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  • Jerzy Tomaszewski8 October 1930 – 4 November 2014
  • Antony Polonsky (bio)

Jerzy Tomaszewski, who died on 4 November 2014 at the age of 84, was one of the principal figures in the revival of the study of the history of the Jews in Poland. He was born in Radomsko, a town between Łódź and Częstochowa which, before the war, was the home of a large Jewish community and the court of the Radomsker rebbe. Tomaszewski often remarked that it was the constant presence during his childhood years of hasidim in traditional Jewish dress which made him aware of the multi-ethnic and multi-confessional character of Poland. He was for many years professor and director of the Mordechai Anielewicz Centre for the Study and Teaching of the History and Culture of the Jews in Poland at Warsaw University. After his retirement in 2002 he took the post of professor at the Academy of National Economy in Kutno.

Tomaszewski was one of the pioneers in the study of national minorities in Poland in the twentieth century, above all the Jews, and a great expert on the history of central Europe, particularly that of the Czechs and Slovaks. He was present at all the conferences which transformed Polish Jewish studies. As one of the founders of Polin, he was a member of its editorial collegium and contributed frequently to its volumes. For many years, he was connected with the Jewish Historical Institute in Warsaw. A member of its Scientific Council since 1970, he was also elected in 1985 to serve on the institute's board of directors and, in addition, served as deputy chairman of the Jewish Historical Institute Association. He was also a member of the editorial board of Biuletyn Żydowskiego Instytutu Historycznego and its successor Kwartalnik Historii Żydów, as well as Polin. In 2005 he was one of the signatories, along with the Minister of Culture and National Heritage and the mayor of Warsaw, of the agreement establishing the Polin Museum of the History of Polish Jews. In 1998 he was the recipient of YIVO's Jan Karski and Pola Nireńska Award and thereafter served on the Karski Award Committee.

His many publications include Z dziejów Polesia 1921–1939: Zarys stosunków społeczno-ekonomicznych ('On the History of Polesie 1921–1939: An Outline of Social and Economic Conditions', 1963), Rzeczpospolita wielu narodów ('A Republic of Many Nations', 1985), Ojczyzna nie tylko Polaków: Mniejszości narodowe w Polsce w latach 1918–1939 ('A Fatherland not only for Poles: National Minorities in [End Page 475] Poland in the Years 1918–1939', 1985), and Preludium Zagłady: Wygnanie Żydow polskich z Niemiec w 1938 r. ('Prelude to Destruction: The Expulsion of Polish Jews from Germany in 1938', 1998). His latest book Czechy i Słowacja ('The Czech Lands and Slovakia') was published only a few months before his death. The conference held in London on 15 January to launch volume 27 of Polin was dedicated to his memory. He will be sorely missed. We express our condolences to his wife Zofia, his daughter Agata, and his family. [End Page 476]

Antony Polonsky

Antony Polonsky is emeritus professor of Holocaust studies at Brandeis University and chief historian of the Museum of the History of Polish Jews, Warsaw. Until 1991 he was Professor of International History at the London School of Economics and Political Science. He is co-chair of the editorial board of Polin; author of Politics in Independent Poland (1972), The Little Dictators (1975), and The Great Powers and the Polish Question (1976); co-author of A History of Modern Poland (1980) and The Beginnings of Communist Rule in Poland (1981), and co-editor of Contemporary Jewish Writing in Poland: An Anthology (2001) and The Neighbors Respond: The Controversy Over the Jedwabne Massacre in Poland (2004). His most recent work is the three-volume Jews in Poland and Russia (Littman Library, 2010, 2012), published in 2013 in a single-volume abridged version as The Jews in Poland and Russia: A Short History.



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