Polish Holocaust historian speaks at Kent State

Amber Selfridge

Dr. Annamaria Orla-Bukowska, a current teacher of Polish-Jewish relations spoke in the Student Center Monday, Jan. 29, in recognition of International Holocaust Remembrance Day.

The day, Jan. 27, celebrates the liberation of the Auschwitz system of camps in Poland and became an international day of remembrance in 2005.

“It’s kind of hard to forget, if you live where it happened,” Orla-Bukowska said. “It’s one thing to live where it happened, it is a different thing to teach it where it happened.”

This was the theme throughout the entire lecture. She started with talking about moving to Poland in the 1985 to study sociocultural anthropology, but soon found out that there is a whole other learning of the Holocaust.

She went on to talk about how students are only taught certain information about the Holocaust while in school. She reflected on her own childhood and explained that the “first-hand testimony” of events that had happened is fading away.

“Pictures speak a thousand words, but you do not always know what is outside of the photograph,” she explains.

Orla-Bukowska talked about how visiting where the events happened and seeing beyond the borders of a picture gives more context than reading a book ever will. She called it “listening to the land.”

She spoke about teaching in Poland and how she has learned a lot from people all over the world. She learns from the people who go on Holocaust study tours and she teaches what she knows from living in Poland and seeing the landscape every day.  

“The tension between the need to think and learn and the everyday is constantly there,” she said.

Living in a city rich in history is something that a lot of people living in Krakow have gotten used to. She talks about an area where a mass grave once was that is now a park where kids play and people walk their dogs. The history is always in the back of everyone’s minds, but is forgotten in the midst of everyday life.

“It’s different when you use the landscape as a textbook, there are lots and lots of pages,” she said.

Orla-Bukowska concluded with explaining how it is not easy history to be the “caretaker” of and that it is a heavy responsibility that has been inherited and will continue to be taught.

Amber Selfridge is the social sciences reporter. Contact her at [email protected].