15.07.2021 – online

Genocide from Below: Rewriting the Holocaust as First - Person Local History

Join the lecture by Professor Omer Bartov (Brown University), where he will discuss his recent work including "Anatomy of a Genocide: The Life and Death of a Town Called Buczacz" (2018) and "Voices on War and Genocide" (2020). Prof. Bartov will illuminate how significant individual witnesses from one locality are to the writing of history, particularly of conflict and war.

For more than four hundred years, the Eastern European border town of Buczacz – today part of Ukraine – was home to a highly diverse citizenry. It was here that Poles, Ukrainians, and Jews all lived side by side in relative harmony. Then came World War II, and three years later the entire Jewish population had been murdered by German and Ukrainian police, while Ukrainian nationalists eradicated Polish residents.

Using primarily diaries and personal letters from eyewitnesses in and around Buczacz – perpetrators, victims, and survivors - he explains how genocide doesn’t occur as is so often portrayed in popular history, with the quick ascent of a vitriolic political leader and the unleashing of military might. It begins in seeming peace, slowly and often unnoticed, as the culmination of pent-up slights and grudges and indignities. The perpetrators aren’t only sociopathic soldiers. They are neighbours and friends and family. They are also middle-aged men who come from elsewhere, often with their wives and children and parents, and settle into a life of bourgeois comfort peppered with bouts of mass murder.

Omer Bartov is the John P. Birkelund Distinguished Professor of European History at Brown University. Born in Israel and educated at Tel Aviv University and St. Antony's College, Oxford, Bartov's early research concerned the Nazi indoctrination of the Wehrmacht and the crimes it committed in World War II, analyzed in his books, "The Eastern Front, 1941-1945", and "Hitler's Army". He then turned to the links between total war and genocide, discussed in his books "Murder in Our Midst, Mirrors of Destruction, and Germany's War and the Holocaust". 

Bartov's interest in representation also led to his study, "The "Jew" in Cinema", which examines the recycling of antisemitic stereotypes in film. His more recent work has focused on interethnic relations in the borderlands of Eastern Europe. His book "Erased" (2007) investigates the politics of memory in West Ukraine, while his most recent monograph, "Anatomy of a Genocide: The Life and Death of a Town Called Buczacz" (2018) is a microhistory of ethnic coexistence and violence. The book received the National Jewish Book Award and the Yad Vashem International Book Prize for Holocaust Research, among others, and has been translated into several languages.

Bartov's new book, "Tales from the Borderlands: Making and Unmaking the Galician Past", is forthcoming with Yale University Press. His many edited volumes include "Shatterzone of Empires: Coexistence and Violence in the German, Habsburg, Russian, and Ottoman Borderlands" (2013), "Voices on War and Genocide: Three Accounts of the World Wars in a Galician Town" (2020) and, reflecting his new interest, Israel/Palestine: "Lands and Peoples" (forthcoming in 2021).


The lecture is organized within the Global Education Outreach Program

This program was made possible thanks to Taube Philanthropies, the William K. Bowes, Jr. Foundation, and the Association of the Jewish Historical Institute of Poland

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