Memory and Responsibility. The Ghetto Benches

Following the webinar in June, which had a record turnout, we invite you to another meeting that will focus on the issue of ghetto benches in Polish universities.

🚫 The Ghetto Benches (segregated seating in Universities between Jews and Non-Jews) was an institutionalized form of discrimination against the Jewish community inspired by the activities during the interwar period of the right-wing nationalist organizations: All-Poland Youth, Camp of Greater Poland, and the National Radical Camp. In the 1930s, ethno-religious segregation of students of Jewish origin was intensified, for example, by forcing them to take certain seats in lecture halls.
❓ It was the university authorities of the time who were responsible for introducing these sanctions, and few know that these orders have, to this day, still not been repealed. Are they still a legal problem? Should they be officially repealed, and if so, should there be compensation or consequence again the universities? What actions have been taken so far, and what should be done to ensure that their significance is not purely symbolic?
🎓 The discussion will be attended by representatives of several Polish universities – Jagiellonian University, the National Academy of Sciences and the University of Warsaw – who are actively working on the restoration and critical reappraisal of the memory of the ghetto benches. Together with them, we will consider how to spread awareness of this inglorious chapter in the history of Polish universities and draw conclusions for the future, especially in times of ongoing humanitarian crises. We will also look for answers to uncomfortable questions – such as the involvement of intellectual elites in the discriminatory practises of the pre-war period and individual and collective responsibility.

🗣 The discussion will be accompanied by the following: prof. Joanna Wawrzyniak (Centre for the Study of Social Memory, University of Warsaw), prof. Beata Kowalska (Institute of Sociology, Jagiellonian University), Przemysław Marcin Żukowski (Archive of the Jagiellonian University), Grażyna Kubica-Heller (Department of Social Anthropology, Institute of Sociology, Jagiellonian University), Ewa Bukowska-Marczak (Institute of History, Polish Academy of Sciences).

Financed by

The event is co-organized with the Research Center for Memory Cultures and the Galicia Jewish Museum in Krakow as part of the project "NeDiPa: Negotiating Difficult Pasts", which FestivALT is implementing together with Fundacja Zapomniane and the Urban Memory Foundation thanks to the support of the European Union in the framework of the program Citizens, Equality, Rights and Values (CERV).