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Authority on Jews in Poland, Russia to speak at KU

Friday, March 13, 2015

LAWRENCE — Holocaust Studies Professor Antony Polonsky will present “The Museum of the History of Polish Jews in Warsaw: A New Approach to the History of Jews in Poland” for the 2015 Oswald P. Backus Memorial Lecture. Hosted by the University of Kansas Center for Russian, East European & Eurasian Studies (CREES), Polonsky will give the lecture at 7 p.m. March 23 at the Malott Room of the Kansas Union. On March 24, Polonsky will speak at the CREES Tuesday Brownbag lecture on “Writing the History of the Jews of Russia and Poland” at noon in 318 Bailey Hall.

Polonsky is the Albert Abramson Professor of Holocaust Studies, an appointment held jointly at Brandeis University and the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum. He is a leading expert on Polish-Jewish history and editor of Polin: Studies in Polish Jewry. He is the author of many significant books and articles on Jewish history, including the acclaimed three-volume work “The Jews in Poland and Russia,” for which he received the Association for Slavic, East European, and Eurasian Studies (ASEEES) 2011 Kulczycki Book Prize in Polish Studies and the 2012 Pro historia Polonorum prize awarded by the Senate of the Republic of Poland for the best book on Polish history in a foreign language published in the last five years.

A graduate of the University of the Witwatersrand, South Africa, and Oxford University, Polonsky was awarded the Knight’s Cross of the Order of Merit of the Republic of Poland in 1999 for his lifelong dedication to making known the history of Polish and East European Jews of post-war Europe. In 2014 Polansky was named the chief historian of the POLIN Museum of the History of Polish Jews. The museum, a $110 million public-private project, covers 1,000 years of Jewish life in Poland and celebrated its grand opening in October 2014.

The CREES Backus Lecture is dedicated to the memory of Professor Oswald P. Backus, III (1921-72) and is made possible by the Oswald P. Backus Memorial Fund. Professor Backus was one of the early driving forces behind the development of KU as a nationally known center for the study of Russia and Eastern Europe. In the 1960s, these efforts led to the formation of the Slavic and Soviet Area Studies program, now known as CREES. He also taught history, law, and Slavic and Soviet area studies during his 22 years at KU, and he is credited as having helped make KU’s Slavic library collection one of the finest in the nation. This fund is made available through a generous gift from the late Anna Cienciala.

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