might have food or valuables. Within one year, 100,000 Polish Jews left Poland to establish lives elsewhere. Perhaps the Poles acted out of fear, specifically fear of confrontation? Maybe non-Jewish Poles were scared to confront Jews with their inability to act during the Holocaust. After the war, people became desensitized, and post-war Poland was rife with crime. One theory is a psychological phenomenon that victims (Poles) will victimize others (Jews) for a sense of control. This resulted in tension between the two groups.

Unfortunately, immediately after the war there was no public education in Poland about what they Jews had gone through, nothing about gas chambers in the papers. In the general public,  the realities of the Holocaust were unknown. Maybe better Holocaust education would have helped? Polish-Jewish life after the Holocaust was difficult, even impossible.

We would like to thank Dr. Edyta Gawron for coming and presenting to our students, and for the research advice and expertise she offered.

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In order from left to right: Anat Bratman-Elhalel (Director of Archives at the Ghetto Fighters’ House Museum), Lindsay Shapiro (Cohort IV), and Dr. Edyta Gawron.

In order from left to right: Anat Bratman-Elhalel (Director of Archives at the Ghetto Fighters’ House Museum), Lindsay Shapiro (Cohort IV), and Dr. Edyta Gawron.


Interested in applying for our MA in Holocaust Studies Program?  You can find the application and more information at our website

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Current Students, Seminars

Weiss-Livnat Seminar in Warsaw: Initiating Dialog Between Israeli, German, and Polish Students

Written by Devra Katz


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Polin Museum

This past summer I had the privilege of participating in the Polin Meeting Point Summer Education School hosted at the POLIN Museum of the History of Polish Jews in Warsaw, Poland.  The program, a two-week seminar, invited students from Germany, Poland, and Israel to come together and, using various methodologies, explore issues related to post World War II reconstruction in Poland and Germany, and the emergence of Israeli statehood and citizenship.  This topic sparked very interesting and illuminating discussions among the students and brought to light issues of national narratives and identity politics in Poland, Germany, and Israel.

The program incorporated a multifaceted, interdisciplinary approach in order to engage participants and enhance the learning environment.  First and foremost, the seminar invited numerous prestigious scholars from Poland, Germany, and Israel to speak to the group.  Some of the best in their field, the guest scholars gave very interesting, informative, and engaging presentations which generated enlightening discussions that continued beyond the length of each session.  This approach and these lectures were some of the more special aspects of the program.  Through these discussions, our international group got the opportunity to really get to know one another and delve deeper into various narratives – personal, political, historical, and national – experienced by all the participants and their various home countries.

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Historic Warsaw

In addition to the scholarship, we spent a great deal of time touring historic Warsaw and many sites in the city relevant to World War II, the Holocaust, and the years following the war.  Among these sites were the former Warsaw ghetto, Paviak prison, the Jewish cemetery, various monuments around the city, the Jewish Historical Institute, and many more.  We were also given access to the museum’s archives and research facilities allowing us to engage relevant material and to search for documents relevant to family histories or other research projects.  Furthermore, the group spent two days visiting the city of Wroclaw, where a Polish graduate from the Weiss-Livnat program guided us through the city’s Jewish, pre-war, and post-war history.  During the program we participated in several workshops about oral history and completed final projects using oral history interviews we conducted during the seminar.  This very packed program made for a well rounded and insightful two weeks of study, participation in cross-cultural dialogue, and a unique opportunity to meet and work with peers in our respective fields from diverse backgrounds.

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Paviak Prison

The various aspects of this program provided a wonderful platform to learn a great deal, experience post-war Poland first hand, meet great people from different countries, and foster relationships, both professional and personal, that have carried on beyond the scope of the seminar.  As a student in the Weiss-Livnat International MA in Holocaust Studies program, this is just one of the many opportunities I have been afforded to expand my education, travel to places significant to the subject of the Holocaust and to my research, and grow as a scholar and global citizen.

One of the primary purposes of the POLIN Meeting Point program was to initiate dialogue between German, Polish, and Israeli students and work to build relationships at the grassroots level between the three countries.  I am very grateful for having participated in the program and I feel that my anticipation and expectations for this seminar were truly surpassed.  Originally from the United States, I am also still learning the Israeli national narratives and sentiments, and participation in this program furthered my understanding of the society in which I live and the community in which I learn. My time as a student in the Weiss-Livnat program has been enriched by participating in partner programs such as the POLIN Meeting Point, and I am thankful for the contribution it has made to my education and life experiences.


Interested in applying for our MA in Holocaust Studies Program?  You can find the application and more information at our website

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Guest Lecturers

Jan Gross: Interviewed by Student of Holocaust Studies MA Program

IMG_2265 (2)We were privileged to welcome Professor Jan Gross to our program, and learned so much from his dialogue with our student Pe’era Feldman-Gordon.  Pe’era came with questions that ranged from asking about his childhood to his experience as an activist, which provided us all with a nuanced perspective on his research.  He discussed the controversies surrounding his research in Poland, and much more.

We’re happy to share the entire interview with you:

IMG_2295 (2)IMG_2305 (2)Interested in applying for our MA in Holocaust Studies Program?  You can find the application and more information at our website: http://holocaust-studies.haifa.ac.il/

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Faculty

Faculty Feature: Dr. Sharon Kangisser Cohen

UntitledDr. Sharon Kangisser Cohen is the Academic Director of the Oral History Division of the Avraham Harman Institute of Contemporary Jewry at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. Sharon earned her PhD from the Hebrew University from the IJC. She has taught Holocaust studies at the Hebrew University, The University of New South Wales, Australia and at NYU in New York. Her second book entitled “Testimony and Time: early and later Holocaust survivor testimony” will be published by Yad Vashem in 2014.

This past semester Sharon taught two courses in our program.  The first relating to methodological issues relating to the study of the Holocaust, and the second about Education and the Holocaust. The later course examined how the Shoah has been taught in different communities throughout the world as well as pedagogical approaches to Shoah education.  We were also privileged to have Sharon accompany last year’s cohort on our trip to Germany and Poland.  We are proud to have outstanding faculty who can provide so many different services to our program.

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When asked about her experience teaching in our program, Sharon says: “As I reach the end of the first Semester teaching in the MA program in Holocaust Studies, I look back to the experience with warm memories. I think that this group of students is a bright, committed and engaged group who invested themselves in the courses I taught. The students had strong opinions and were not afraid to be challenged and to speak their mind. My goal is to help them approach questions regarding research and education in a more critical manner. Perhaps most importantly I hope our students will continue to study the subject matter respectfully and critically, maintaining a balance between its emotional force and the quest for good scholarship.”

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