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  • Feliks Tych31 July 1929 – 17 February 2015
  • Antony Polonsky (bio)

Feliks Tych, who died on 17 February 2015, was a leading figure in Jewish life in Poland and was, from 1996 to 2007, director of the Jewish Historical Institute in Warsaw. Born in Warsaw, he grew up in Radomsko in central Poland, the ninth child of the owner of a metal works. The town was the site of the first ghetto to be established in the General Government after the German invasion of Poland in 1939. In the summer of 1942, his parents entrusted him to a non-Jewish friend who brought him secretly to Warsaw, where he survived on false documents as the 'orphaned' nephew of a Polish high-school teacher. His parents and siblings were murdered in Treblinka.

He studied history at the University of Warsaw and received his habilitation with a study of the left wing of the Polish Socialist Party during the First World War which was published as PPS-Lewica w latach wojny 1914–1918 ('The Polish Socialist Party—Left in the War Years, 1914–1918', 1960). He had already become a researcher at the archive of the Institute of the Polish Labour Movement and succeeded in convincing the Historical Institute of the Central Committee of the Polish Communist Party to publish a journal on social and labour history, the quarterly Z Pola Walki of which he became editor-in-chief. He was also subsequently employed by the Institute of History at the Polish Academy of Science. In 1966 he published a biographical study of the Polish revolutionary Julian Marchlewski co-authored with Horst Schumacher under the title Julian Marchlewski: Szkic biograficzny ('Julian Marchlewski: A Biographical Sketch').

He was dismissed from this post in the 'anti-Zionist' campaign of 1968 and also 'purged' from all other scholarly bodies, losing his position at Z Pola Walki. His wife, Lucyna, daughter of Jakub Berman, a key figure in the establishment of communist rule in Poland after 1944, lost her position as stage director. Tych continued his scholarly research as an 'independent writer', publishing three volumes of the letters from Rosa Luxemburg to Leon Jogiches under the title Listy do Leona Jogiches-Tyszki 1893–1914 ('Letters to Leon Jogiches-Tyszka', 1968–71). These made him well known outside Poland, and he became an honorary member of the International Conference of Labour and Social History, playing an active role in the conferences it organized in Linz in Austria. In the early 1970s he was again hired as a researcher at the archive of the Central Committee of the Polish [End Page 477] Communist Party. Here he became editor of the periodical Archiwum Ruchu Robotniczego. In 1970 he was granted the title of associate professor and in 1982 full professor.

As he grew older Tych became more interested in his Jewish background. This led him to take the position of director of the Jewish Historical Institute (Żydowski Instytut Historyczny; ŻIH). Here his expertise in the publishing of document collections gave a new impetus to publishing the rich archives of the ŻIH, above all the archive organized in the Warsaw ghetto by Emanuel Ringelblum. He also wrote a major study of the Holocaust, Długi cień Zagłady: Szkice historyczne ('The Long Shadow of the Holocaust: Historical Sketches', 1999). Among the other books on this topic which he wrote, edited, or co-edited are Facing the Nazi Genocide: Non-Jews and Jews in Europe (co-edited with Beate Kosmala, 2004), Pamięć: Historia Żydów polskich przed, w czasie i po Zagładzie (2004; published in English as Memory: History of Polish Jews Before, During and After the Holocaust, 2008), Widziałem Anioła Śmierci. Losy deportowanych Żydów polskich w ZSRR w latach II wojny światowej ('I Saw the Angel of Death: Experiences of Polish Jews deported to the USSR during the Second World War', co-edited with Maciej Siekierski, Magdalena Prokopowicz, and Adam Rok, 2006), and Kinder über den Holocaust: Fruhe Zeugnisse 1944–1948 ('Children on the Holocaust: Early Testimonies 1944–1948', co-edited with Alfons Kenkmann et al., 2008). Most recently he co-edited an extensive study of the history of the Jews in Poland since...


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