The Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC) honours University of Ottawa Professor Jan Grabowski with its prestigious 2022 SSHRC Impact Insight Award for bringing forth a series of untold stories from the Holocaust period.
A key characteristic that sets apart Grabowski’s research on the Holocaust is the unusual micro-historic lens through which he approaches the subject. Instead of focusing on the well-known actors of one of the most tragic chapters of the last century, the uOttawa professor puts the spotlight on average citizens whose role in the fate of European Jews has long eluded historians.
Research conducted by Grabowski, a professor in the Department of History at the Faculty of Arts, has revealed that in the 1940s during the Nazi occupation of Poland, non-Jews, often neighbours, took personal initiative in carrying out the Nazi’s antisemitic agenda. His research also indicates that the persecution of Jewish communities was not limited to concentration camps and urban ghettos, as the mainstream narrative has implied for decades. It turns out that rural counties contributed their own share of terror made of betrayals and killings of unsuspecting Jews who were fleeing the cities and the ghettos with survival hopes.
In fact, much of Jan Grabowski’s research focuses on the survival strategies adopted by Jews in rural Poland, who often resorted to creating false identities, living rough, holing up in bunkers, and hiding in shelters provided by non-Jews.
Furthermore, new historical evidence uncovered by Grabowski in 70-year-old archives shows how Polish Blue police officers, who collaborated with the Nazis, acted independently of the Germans and without their knowledge, proof of a high degree of institutional and individual antisemitic initiative. This research revealed that the number of Jewish victims of the Blue Police may well be in the tens of thousands, making this organization one of the deadliest non-German agents in the destruction of European Jews.
“Professor Grabowski has established a reputation for academic excellence over the years,” said uOttawa Vice-President, Research and Innovation Sylvain Charbonneau. “His unconventional approach and methodical research have brought to light missing information that is critical to better understanding the Holocaust.”
Jan Grabowski is a founding member of the Polish Center for Holocaust Research and the author and editor of 20 books and 80 articles. His SSHRC-funded research will bring him closer to his goal of training the next generation of Holocaust scholars.
A SSHRC Impact Award Finalist from uOttawa
Another uOttawa researcher shines in the 2022 SSHRC Impact Awards: Professor Jeremy de Beer, from the Faculty of Law, Common Law Section, has been named a finalist in the Partnership Award category. Jeremy de Beer is the co-founding director of Open African Innovation Research (Open AIR), a unique collaborative group of researchers whose work is based on reciprocity and a renewed understanding of Africa’s role in the global knowledge economy. The network creates models to better measure various modes of innovation and subsequently improve public policies and real-world practices in Africa, Canada, and globally.