Share

Facebook Mail Twitter

13

Mar

2023

Bringing “Impossible” News

Bringing “Impossible” News - The Role of Couriers in Raising the Awareness of Mass Murder and Establishing Jewish Resistance Movements

CBEES Advanced Seminar with Sylwia Szymańska-Smolkin, Researcher at the School of Historical and Contemporary Studies, Södertörn University

Speaker: Sylwia Szymańska-Smolkin, Researcher at the School of Historical and Contemporary Studies, Södertörn University
Discussant: TBA

Abstract:

Jewish resistance throughout the Second World War took many forms, often involving clandestine efforts that either contributed to or supported more explicit measures such as armed combat; although one can distinguish these activities, the lines are blurred as most if not all actions involved considerable risk and were by definition highly active and potentially visible. Certain clandestine efforts of an organizational and systemic nature have received considerable attention particularly in the chronicling of the Ringelblum Archive, while the activities of Jewish couriers remain largely left out from the historiography of Jewish responses. German plans to isolate Jews from the outside world through the ghettoisation process were thwarted by efforts to maintain contacts and exchange information both between ghettos and between ghettos and the “Aryan” side. The success of these efforts was largely due to the work of Jewish couriers travelling within the General Government and those who travelled to and from ghettos in the western areas of the Soviet Union beginning in 1941. The tasks of the couriers depended on the current German policies against the Jews and developed from establishing contacts between communities to spreading the news about mass killings, organizing resistance, securing arms, and assisting the remnants of the Jewish population in going into hiding. The couriers stemmed from various underground political parties and youth organizations; the majority of them were women.

The aim of my paper is to elucidate and discuss the couriers’ roles in establishing contacts and networks between Jewish communities during the Second World War. Much of the work done by the couriers had enormous significance in preparing for active resistance even though most of the couriers did not participate in direct combat. By examining how the work of couriers contributed to raising awareness of the mass murder of Jews, my presentation will lead to a more nuanced understanding of their role in establishing underground movements and organizing active resistance in the ghettos.

Sylwia Szymańska-Smolkin is a researcher at the Department of Historical and Contemporary Studies at Södertörn University in Stockholm, where she conducts research on the Jewish couriers and their role in establishing contacts and networks between Jewish communities during the Second World War. Her project there is supported by the Foundation for Baltic and Eastern European Studies. She has been Postdoctoral Research Fellow in Holocaust Studies at the Hugo Valentin Centre, Uppsala University and the recipient of the International Ephraim E. Urbach Post-Doctoral Fellowship in Jewish Studies awarded by the Memorial Foundation for Jewish Culture. She earned her PhD in the History and Jewish Studies at the University of Toronto. Her dissertation examined the complicity of the Polish policemen in the Holocaust in occupied Poland. She has taught at the University of Toronto, York University, and Uppsala University. Her research and writing have been supported by external funding from various federal and private organizations including Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council, Canadian Friends of the Hebrew University, and Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany.

Time and place

13 March 2023, 13:00-14:30

Higher seminar

MA 796, find us

English

Arranged by

Centre for Baltic and East European Studies (CBEES)

Contact

Share

Facebook Mail Twitter

Page updated

10-01-2023