Davis Center: The Wrong Family Holocaust Story: Survival of Polish Jews in Stalin's Russia


Wednesday, February 14, 2018, 4:15pm to 6:00pm


CGIS South, 1730 Cambridge Street, Cambridge, MA

Seminar on Russian and Eurasian Jewry

Ellen G. Friedman’s presentation centers on the largely unknown story of Polish Jews who were saved from Hitler by Stalin. This story is at the center of her new book, The Seven, A Family Holocaust Story. Of the 3.3 million Jews in Poland before WWII, only about 350,000 survived, most of them by being banished to remote areas in the USSR. The reasons for the obscurity of this Holocaust narrative relate to its being the “wrong” story. Not about concentration camps, this story was buried by historians and by Polish Jews, themselves, who felt they were low on the “hierarchy of victimhood.” Also, Cold War attitudes towards the Soviet Union discouraged those who wished to immigrate to the United States to expose where they were harbored.  As this “wrong” Holocaust story, a story mainly of survival, makes its way into the larger story, how will it affect the Holocaust narrative. 

Dr. Ellen G. Friedman, the daughter of Holocaust survivors, was born in Kyrgyzstan and began her primary education in Berlin. She devoted a literary memoir, The Seven, A Family Holocaust Story, to her family’s experience during World War II. Professor of English and Holocaust Studies at The College of New Jersey, she is the author and editor of many books on American literature and culture, among them books on Joyce Carol Oates, 20th-century experimental women writers, and contemporary representations of morality, as well as numerous articles in scholarly and popular journals. She inaugurated the Holocaust and Genocide Studies program at her college and led an NEH grant on Women and the Holocaust for New Jersey teachers. She is a member of the Faculty Advisory Council of the Fortunoff Video Archive of Holocaust Testimonies at Yale University.

Joshua Rubenstein was on the staff of Amnesty International USA from 1975 to 2012 as the Northeast Regional Director. A long-time Associate of the Davis Center, Rubenstein is Associate Director for Major Gifts at the Harvard Law School. Rubenstein is the author of Soviet Dissidents, Their Struggle for Human Rights, Tangled Loyalties, The Life and Times of Ilya Ehrenburg, and Leon Trotsky: A Revolutionary’s Life. He is the co-editor of Stalin's Secret Pogrom, The KGB File of Andrei Sakharov and of The Unknown Black Book: The Holocaust in the German-Occupied Soviet Territories. Rubenstein’s latest book is The Last Days of Stalin.


Ellen G. Friedman, Professor, The College of New Jersey
Respondent: Joshua Rubenstein, Associate Director, Major Gifts, Harvard Law School; Center Associate, Davis Center
Moderator: Maxim D. Shrayer, Professor of Russian, English, and Jewish Studies, Boston College; Director, Project on Russian and Eurasian Jewry; Center Associate, Davis Center

Cosponsored by the Davis Center for Russian and Eurasian Studies and the Center for Jewish Studies at Harvard University. The Project on Russian and Eurasian Jewry has been made possible with the generous support of Genesis Philanthropy Group. Additional support for this event provided by the Leon I. Mirell Fund.

For more information, please call 617-495-4037.