Ewa Kurek also known as Ewa Kurek-Lesik (born 1951) is a Polish historian specializing on Polish-Jewish World War II history. In her later career, she became known for her controversial views regarding the Holocaust in Poland.
In the years 1971-1977 she studied history at the Catholic University of Lublin, where in 1979 obtained a master's degree, and ten years later a doctorate in history. She was an editor and co-editor of the underground “NSZZ Solidarność FSC Information Bulletin in Lublin,” cooperated with the editors of the underground “Spotkania” and Polish and American scientific and press editorial offices. She has been a lecturer in the Humanities-Economy Academy in Łódź and Higher School of Skills in Kielce.
Her 1995 book Zaporczycy 1943-1949 about the cursed soldiers had her sued by the family of one of the subjects, which objected to discussion of his possible links with the communist security apparatus, with the result that the second edition of the book had to remove some fragments about said subject.
In 2018 she had been a recipient of an award by a private U.S.-based Polish organization that was to be handed out in a Polish consulate in New York; following some media criticism, the ceremony was cancelled.
Barbara Tepa Lupack who reviewed the English version of her early work, based on Kurek's dissertation thesis (Your Life Is Worth Mine: How Polish Nuns Saved Hundreds of Jewish Children in German-Occupied Poland, 1939-1945, 1997) noted that "Kurek's account of the Polish nuns' rescue efforts is [...] both compelling and historically significant" but "while Kurek's narrative is absorbing, her analysis of key issues is sometimes weak" as "she oversimplifies both the nuns' attitudes towards their Jewish charges and the Polish Jews' attitudes towards their own impending doom." She concludes that "Nevertheless, Your Life Is Worth Mine is an interesting volume [and] is a welcome addition to literature about the fate of children during the Holocaust."
Kurek's 2001 work Dzieci żydowskie w klasztorach. Udział żenskich zgromadzeń zakonnych w akcji ratowania dzieci żydowskich w Polsce w latach 1939–1945 ("Jewish Children in Convents. The Participation of Nuns’ Congregations in the Rescue Operation of Jewish Children in Poland Between 1939–1945") was described as a pioneering work by Joanna Michlic. However, Michlic describes Kurek's chapter on the postwar recovery of the children as a "rather biased perspective colored by anti-Jewish prejudices", saying Kurek's assumptions are questionable from historical and moral points of view. In the chapter, Kurek implies that Jewish children would have been "better off" had they been left in the hands of Polish convents and families, blaming Jewish organizations and individuals for traumtic changes in the children's lives, rather than the war and the genocidal destruction of Jewish families.
In 2006, her habilitation dissertation titled Poza granicą solidarności: Stosunki polsko-żydowskie, 1939–1945 ("Beyond the Border of Solidarity: Polish-Jewish relations, 1939-1945") was rejected by John Paul II Catholic University of Lublin. It had nonetheless been published as a book, and attracted some notoriety and criticism in media, as Kurek wrote that in the first years of the war Jews "had fun in the ghettos", in which they enjoyed autonomy negotiated from the Germans. Her work was described by Michlic as presenting Jewish-Polish relations as a conflict between incompatible civilizations. Kurek's interpretation of ghetto development in German-occupied Poland was described as "outlandish" by Laurence Weinbaum. Weinbaum criticized Kurek, saying she suggested that ghettos "were essentially autonomous Jewish provinces built in the years 1939-42 by Polish Jews with the approval of the German occupation authorities", and the Jews "for the first time in over 2,000 years built their own framework of Jewish sovereignty". Weinbaum was also troubled that Kurek claimed that the situation of ethnic Poles in the years 1939-42, outside the ghetto, was far worse than the situation of the Jews who were held in confinement in the ghettos. Marek Jan Chodakiewicz, in his review of the work, praised Kurek for tackling controversial issues without worrying about stereotypes and political correctness, but noted that her work has a number of methodological issues, such as insufficient sourcing and attribution, that need a revision,.
She has attracted criticism in media in 2018. According to David Silberklang, editor-in-chief of Yad Vashem Studies, Kurek "is maybe the only legitimate Holocaust scholar to have become an alleged Holocaust revisionist or distorter during a later phase of her career", with Irving being a possible precedent, however Irving lacked Kurek's credentials. According to the philosopher Berel Lang, Kurek is more subtle than Irving. She doesn't deny the genocide but argues rather that the Jews were complicit with the Nazis in organizing the wartime ghetto system.
