restricted access In Memoriam: Zygmunt Bauman
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In Memoriam:
Zygmunt Bauman

Professor Zygmunt Bauman, Holocaust survivor and sociologist, died at the age of 91 on January 9, 2017. Born in Poznań, Poland, Bauman and his family fled to the Soviet Union following the Nazi invasion in 1939. Bauman fought in the Polish armed force in exile that eventually became the Soviet-sponsored People's Army of Poland, taking part in the Battles of Kohlberg and Berlin, earning the Military Cross of Valor, and becoming, after the war, one of the youngest officers to attain the rank of major. From 1945 to 1953 Bauman worked for the Internal Security Corps that combatted Ukrainian insurgents and suppressed the last resistance of the Polish Home Army; a committed Communist during these years, Bauman was nonetheless dishonorably discharged after his father approached the Israeli embassy about emigration. Having begun his university studies while still employed, after his discharge Bauman continued his studies at the University of Warsaw, completed an M.A., and began teaching sociology at the same institution, where he strayed from orthodox official Marxism but managed to remain until the antisemitic purge of 1968 forced him and his family from the country.

Bauman briefly taught in Tel Aviv, Haifa, and Melbourne, but ultimately stayed at the University of Leeds' Department of Sociology. He wrote or contributed to more than fifty books and a hundred articles discussing the Holocaust, globalization, inequality, modernity, consumerism, bureaucracy, social exclusion, class, memory, and ethics. He exercised considerable influence on the thought of the post-modernist movement. His most widely read work, Modernity and the Holocaust, challenged the view of the Holocaust as a reversion to barbarism, citing instead the rise of industrialization and bureaucracy as contributing factors in the mass extermination of the Jews. He pointed to the potential for genocide when the modern state disregards ethics in favor of order and process. His book Liquid Modernity (2000) critiqued the abuse of the poor and the vulnerable in a globalizing world; Bauman was a critic of Zionism, and in particular denounced Israeli policy in the West Bank.

Bauman's work earned him a place of great importance in modern sociology. He received the European Amalfi Prize for Sociology and Social Sciences (1992); the Theodor W. Adorno Award of the city of Frankfurt (1998); and (with Alain Touraine) the Principe de Asturias Prize for Communication and the Humanities (2010). In 2010 the University of Leeds created the Bauman Institute within the School of Sociology and Social Policy. A small private higher school in Poland sought to honor Bauman but a major anti-Communist (and allegedly antisemitic) uproar moved Bauman to decline the award. [End Page 184]