“The Siberian Exile of Polish Jews. The Fates of the Shoah Refugees” – Online meeting with authors of the book, Lidia Zessin-Jurek and Katharina Friedla
“Saved” in the East, or “Survivors” of the East? Even today there is still a disagreement on how we should perceive Jewish refugees from Poland who were deported by Stalin to Siberia. After escaping the Germans on their own, they were suddenly forced to move further East, as if they were pawns on a chessboard. They experienced the hardships of forced labor, hunger, and cold. However, even though the mortality rate in a Soviet shelter was high, these people had higher chances of surviving in the Soviet Union than in occupied Poland. By pure coincidence Stalin saved their lives, but only after returning to Poland did they find this out. These Polish Jews, who survived the war, in most cases did not have personal memories of German persecution but instead had memories of Soviet persecution. Only today the memory of their experience and loss comes out of the great shadow cast by the Nazi extermination and the shadow of the Polish, Catholic experience in Siberia, the “Calvary of the East”.
The book was published by the Jewish Historical Institute.
Lidia Zessin-Jurek and Katharina Friedla are researchers of this unusual history of the wartime exile of Polish Jews. Their research is conducted thanks to the support of various postdoc grants: from Poland, Germany, Israel, the United States, Czech Republic and France. The international interest in this project, which focuses on “The Siberian Exile of Polish Jews”, is proof that this subject is not only extremely important, but also that it has been overlooked for too long. This publication was directly supported by Die Zeit Foundation and the Szloma Albam Stiftung. Even though Ms. Zessin-Jurek has been working in Prague, and Ms. Friedla in Berlin, they have often met in Warsaw and Łódź. Currently each of the scholars is working on other, unexplored aspects of the history of the exile of Polish Jews, both in Poland and in the Soviet Union.
Led by: Adam Szostkiewicz
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