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Piotr Wrobel

Jewish Historians from Habsburg Galicia and the Holocaust

A group of Jewish historians emerged from Habsburg Galicia. Some of them, such as Mayer Balaban and Ignacy Schiper, began their scholarly careers before 1914; and some, including Artur Eisenbach and Emanuel Ringelblum, were born around 1900 and started professional activity during the interwar period. Others, like Raphael Mahler and Philip Friedman, were educated at excellent German universities in Vienna and Berlin; and some, like Eisenbach and Ringelblum, attended universities in independent Poland after 1918. Yet all of them were rooted in the unique atmosphere of Habsburg-controlled, autonomous Galicia. Contrary to most of their brethren from the Russian and German Empires, they had access to Polish culture and spoke perfect Polish, but, simultaneously, developed a strong Jewish national identity. This paper examines their lives after 1939 and their reaction to the Holocaust. In particular, two questions are addressed: how did surviving Galician historians’ perceptions of the Holocaust differ depending on their intellectual environment; and what did it mean to be a scholar-survivor?

Piotr Wrobel holds the Konstanty Reynart Chair of Polish Studies at the University of Toronto. Previously he was a research fellow at the Jewish Historical Institute in Warsaw and research director of a clandestine Eastern Archives that collected materials about the Polish deportees in the Soviet Union after 1939. He is currently a member of the Advisory Board of the journal Polin: Studies in Polish Jewry, and he has authored or co-authored seven books and more than 75 scholarly articles. His most recent work is The Origins of Modern Polish Democracy, co-edited with M. B. B. Biskupski and James S. Pula (Ohio University Press, 2010).