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Polish Student Association Lecture. “A Polish Doctor in the Nazi Camps: Reflections on Writing Story and History.”

Monday, March 30, 2015
4:00 AM
Michigan Room, Michigan League, 911 N. University

In her recent book, A Polish Doctor in the Nazi Camps, anthropologist Barbara Rylko-Bauer interweaves personal family narrative with history to present a daughter’s account of her Polish Catholic mother’s World War II experiences as a prisoner-doctor in Jewish slave labor camps in Nazi Germany. Her mother, Jadwiga Lenartowicz Rylko (Jadzia), was training to be a pediatrician in Poland when the war began. Arrested at the start of 1944, she endured three concentration camps, a 42-day death march, and the challenges of “surviving survival”—rebuilding a new life as a refugee doctor in Germany, and after 1950 as a U.S. immigrant, first in Detroit and later in Grand Rapids, MI. Rylko-Bauer will also discuss her own journey through both story and the complex histories that frame it. The book was recently named one of the 2015 Michigan Notable Books. For more information about the book, see

Barbara Rylko-Bauer is a medical anthropologist whose writing focuses on health care inequalities, applied anthropology, political violence, memory, and the Holocaust. She holds a Ph.D. in anthropology and is adjunct associate professor of anthropology at Michigan State University. She was Book Review Editor for Medical Anthropology Quarterly and has authored numerous chapters and articles. Her most recent books are A Polish Doctor in the Nazi Camps (2014) and Global Health in Times of Violence (2009). Barbara was born in Frankfurt-am-Main, Germany, to Polish Catholic parents who had been imprisoned during World War II—her mother in German concentration camps and her father as a prisoner-of-war. The family immigrated to the United States near the end of 1950, where Barbara grew up in a Polish-American enclave of Detroit. She attended the University of Michigan as an undergraduate and was awarded a Ph.D. by the University of Kentucky in 1985. Barbara lives in Grand Rapids, Michigan with her husband, Daniel Bauer, and they have a son, John.