ACJC Research Seminar Series, Dr. John Goldlust (Monash University), ‘Out of the Shadows: Recovering the Stories of Polish Jews Who Survived the Second World War inside the Soviet Union’

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Date/Time
Date(s) - 09/10/2013
12:00 pm - 1:00 pm

Location
ACJC

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9 October: Dr. John Goldlust (Monash University), ‘Out of the Shadows: Recovering the Stories of Polish Jews Who Survived the Second World War inside the Soviet Union’

An oft-repeated generalisation about the post-Second World War Australian Jewish community is that it includes an unusually high proportion of survivors of the Nazi Holocaust. For most the term Jewish ‘Holocaust survivor’ has come to refer to those trapped inside the countries invaded by Germany. More than half of the 17,000 post-war Jewish immigrants to Australia were from the surviving remnant of Polish Jewry, and many had lost most if not all of their families during the war. But one central characteristic that is not often discussed is that a very large number of these Polish Jews were neither survivors of the concentration camps, nor had they joined the partisans or hidden out somehow in Nazi-occupied
Europe. Rather, of approximately 300,000 Polish Jews who survived the
war, at least three-quarters spent most of this period under Soviet rather than Nazi control.
This seminar will explore the diverse personal and political pathways traversed by many among this cohort of Polish Jewish survivors, in particular those several
thousand who later settled in Australia. It will consider why, until very recently, in the broader context of more than sixty years of extensive academic inquiries and thousands of personal memoirs that cover an enormous range of wartime Jewish experiences, a more coherent understanding of the years spent in the Soviet Union – an experience shared by the overwhelming majority of Polish Jews who did survive – seems to have remained so pointedly marginalised and ignored.

Dr. John Goldlust taught in the Sociology Program at La Trobe University until 2007
and was a Partner Investigator in the recent Australian Centre for Jewish Civilization sponsored research project on the Australian Jewish community. He is currently an Honorary Research Associate at the ACJC. He has been researching and writing on the sociology and demography of Jews in Australia since the late 1960s, but has recently turned his attention to the experiences of Polish-Jews inside the Soviet Union during the Second World War.