Australian Institute of Polish Affairs

Presentation by Prof. Barbara Engelking

The Australian Institute of Polish Affairs (AIPA) held an on-line event with Professor Barbara Engelking from the Centre for Holocaust Research at the Institute of Philosophy and Sociology of the Polish Academy of Sciences.

Bio: Professor Barbara Engelking is the author of many books related to the issues of the Holocaust. Her research focuses on the experiences of the Holocaust in the accounts of the Survivors, attempts to describe this experience also in the light of all other available sources (official and personal documents, letters, accounts, memories) and perspectives (victims, witnesses, executioners). The Centre for Holocaust Research of the Institute of Philosophy and Sociology of the Polish Academy of Sciences focuses on conducting interdisciplinary research, combining different methodologies, breaking existing patterns of describing the Holocaust, serving to reveal various cognitive perspectives and points of view, and showing the heterogeneity and ambiguity of historical matter.

Over 20 guests attended the event with Prof. Engelking, where our speaker introduced a genesis of her research interests and her academic career. She graduated with a university degree in psychoanalysis of children however her personal interests, stimulated at home by her father who was a university Professor, led her to undertake her PhD in history focusing on Jewish history and culture. As can be expected individual testimonies and personal interviews of survivors become her most important data collection instrument. However, in the 1980s there was little interest in sharing these stories in Poland. It was 1989 which brought a significant shift in a willingness of Holocaust survivors to share their stories. “It was like a floodgate after 4 June 1989” which resulted in 40 interviews and a new publication titled “Zagłada i Pamięć” recording the experience of Holocaust and its consequences based on autobiographic material. That was a breakthrough research experience which led to further publications and collaborations including: “The Warsaw Getto – a guide around non-existent city” (2001) with Jacek Leociak.

A description of the Warsaw ghetto from the time when it was closed to the outside world (16 November 1940) up to its liquidation (16 May 1943), based on information from literature on the subject and on published and unpublished testimonies: memoirs, diaries, documents, and letters. Presents a reconstruction of the topography of the ghetto, the public transport routes, the institutions (the Jewish Council and others), schooling, trade and other aspects of economy in the ghetto, as well as social and cultural life. Includes much information about everyday life in the ghetto. Includes numerous illustrations and maps. 

In 2003, at the Institute of Philosophy at the Polish Academy of Sciences, she successfully completed the ‘habilitation’ process and was promoted. It provided her with the opportunity to create her own research group and thus create the Polish Centre for Holocaust Research. Since then this completely independent Institute has been focusing on undertaking research and broadly disseminating the findings through a variety of platforms.

1. Zagłada Żydów. Studia i Materiały Holocaust Studies and Materials

2. Book publications

3. The ‘Negativa’ series directed to popular trade-press distribution, deals with complex and little-studied moral issues as collaboration, complacency, blackmail and the murder of Jews at the hands of the local populations, the books explore the “blank spots” of public memory of the Holocaust.

4. Biblioteka Świadectw Zagłady (The Library of Holocaust Testimonies) is a compilation of diaries written by victims and survivors during the Holocaust and memoirs written in the postwar era. Some personal diaries are particularly worth noting e.g. Mietek Pachter published in 2012 a small-time swindler, opportunist from Ochota, who was taken to Majdanek concentration camp in May 1943 – his diary is titled “Umierać też trzeba umieć”.

5. Research Projects Such as Klucze i kasa (2014) – case studies related to Jewish property in Poland under the German occupation and during the early post-war years, 1939–1950. And of course the two volumes of “Dalej jest Noc” published with Jan Grabowski.

Currently working on online database Warsaw Ghetto and “Aryan side” –

For more information about the institute please go to:

29 March 2021

Prof. Gosia Klatt
AIPA President

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