Poland Talks: History and memory of the rescue of Jews during the Holocaust


Poland Talks:

History and memory of the rescue of Jews during the Holocaust
- a meeting with Anna Bikont and Mark Roseman -


End of 2017 Anna Bikont published a very interesting book on Irena Sendler, a collaborator of Żegota (the Polish Council to Aid Jews), who dedicated herself to rescuing Jewish children during the Holocaust. Not putting Sendler’s heroism into question, the book, entitled Sendlerowa. W ukryciu (Sendler. In Hiding) dismantles the myths surrounding this figure. Bikont also tells how this story has been, and still is being remembered and instrumentalized. Doing so in a broader sense she also questions established narratives on the rescue of Jews in Poland.

Almost two decades earlier, in 2000 Mark Roseman published a fascinating book on Marianne Strauss, a young Jewish women from Essen, who managed to survive the Second World War by hiding in various places all over Germany while the rest of her family perished in the Holocaust. The book entitled A Past in Hiding not only tells in a very impressive way about what it meant to be a Jew in Nazi Germany but also reflects on how the story has been repeatedly told and retold by Marianna thereafter. Roseman’s upcoming book Lives Reclaimed: A Story of Rescue and Resistance in Nazi Germany (August 2019) can be seen as a sequel to it.

Though Bikont´s book is set in occupied Poland, while the book by Roseman focuses on Nazi Germany there are many similarities between them. Firstly, both works deal with Jews trying to survive the Holocaust and people assisting them. Secondly, the phrase “in hiding” in both titles can be understood twofold, as a reference to  the actual World War Two experience, but also as a description of the later process of coming to terms with these narratives, of how they have been dealt with, silenced, (mis)represented and repeatedly reinterpreted after 1945.

In the meeting with Anna Bikont and Mark Roseman we will discuss the conditions and circumstances of Jewish survival during World War Two in occupied Poland and Nazi Germany. We will also discuss how the memory of the rescue has been shaped after the war. Finally, we will attempt to enhance a universal reflection on how to tell such stories in an appropriate way.

The discussion will be moderated by Zofia Wóycicka.


Anna Bikont is a well-known Polish writer and journalist, columnist of the biggest Polish daily Gazeta Wyborcza. She published a number of books on contemporary Polish history including Lawina i kamienie. Pisarze wobec komunizmu (Avalanche and stones. Writers towards Communism, together with Joanna Szczęsna, 2006), Sendlerowa. W ukryciu (Sendler. In Hiding, 2017) and Jacek (a biography of Jacek Kuroń, together with Helena Łuczywo, 2018). Her book My z Jedwabnego (We from Jedwabne), first published in Polish in 2004, won the European Book Prize in 2011. It was published in English in 2015 as The Crime and the Silence: Confronting the Massacre of Jews in Wartime Jedwabne.


Mark Roseman is a British-American historian and Holocaust expert. He is professor of Jewish Studies at the Indiana University (Bloomington). He authored a number of books on the Holocaust and modern German history including: Recasting the Ruhr 1945-1959: Manpower, Economic Recovery and Labour Relations (1992), Generations in conflict. Youth rebellion and generation formation in modern Germany 1770-1968 (1995) and The Villa, The Lake, The Meeting: Wannsee and the Final Solution (2002). For his book A Past in Hiding he has been awarded the Mark Lynton History Prize (2002) and the Geschwister-Scholl-Preis (2003). His upcoming book Lives Reclaimed also deals with the question of the rescue of Jews during the Holocaust in Nazi Germany.


The discussion will be held in English.