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Katherine A. Lebow

Research Fellow (10/2013 – 03/2014)

Postwar Testimony, Polish Survivors, and the Cultural Specificities of Narrative Practice


LEBOWOne of the most remarkable early responses to the Holocaust was the collection of testimony. This response, however, was neither inevitable nor universal. My project considers the particular legacies that shaped Polish Jewish survivors’ turn to testimony after World War II. Among them was the role of “everyman autobiography” in interwar Polish social science and public discourse—a set of research and literary practices foregrounding the voices of ordinary individuals. Best-selling compilations of memoirs by unemployed workers and destitute peasants, e.g., had focused Poles’ attention on the human face of poverty in the 1930s, using personal narratives as a powerful form of “moral witness.” At VWI, I will explore the influences of this legacy on survivors as they faced the unprecedented requirements of Holocaust documentation and memorialization.


Katherine A. Lebow (Ph.D., Columbia) has taught at the University of Virginia and Newcastle University. Recent publications include Unfinished Utopia: Nowa Huta, Stalinism, and Polish Society, 1949-56 (Cornell, 2013) and “The Conscience of the Skin: Interwar Polish Autobiography and Social Rights,” Humanity 3, 3 (2012). She is writing a book about “everyman autobiographies” in transatlantic space from the Great Depression to the Holocaust.


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The Vienna Wiesenthal Institute for Holocaust Studies (VWI) is funded by:


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