“Jews in the 20th Century—Before, during, and after the Holocaust” will be taught in Krakow, Poland, at J Jagiellonian University, from June 11 to July 20, 2012. The course is led by Jan T. Gross, Norman B. Tomlinson '16 and '48 Professor of War and Society at Princeton University.
The seminar explores the variety and richness of Jewish social, political, and community life in Poland in the context of the calamity that befell Polish Jews in World War II. On the eve of the war, Poland’s 3.5 million Jews were the second-largest population of Jews in the world; by the war’s end they made up over half of all Holocaust victims.
Krakow is a beautiful city recognized as one of the world’s architectural gems. Students will reside in the Klezmerhois, a small hotel situated in the middle of Kazimierz, Krakow’s old Jewish neighborhood. Well preserved and carefully renovated, Kazimierz is dotted with synagogues and historically significant Jewish buildings and cemeteries going back several centuries.
The course coincides with the International Festival of Jewish Culture, a two-week event held each July in Kazimierz. Its offerings, which include Jewish folklore and music, will be incorporated into the curriculum. In addition, students will participate in the ongoing activities of Krakow’s Jewish Community Center to gain hands-on experience of Jewish life in contemporary Poland. The seminar features guest lectures by Polish scholars, artists, and journalists from various fields, and a community service component. Seminar participants are required to attend daily classes in the Polish language.
With Krakow as its base, the seminar includes three study trips. The first excursion is to Warsaw, which has a long and rich Jewish history. Students will draw on the expertise of the international team designing exhibits at the Museum of Polish Jews for a comprehensive picture of Jewish roots and Jewish heritage in Poland. Students will also connect with the rich holdings and expert staff of the Jewish Historical Institute, which houses the famed Ringelblum collection of artifacts and documents assembled by Jewish researchers in wartime ghetto. Students will explore the history of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising while visiting sites where it took place.
The second excursion is to a number of small towns, known in Yiddish as shtetls, in what used to be Jewish Galicia where the bulk of East European Jewry once lived. The visit will be guided by Jagiellonian University Professor Roman Galas, and will impart a sense of the richness, as well as the religious and cultural variety in the life of prewar Jewish communities.
The final excursion is a two-day study trip to the Auschwitz concentration camp, which is located near Krakow.
Students are required to keep a journal throughout the seminar, which they will submit in lieu of a paper at the conclusion of the course. This will make 50 percent of their grade. In addition, there will be an in-class written examination on the last day of the seminar.
This course fulfills the Historical Analysis (HA) requirement and is open to freshmen, sophomores, and juniors. Admission is by application and interview.