Polish Center for Holocaust Research

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The Polish Center for Holocaust Research (Polish: Centrum Badań nad Zagładą Żydów) is an academic and research center at the Polish Academy of Sciences in Warsaw, Poland. The center's director is historian Barbara Engelking.[1]


The Polish Center for Holocaust Research, created in 2003, is an interdisciplinary research facility devoted to studying the Holocaust in historical perspective. The Center brings together psychologists, sociologists, literary historians, cultural anthropologists, and other scholars in order to provide knowledge on the nature, scope, and effects of the Holocaust. In 2007, to support and expand the center's activities, the Association of the Polish Center for Holocaust Research was created.[citation needed]

The Center coordinates research and educational projects, grants, seminars, conferences, and workshops, and publishes books and papers by Polish scholars as well as translations of works in other languages. Since 2005, the center has published an academic journal, Holocaust Studies and Materials.[citation needed]

In February 2018, Jakub Petelewicz, speaking as academic secretary of the Polish Center for Holocaust Research, expressed concern that a 2018 Polish law criminalizing discussion of negative Polish actions in the Holocaust may hinder the work of Poland-based academics and institutions. While the law contains an exemption for academic and artistic work, he said the lack of definitions could lead to confusion. For instance, he expressed concern that presenting materials to schools and discussing findings publicly might be prevented. Another concern he raised was the possibility of being sued personally or as an institution by right-wing groups under provisions of the law allowing for lawsuits to defend "the good name of the Polish nation." Petelwicz described the overall effect of the law as pressuring academics to play down negative actions by Poles and emphasize suffering by Poles.[2]


Kornelia Kończal writes that "[the Center] has produced an impressive body of innovative studies dealing with the history of the Second World War in Poland. Most of the studies have been highly appreciated by the international academic community and largely ignored by the Polish readership."[3] Michael Whine stated that "its scholars have completely rewritten the historiography of the destruction of Polish Jewry" and that the center had been attacked by "Poland’s nationalist government, which does not look kindly on the scholars who have exposed many examples of local cooperation with the Germans in the destruction and despoliation of Polish Jews".[4] German historian Dieter Pohl described the center as eminent and praised its "most innovative historiography".[5]

Marta Kurkowska-Budzan and Marcin Stasiak state that the center's work has "contributed vastly to World War II historiography" but has had less of an impact on the methodology of contemporary Polish history in general.[6] Historian Havi Dreifuss states that the center's researchers "demonstrate that treachery and harm to Jews—due to a variety of motives—existed throughout occupied Poland, for long years and on a large geographical scale. A whole new set of questions are opened by the perception that among the Jews who tried to flee, most of the victims fell due to considerable Polish involvement—whether by apprehension and extradition to the Germans, or by outright murder—and not merely because of German traps."[7]

David Engel criticizes what he called the self-assumed "national mission" to help the Polish people confront some of their alleged atrocious deeds and become "more mature", in lieu of their "whining self-image of victims". Engel writes that that is not the role of historians, who rather should pursue objective, scholarly research in the interest of broad academic and international discourse.[8]

Dalej jest noc

In 2018 the Center released a Polish-language study on The Fate of Jews in Selected Counties of Occupied Poland (Polish title: Dalej jest noc, Night Goes On), co-edited by Jan Grabowski and Barbara Engelking, and co-authored with seven other Center members. The 1,600-page, two-volume study covers nine counties in German established General Government out of 63. The study identified small Polish towns as particularly dangerous, or "death traps", for Jews in hiding.[9] Historian Jacek Chrobaczyński notes that all nine studies in the study were prepared with the same methodology and style and highlights the study's importance in deconstructing political myths and propaganda partially present in Polish history, journalism, church, and politics.[10]

The director Barbara Engelking protested against a memorial of the righteous near the POLIN Museum of the History of Polish Jews in Warsaw.[11]

2019 Paris Conference

In February 2019, the Center co-organized the New Polish School of Holocaust Scholarship in Paris.[12] The conference was disrupted by Polish nationalists.[13][14][15][16] The Polish Institute of National Remembrance (IPN), which had made social media postings during the conference and sent a delegate,[12] was criticized by French higher education minister Frédérique Vidal,[12][13] who said the disturbances were "highly regrettable" and "anti-Semitic". Vidal further stated the disturbances organized by Gazeta Polska activists, appeared to have been condoned by the IPN whose representative did not condemn the disruption and which criticized the conference on social media that were further re-tweeted by the Embassy of Poland, Paris.[17] Polish Minister of General and Higher Education Jarosław Gowin issued a statement saying that he could not identify in the transcripts provided any antisemitic attacks.[16][18]

