The 18th World Congress of Jewish Studies

“It Was Easier With a Child than Without”: Creating and Raising Polish Jewish Families in the Wartime Soviet Union, 1939–1946

More than 150,000 Polish Jews survived the Holocaust and the Second World War in the Soviet Union. Studies dedicated to this uprooted group count and sort this “majority” remnant as individuals. And yet, more often than not, those within this collective experienced wartime and postwar years of displacement as well as the decisions made between 1939-1946 as growing families. This paper uses archival documentation, an original statistical database and close to 100 oral testimonies to focus on the expanding wartime family and explore the invisible and intimate work that is often connected to child-bearing and child-rearing. In doing so, I make three important arguments that change the way we imagine the Polish Jewish experience in the 1940s, both within Soviet spaces and after their return to “postwar” Poland.