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JWC2425 - On the Edge of Destruction: Polish Jewry Between the Two World Wars

6 points, SCA Band 1, 0.125 EFTSL

Undergraduate Faculty of Arts

Leader: Paul Forgasz


Not offered in 2007


In the years between the two World Wars, three and a quarter million Jews lived in Poland. There were pietists and secularists, capitalists and socialists, each with their particular ideologies and lifestyles. In interwar Jewish Poland, modernity and tradition were locked in simultaneous struggle and embrace. Who were these Jews? What was their world like? How did they respond to the challenges that modernity posed to tradition? These questions will be examined through the prism of a number of themes: minority versus majority; individual and collective identity; religion vs secularism; the growth of Yiddish; and the struggle of a community progressing from tradition to modernisation.


Upon successful completion of this unit students will have:

  1. an ability to locate the development of Jewish life during the interwar period in the context of the wider historical setting
  2. an understanding of the structure of power and authority within the interwar Polish Jewish community
  3. an ability to describe and analyse the diversity of Jewish communal life and cultural expression in interwar Poland
  4. a capacity to discuss the development of Yiddish as a literary and cultural phenomenon in the context of the interwar period
  5. an understanding of the impact of ideology on the social, political , economic and intellectual life of the inter-war community
  6. a capacity to explain the operation of gender and class within the social and economic framework of the interwar community
  7. an appreciation of the historiographical problems involved in the use of both historical and literary sources to reconstruct a history of the period


Research essay 2000 words: 40%
An historiographical exercise 1000 words: 20%
Examination: 90 minutes (1500 words equivalent): 30%
Seminar preparation and participation: 10%

Contact hours

1 hour lecture and 1.5 hour seminar per week


JWC3425, HSY2425, HSY3425