The Fondation pour la Mémoire de la Shoah,[19] Human rights ambassador François Croquette,[19] and the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance released statements against the disruption.[20]



  1. ^ "Barbara Engelking". Polish Center for Holocaust Research. Retrieved 1 March 2019.
  2. ^ David Matthews (February 21, 2018). "Historians fear 'censorship' under Poland's Holocaust law". Times Higher Education. Retrieved 2018-04-02.
  3. ^ Kończal, Kornelia (2020). "Mnemonic Populism: The Polish Holocaust Law and its Afterlife". European Review. 29 (4): 457–469. doi:10.1017/S1062798720000502. ISSN 1062-7987.
  4. ^ Whine, Michael (2020). "Countering Holocaust Denial in the Twenty-First Century". Israel Journal of Foreign Affairs. 14 (1): 53–68. doi:10.1080/23739770.2020.1750858. S2CID 219054249.
  5. ^ Pohl, Dieter (2020). "Holocaust Studies in Our Societies". S:I.M.O.N. Shoah: Intervention. Methods. Documentation. 7 (1): 133–141. ISSN 2408-9192.
  6. ^ Kurkowska-Budzan, Marta; Stasiak, Marcin (2020). "Oral History / Oral Sources - Polish Historians' Dilemmas". Bulletin de l'AFAS. Sonorités (46): 168–179. doi:10.4000/afas.4215. ISSN 1246-7529. S2CID 218916015.
  7. ^ Dreifuss, Havi (2019). "Omer Bartov. Anatomy of a Genocide: The Life and Death of a Town Called Buczacz; Barbara Engelking. Such a Beautiful Sunny Day . . . : Jews Seeking Refuge in the Polish Countryside, 1942–1945". The American Historical Review. 124 (3): 1029–1033. doi:10.1093/ahr/rhz411.
  8. ^ Daniel Blatman. Holocaust scholarship: towards a post-uniqueness era. Journal of Genocide Research, 17(1), 21–43. pages 34-35
  9. ^ Study says Polish neighbors betrayed many more Jews than previously thought, Jewish Telegraphic Agency, 11 May 2018.
  10. ^ "Chrobaczyński, Jacek. "Osaczeni, samotni, bezbronni... Refleksje po lekturze książki Dalej jest noc. Losy Żydów w wybranych powiatach okupowanej Polski (Polish with English abstract), T. I, II, pod redakcją Barbary Engelking i Jana Grabowskiego, Warszawa 2018." Res Gestae 6 (2018): 266-301".
  11. ^ "Centrum Badań nad Zagładą Żydów - Getto, powstanie, pomnik Sprawiedliwych. Cierpienie wymaga ciszy i przestrzeni". www.holocaustresearch.pl.
  12. ^ a b c Behr, Valentin (2019). "Entre histoire et propagande. Les contributions de l'Institut polonais de la mémoire nationale à la mise en récit de la Seconde Guerre mondiale". Allemagne d'aujourd'hui (in French) (228): 82–92. doi:10.3917/all.228.0082. S2CID 198023025.
  13. ^ a b Jakub Iwaniuk (4 March 2019). "La Pologne minimise les incidents lors d'un colloque sur la Shoah à Paris". Le Monde (in French).
  14. ^ Jonathan Brent (12 April 2019). "The war between polish nationalism and holocaust history". Tablet.
  15. ^ Szurek, Jean-Charles (4 March 2019). "L'extrême droite polonaise perturbe un colloque sur la Shoah" [Polish far right disrupts Holocaust conference]. Libération (in French). Retrieved 19 August 2019.
  16. ^ a b Croitoru, Joseph (28 March 2019). "Ein solches Geschichtsbild dulden wir nicht – eine polnische Kampagne gegen die Holocaust-Forschung" [We will not tolerate such an image of history – a Polish campaign against Holocaust research]]. Neue Zürcher Zeitung (in German).
  17. ^ Colloquium on the Shoah in Paris: France protests with Poland, Le Figaro, 1 March 2019
  18. ^ Minister replies to French counterpart's letter over Holocaust conference, The First news, 4 March 2019
  19. ^ a b Un colloque international à Paris sur la Shoah perturbé par des militants polonais, Political, 26 February 2019
  20. ^ Statement on Disruption of International Symposium on Polish Research on the Holocaust, IHRA, 7 March 2019

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