Seminar schedule 2018/19

Programme for the 2018/2019 academic year


10 November 2018 Field trip to Bletchley Park (Meet at Euston Station at 10am for the 10.13am train to Bletchley) Commentary and guidance provided by John Gallehawk and Jeremy McCarthy


21 November 2018 Dr Paul Latawski ((Royal Military Academy Sandhurst)

Building an Army from Scratch: The Creation of the Polish Army 1914-1921

On 11 November 1918, Poland regained its statehood but did not possess developed institutions of state. Moreover, the consolidation of the Polish state took place in the context of a tout azimuts conflict with its neighbours to insure the survival of the state and to establish its frontiers. For the reborn Poland, building an army was a necessity but in military terms this effort presented an enormous challenge: How does one build an army from scratch while at war? This presentation will consider Polish efforts at 'military reconstruction’ between 1914 and 1921 in two periods: 1) Efforts during the First World War to lay foundations and their outcome in 1918, and 2) Building an army under the exigencies of war 1919-1921.


12 December 2018 Professor Anita Prażmowska (London School of Economics and Political Science)

An unlikely story of Polish military and economic involvement in Angola, 1975-86

Professor Prażmowska is a professor of International History at the London School of Economic and Political Science. Her main fields of research interests lie in the Cold War; communism; contemporary history; Eastern Europe; fascism; and Poland. Her publications include Civil War in Poland 1943-48 (2004) and Wladyslaw Gomulka. A Biography (2015). In 2016 she was awarded a two-year Major Research Fellowship from the Leverhulme Trust, for a project entitled ‘The Cold War Jigsaw: Poland’s role in the Angolan Civil War, 1976-1986’. In this presentation Professor Prażmowska introduces some of the results from her most recent research.


23 January 2019 Roundtable Discussion

Józef Retinger and his vision of Poland and Europe

In this seminar, participants will discuss various aspects of Józef Retinger’s life, career and his vision of Poland and Europe. The seminar will include an introduction to the material relating to Retinger held at Polish Institute and Sikorski Museum.

Dr Wojtek Rappak / Michael Fleming
An introduction to Józef Retinger

Dr Andrzej Pieczewski (University of Łódź)
Józef Retinger’s vision of Poland in a United Europe

Dr Andrzej Suchcitz (Polish Institute and Sikorski Museum)
Retinger in the PISM archives


27 February 2019 Dr. Jochen Boehler, (Imre Kertész Kolleg, Jena)
Civil War in Central Europe, 1918-1921: The Reconstruction of PolandDr. Jochen Boehler is a Research Fellow at the Imre Kertész Kolleg, Jena. His publications include, War, Pacification, and Mass Murder, 1939: The Einsatzgruppen in Poland (2014) alongside Jurgen Matthäus and Klaus Michael Mallmann, Legacies of Violence: Eastern Europe’s First World War (2014) with Joachim von Puttkamer and Wlodzimierz Borodziej and The Waffen-SS. A European History (2016) with Robert Gerwarth. In his presentation, Dr Boehler introduces his new book Civil War in Central Europe, 1918-1921: The Reconstruction of Poland. In this book, Boehler argues that the First World War did not end in Central Europe in November 1918. The armistices marked the creation of the Second Polish Republic and the first shot of the Central European Civil War which raged from 1918 to 1921. The fallen German, Russian, and Austrian Empires left in their wake lands with peoples of mixed nationalities and ethnicities. These lands soon became battle grounds and the ethno-political violence that ensued forced those living within them to decide on their national identity. Boehler challenges previous notions that such conflicts which occurred between the First and Second World Wars were isolated incidents and argues that they should be considered as part of a Central European civil war; a war which transformed Poland into a nation. The book is being published simultaneously in English and in Polish.See: Civil War in Central Europe, 1918-1921. The Reconstruction of Poland (Oxford University Press 2018) link…

Wojna Domowa, 1918–1921. Nowe Spojrzenie na Odrodzenie Polski (Znak, 2018) link…


6 March 2019 Dr Joanna Rzepa (Trinity College, Dublin)

Narrating the Holocaust: Polish-Jewish Relations in Translation.

