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Academic session: The Studies on Hunger Disease in the Warsaw Ghetto

Szpital. Na łóżku leży wychudzona kobieta. Przy niej stoją lekarz z pielęgniarką. Zdjęcie jest czarno-białe.
Zdjęcie pochodzi z książki "Choroba głodowa" z 1946 roku/ skan dzięki uprzejmości ŻIH

The Warsaw Ghetto, where approximately 100,000 people died of starvation and disease, became a unique medical laboratory of sorts. POLIN Museum is organizing an academic session to commemorate the work of the Warsaw Ghetto doctors, and to highlight the importance of their research into hunger disease. The session will be complemented by an online lecture addressed to the general public, delivered by a globally-recognized Argentinian journalist Martín Caparrós, author of the outstanding volume titled, "Hunger."

  • 15 March (Wednesday), 12 noon – 8 PM (auditorium)
  • Note: Due to high interest, registration is now closed
  • Session and lecture will be translated simultaneously into English and Polish

In 1942, a team of medical doctors headed by Dr. Israel Milejkowski carried out, under the auspices of the Jewish Council, world-pioneering clinical research into the physiological changes occurring in the human body as a result of prolonged starvation. The project was run clandestinely, as the Germans did not allow Jews to conduct scientific research. The results were published in 1946 in the study titled "The Hunger Disease," edited by Emil Apfelbaum. This publication will serve as a point of departure for an academic session titled "The Studies on Hunger Disease in the Warsaw Ghetto" organized by POLIN Museum. Read more about studies on hunger disease in the Warsaw Ghetto on Virtual Shtetl website.

The event is part of our year-long program commemorating the 80th anniversary of the outbreak of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising titled "Thou Shalt Not Be Indifferent." This important round anniversary is a unique occasion to take a closer look at the legacy of the medical doctors in the Warsaw Ghetto. To assess their contribution to the study of hunger, and its impact on present-day medicine.

The session will be complemented by an online lecture addressed to the general public by the acclaimed Argentinian journalist Martín Caparrós, author of the celebrated non-fiction book titled "Hunger now." The lecture will be delivered in Spanish with simultaneous translation into Polish and English.

Program of the academic session "The Studies on Hunger Disease in the Warsaw Ghetto":

Wednesday, 15 March 2023

  • 12:00PM – Formal opening of the session: Marian Turski; Zygmunt Stępiński, director of POLIN Museum

  • 12:30-1:30PM – Lecture "Research on hunger disease in the Warsaw Ghetto and its significance for the history of medicine," Prof. Abraham Ohry (Tel Aviv University)

  • 2:00-3:00PM – Panel I: "Medicine in the ghetto and contemporary bioethical challenges" – Chair: Prof. Stanisław Obirek
    • "Ethical dilemmas of physicians in the Warsaw Ghetto – with special reference to research on hunger disease" – Dr. Miriam Offer (Western Galilee College, Akko; The Sackler Faculty of Medicine, Tel Aviv University)
    • "Medicine at the time of catastrophes: a lesson from the past" – Dr. Tessa Chelouche MD, Department of Bioethics and the Holocaust International Chair of Bioethics
  • 3:00-4:00PM – Coffee break

  • 4:00-5:00PM – Panel II: Legacy of medical doctors from the Warsaw Ghetto – Chair: Karolina Głowacka
    • "Reception of the results of the Warsaw Ghetto hunger disease research in postwar Poland and around the world" – Dr. Maria Ciesielska (Faculty of Medicine, Lazarski University, Warsaw)
    • "Remembering Prof. Juliusz Zweibaum, one of the editors of the book The Hunger Disease" – Zofia Karłowicz-Perzyńska, granddaughter of Prof. Juliusz Zweibaum
  • 6:30-8:00PM – Lecture "Hunger now," Martín Caparrós, online only.

Logos of GEOP, Taube Philantropies, William K. Bowes Junior Foundation, Association ot the Jewish Historical Institute of Poland; logos of Jewish Cultural Heritage Project and patrons and partners of the session: Polish Humanitarian Action, Wydawnictwo Literackie Publishing House, Chair od the Chamber of Physicians and Dentists, and Polish Medical Association