Aktuelle Fellows

Jan Grabowski is a Professor of History at the University of Ottawa and an invited professor at universities in France, Israel, Poland and in the United States. For his current project titled “Open Ghettos in Occupied Poland: A Study of Institutional and Social Control” he is inquring into methods of institutional and social control which established, reinforced and maintained the borders of open ghettos:

“Our knowledge of the ghettos has been heavily influenced by historians’ focus on the largest Polish cities. We automatically associate ghettos with the closed and walled-in areas of Warsaw, Cracow or Łódź (Litzmannstadt) which are richly documented in historical literature, in popular witnesses’ accounts and which have become – mostly through films – a part of popular culture. The vast majority of Polish Jews lived and died, however, in relatively small ghettos, without any walls separating them from the so-called “Aryan” side of the city. The everyday life in the ghetto cannot, therefore, be seen only through the prism of the experience of Jews of the few largest Polish cities. In smaller ghettos the only barrier separating the Jews and non-Jews was a mental one.  People simply knew where the ghetto started and where it ended. These were the so-called “open” ghettos. In other areas there were the Germans established the  “semi-open” ghettos whose boundaries were indicated by flimsy wooden fences or strings of barbed wire. In both cases, leaving the ghetto was not the real problem. Surviving on the other side, however, was.  Despite the relative “openess” of these smaller ghettos, they have also become – just as the large walled-in ghettos of Warsaw or Łódź – places of starvation, misery and death of thousands of Jews. The goal of this research project is to inquire into methods of institutional and social control which established, reinforced and maintained the borders of these open ghettos, making them deadly traps for more than 1.4 million Polish Jews. For this research project, I have selected ten open, or semi-open ghettos which were similar in size (4 to 12.000 inhabitants) located in four districts of occupied Poland. I decided to leave out the fifth district (Galizien) where majority of the population was Ukrainian and where social and ethnic dynamics were very different than in central Poland.”

In 2011 Dr. Grabowski has been appointed the Baron Friedrich Carl von Oppenheim Chair for the Study of Racism, Antisemitism, and the Holocaust at Yad Vashem, Jerusalem, Israel. He has authored and edited 15 books and published more than 60 articles in English, French, Polish, German and Hebrew. Professor Grabowski’s book: Hunt for the Jews. Betrayal and Murder in German-Occupied Poland has been awarded the Yad Vashem International Book Prize for 2014.  In 2016-17 Grabowski was the Ina Levine Senior Invitational Scholar in the Jack, Joseph and Morton Mandel Center for Advanced Holocaust Studies, at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, DC. His most recent work: Night Without End. Fate of Jews in selected counties of occupied Poland, 2 vols.  (Jan Grabowski and Barbara Engelking, editors), has been published in April 2018, in Warsaw, in Polish. His forthcoming book “On Duty. The Role of the Polish “Blue” Police in the Holocaust” is scheduled for publication in March 2020.


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