Dr Joanna Rzepa is Thomas Brown Assistant Professor in the Department of Russian and Slavonic Studies at Trinity College Dublin. Her research interests include translation studies, twentieth-century literature and cultural memory. Her current research project, Translating Auschwitz: The Holocaust and the Politics of Translation, offers a pioneering approach to the study of Holocaust writing and its reception by focusing on the processes of translation and retranslation. In her paper, Joanna will talk about how (re)translations of historical narratives interact with cultural memory and contemporary political interpretations of the past. The paper will discuss the portrayal of Polish-Jewish relations during and immediately after World War II in Jan Karski’s Story of a Secret State (Tajne państwo) and Jan Gross’s Fear (Strach).


10 April 2019 Dr Eva A. Duda-Mikulin (University of Bradford)

Book Launch: EU migrant workers, Brexit and precarity: Polish women’s perspectives from inside the UK.

Dr Eva Duda-Mikulin is an academic researcher and a lecturer at University of Bradford. She has undertaken a number of qualitative and quantitative research projects within the broad disciplines of social policy, politics and sociology. In her presentation, Dr Duda-Mikulin introduces her new book EU migrant workers, Brexit and precarity: Polish women’s perspectives from inside the UK. The book presents a female Polish perspective, using findings from research carried out with migrants interviewed before and after the Brexit vote – voices of real people who made their home in the UK. It looks at how migrants view Brexit and what it means for them, how their experiences compare pre and post the Brexit vote, their future plans, as well as considering the wider implications of the migrant experience in relation to precarity and the British paid labourmarket.

See website


22 May 2019 Dr Frank Dabba Smith (Leo Baeck College, London)

Artist-Witness in the Łódź Ghetto:  The Secret Photographs Made by Mendel Grossman

Mendel Grossman (1913-45) worked in the Department of Statistics in the Lodz Ghetto making photographs for ‘official purposes ‘such as work permits and albums to encourage German companies to use  skilled Jewish slave labourers. Under the leadership of the controversial Chaim Rumkowski, the strategy was to prolong the lives of Jews through making them maximally useful to the Nazis. Using his cover as an employee of the ghetto administration, Grossman made photographs secretly of the harsh and traumatic aspects of daily life in the ghetto such as backbreaking labour and deportations. This body of work is unrivalled in its coverage, viewpoint and compositional merits. Rabbi Dr Frank Dabba Smith will share these images and place them within the larger context of other photographs made in the Lodz and Warsaw Ghettos.

Rabbi Dr Frank Dabba Smith was born in California and earned his first degree in Linguistic Anthropology at the University of California at Berkeley. After working as a freelance photographer and teacher, he trained to be a Liberal Rabbi at Leo Baeck College in London and has served since 1997 at Mosaic Liberal Synagogue (formerly known as Harrow and Wembley Progressive Synagogue). His PhD dissertation at University College London (UCL) was concerned with the behaviour of the renowned camera manufacturer Ernst Leitz of Wetzlar during the Holocaust. He holds MA degrees in Hebrew and Jewish studies as well as in Photographic Studies. He teaches courses on dying, death and bereavement as well as on the Holocaust to rabbinic students at Leo Baeck College. Frank Dabba Smith’s publications include My Secret Camera (Harcourt and Frances Lincoln, 2000) and Elsie’s War (Frances Lincoln, 2003). Solo photographic exhibitions include Leica Gallery (New York City, 2012), SAK-Art Museum (Svendborg, Denmark, 2012) and co-exhibiting with sculptor Jane McAdam Freud at the Priory Psychiatric Hospital (Roehampton, London, 2014). He serves on the International Advisory Committee of EcoPeace-Middle East, as Vice-Chair of the Brent Multi-faith Forum, on the Independent Advisory Group of the Metropolitan Police in the London Borough of Brent and as a trustee to Berakah-Arts.


Previous years seminars: