Biographies and Politics: Involvement of Jews and People of Jewish Origin in Leftist Movements in 19th and 20th Century Poland

Conference, 1-2 December 2019, Warsaw, Poland

The conference 'Biographies and Politics: The Involvement of Jews and People of Jewish Origin in Leftist Movements in 19th and 20th Century Poland' aims to determine the actual Jewish engagement in leftist movements in Poland in the 19th and 20th centuries from the point of view of their individual ideological choices.

Personal histories, family fortunes, and forming political identities will be analyzed using a biographical method. Thus, they will help answer the question of what drove Polish Jews to join leftist organizations.

The conference will be attended by scholars from Europe, the United States, Israel and Australia, who specialize in research on the formation of Jewish political identities based on biographical sources.

The conference is organized within the Global Education Outreach Program.

The conference was made possible thanks to the support of

- Taube Philanthropies
- the William K. Bowes, Jr. Foundation
- the Association of the Jewish Historical Institute of Poland
- Stiftung für deutsch-polnische Zusammenarbeit
- European Association of Jewish Studies
- Deutsch-Polnische Wissenschaftsstiftung
- the Gotteiner Institute for the History of the Bund and the Jewish Labor Movement at the University of Haifa


1 December 2019

09:00 – 09:30
Conference registration

09:30 – 10:00

10:00 – 12:00

SESSION 1: How Jewish are Leftist Ideas? How Leftist is Jewishness

Jakob Stürmann, Free University of Berlin:
Pavel Axelrod – Eastern European Socialist and “Role Model” for Jewish Socialists during the Inter-War Period?

Alexandra Kemmerer, Max Planck Institute for Comparative Public and International Law, Heidelberg/Berlin
Poland’s Forgotten Eagle: Rosa Luxemburg – Martyr, Icon, Marginalized Theorist of Revolution

Katarzyna Chmielewska, Polish Academy of Sciences, Warsaw
The Family Communist Rhizome

Chair: Fançois Guesnet, UCL

SESSION 2: Internationalist Politics, Transnational Biographies, Local Activism

Zoé Grumberg, Sciences Po, Paris
Yiddish-Speaking Jewish Communists from Poland in Paris: Social and Political Trajectories from the 1920s to the 1960s

Ebony Nilsson, University of Sydney
A ‘Pied Piper of Discontent’ Among Workers and a ‘Broken-Hearted Communist’: The Transnational Lives and Politics of Polish-Born Jewish Left-Wing Activists in Australia

Daniel Walkowitz, New York University
The Bund Milieu: The Polish-Jewish Left-Wing Diaspora, From Łódź and Białystok to Paterson, New Jersey

Chair: Dobrochna Kałwa, University of Warsaw

12:30 – 14:30

SESSION 3: Social and Cultural Activism

Sylwia Kuźma-Markowska, University of Warsaw
Being a Jewish Birth Controller in Interwar and State-Socialist Poland: The Story of Herman Rubinraut (Henryk Babiniak)

Andrea Feldman, University of Zagreb
Circle of Vera Erlich Stein: Jewish Activists in the Interwar Yugoslavia

Vassili Schedrin, Kingston University
Solomon Mikhoels: Unwritten Autobiography

Chair: Artur Markowski, POLIN Museum

SESSION 4: Antifascism Facing the Holocaust

Stefan Gąsiorowski, Jagiellonian University, Krakow
Saved by Socialism? PPS Threads in the Life of Michał Borwicz (1911–1987)

Michał Trębacz, POLIN Museum
Szmul Zygielbojm. Bundist in Polish London, 1942–1943

Maria Ferenc, University of Warsaw / Emanuel Ringelblum Jewish Historical Institute, Warsaw
Shmuel Breslaw: Unacknowledged Intellectual Leader of Hashomer Hatzair in the Warsaw Ghetto

Chair: Stephan Stach, POLIN Museum

15:30 – 17:30

SESSION 5: Exclusion and Inclusion in Leftist Jewish Biographies

Dariusz Zalega, Independent Scholar
Zygmunt Glücksman: Activist of the Jewish Left, Leader of the German Socialists in Upper Silesia

Wojciech Goslar, Foundation of Social History, Cracow
Jew, Worker, Anarchist: The Experience of Exclusion in Late Nineteenth-Century Austrian Galicia on an Example of Maurycy Jeger’s Biography

Anna Ładowska, University of Wrocław
Dina Blond as a Second-Generation Activist in Bund

Chair: Urszula Chowaniec, UCL

SESSION 6: After the Holocaust Towards a Brighter Future?

Magdalena Semczyszyn, Institute of National Remembrance, Szczecin
Aba Kowner and Icchak Cukierman: Two Views on the Future of Zionists in Communist Poland in 1944

Anna Nedlin-Lehrer, University of Freiburg
The Founders of the Dror Kibbuz Lohamei Hagetaot (Ghetto Fighters Kibbuz) and the Formation of Their Group Identity

Chair: Zofia Wóycicka, German Historical Institute, Warsaw

18:00 – 20:00

Karen Auerbach, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
Jewish Biographies, Leftist Politics, and the History of Emotions

2 December 2019

09:00 – 11:00

SESSION 7: Negotiating Religion and Socialism

Gershon Bacon, Bar-Ilan University, Ramat Gan
Orthodox Jews, Ambivalent Leftists: The Case of Poalei Agudat Yisrael in Interwar Poland

Yitzchak Schwartz, New York University
Pious Radicals? Biographical Sketches of Lived Religion Between Poland, Ukraine and New Jersey in the Am Olam Agricultural Colonies, 1881–1924

Ada Gebel, Shaanan College, Haifa/ Ben Gurion University of Negev
Rabbi Dr. Yitzhak Breuer, Rabbi Yehuda Leib Orlean, and Karl Marx: Did All Three Follow the Same Path?

Chair: Yvonne Kleinmann, Aleksander Brückner Center for Polish Studies, Halle

SESSION 8: Jewish Perspectives on the History of the Left – Marxist Approaches on Jewish History

Piotr Laskowski, University of Warsaw
The Monument of Failed Dreams: Mojżesz Kaufman as a Revolutionary and a Historian

Tom Navon, University of Haifa and Yad Ya’ari
Raphael Mahler: The History of Polish Jewry from a Marxist-Zionist Perspective

Tomasz Siewierski, Polish Academy of Sciences, Warsaw
In the Merging World of History and Politics: Feliks Tych (1929–2015): Scholar and Participant

Chair: Katarzyna Person, Emanuel Ringelblum Jewish Historical Institute, Warsaw

11:30 – 13:30

SESSION 9: Responsibility

Stanisław Krajewski, University of Warsaw
How Jewish Were My Communist Ancestors? Revisiting the Question of Jewish Responsibility

Katarzyna Rembacka, Institute of National Remembrance, Szczecin
Leonard Borkowicz’s Ideological Choices and His Autobiographical Settlement with Communism

Katarzyna Kwiatkowska-Moskalewicz, Agora Publishing House &
Marcin Moskalewicz, Poznan University of Medical Sciences
Helena Wolińska and Włodzimierz Brus: A Political Biography

Chair: Dariusz Stola, Polish Academy of Sciences, Warsaw

SESSION 10: Emancipatory Empowerment and Leftist Politics

Emma Zohar, Max Planck Institute for Human Development, Berlin
Communism, Gender and Emotions in the Autobiographies of Bina Garncarska-Kadari and Ester Rosenthal-Schneiderman

Jan Rybak, University of York
A Revolutionary Woman’s Self-Emancipation: Malke Schorr’s Childhood and Youth in Lwów

Magdalena Grabowska, Polish Academy of Sciences, Warsaw
Edwarda Orłowska: Activist, Politician, a Feminist?

Chair: Agnieszka Mrozik, Polish Academy of Sciences, Warsaw

14:30 – 15:50

SESSION 11: Different Generations? Different Biographies?

Jaff Schatz, Independent Scholar, Lund
Determinants, Contingencies, Chances: The Paths to the Interwar Communist Movement

Łukasz Bertram, University of Warsaw
Youth, Underground and Power: Polish Communists of Jewish Origin and the Tensions of the Revolutionary Habitus

Chair: Krzysztof Persak, POLIN Museum

SESSION 12: Making sense of Leftist Biographies

Elena Hoffenberg, University of Haifa
Who Were the Bundists? An Analysis of the Movement as Presented in Jacob Sholem Hertz’s „Doyres Bundistn” (1956)

Eryk Krasucki, University of Szczecin
References to the „World of the Past” in Biographical Sources Concerning the Elite of the KPP Leadership with Jewish Roots

Chair: Felix Ackermann, German Historical Institute, Warsaw

16:30 – 18:00

ROUND TABLE: Jewish Leftwing Activism and Family History

Participants: Alex Sobel (Leeds, UK) & Leopold Sobel (Lund, Sweden), Ewa Herbst (Edgewater NJ, USA), David Slucki (Charleston, USA)

Chair: Antony Polonsky, POLIN Museum

18:30 – 20:30

FILM SCREENING of “Tonia and her Children” by Marcel Łoziński with introductory remarks by Przemysław Kaniecki (POLIN Museum): Tonia Lechtman’s personal archive in the collections of the POLIN Museum