- Ewa Kurek (1997). Your Life is Worth Mine: How Polish Nuns Saved Hundreds of Jewish Children in German-occupied Poland, 1939-1945. Hippocrene Books. ISBN 978-0-7818-0409-7., Introduction by Jan Karski
- Ewa Kurek (1992) The Role of Polish Nuns in the Rescue of Jews 1939-1945 NYU Press. ISBN 9780814762295.
- Ewa Kurek (2012). Polish-Jewish Relations 1939-1945: Beyond the Limits of Solidarity. iUniverse. ISBN 978-1-4759-3832-6.
- "O mnie". Ewa Kurek (in Polish). 2013-12-16. Retrieved 2018-05-16.
- Kurek: Getta zbudowali Żydzi, Gazeta Wyborcza, Paweł P. Reszka & Jan Cywiński, 20 August 2006
- Polish Mayor Calls for Exhumation of Jewish Mass Grave in Jedwabne, Haaretz (JTA), 19 July 2016
- "Poland stops ceremony for author accused of anti-Semitism". www.timesofisrael.com.
- "Dr Ewa Kurek bez Nagrody im. Jana Karskiego. Organizacja polonijna wybierze nowych laureatów". wyborcza.pl (in Polish). 2018-04-13. Retrieved 2019-06-07.
- "Autorka antysemickich publikacji jednak nie dostanie Nagrody im. Jana Karskiego. Konsulat w Nowym Jorku odwołał uroczystość". Newsweek.pl (in Polish). Retrieved 2019-06-07.
- "Polish Consulate Cancels Award for Polish-Jewish Dialogue". Tablet Magazine. 2018-04-11. Retrieved 2019-06-07.
- FinkelsteinApril 16, Barbara; 2018wikimedia. "Why Was Historian Who Blames Jews For Complicity with Nazis Considered For Humanitarian Prize?". The Forward. Retrieved 2019-06-07.
- LUPACK, BARBARA TEPA (1998). "Review of Your Life Is Worth Mine: How Polish Nuns Saved Hundreds of Jewish Children in German-Occupied Poland, 1939-1945". The Polish Review. 43 (1): 107–110. ISSN 0032-2970.
- Michlic, Joanna B. (2008). Jewish Children in Nazi-occupied Poland: Survival and Polish-Jewish Relations During the Holocaust as Reflected in Early Postwar Recollections. 2008: Yad Vashem Publications. ISBN 9789653083240.
- "Michlic, Joanna B. "The Soviet Occupation of Poland, 1939–41, and the Stereotype of the Anti-Polish and Pro-Soviet Jew." Jewish Social Studies 13.3 (2007): 135-176" (PDF).
- Laurence Weinbaum (13 September 2010). "Where the past is never past. Holocaust memory in post-Communist Poland". In Roni Stauber (ed.). Collaboration with the Nazis: Public Discourse After the Holocaust. Routledge. p. 38. ISBN 978-1-136-97136-5.
- Marek Jan Chodakiewicz, Bez wspólnoty. Ewa Kurek, Poza granicą solidarności: Stosunki polsko-żydowskie, 1939–1945 (Kielce: Wyższa Szkoła Umiejętności,2006). Glaukopis. Recenzje. 354-378 PDF "Powtórzmy: praca Kurek to esej reinterpretacyjny, do dużego stopnia politycznie niepoprawny, oparty na bardzo wąskiej bazie źródłowej. ... Dobrze, że Ewa Kurek podniosła sprawę kolaboracji – zarówno Żydów jak i Polaków. ... Główną zasługą autorki jest jednak to, że poszybowała ponad prymitywne stereotypy oraz oparła się syreniemu śpiewowi politycznej poprawności. ... Jest to praca wyjątkowa właśnie dlatego, że historyczka poszybowała wysoko poza szablony. ... Oczekujemy, że historyczka wnet przeprowadzi korektę swoich tez w świetle powyższej krytyki oraz wypuści swoje opus magnum, gdzie w przypisach i bibliografii ujawni wszelkie źródła, które doprowadziły ją do tak politycznie niepoprawnych i często kontrowersyjnych konkluzji."
- "TVP promuje jako ekspertkę osobę, która twierdzi, że w gettach żyło się normalnie". Newsweek.pl.
- How Ewa Krek, the Favorite Historian of the Polish Far Right, Promotes her Distorted Account of the Holocaust, Tablet, Armin Rosen, 3 May 2018
- Why Was Historian Who Blames Jews For Complicity with Nazis Considered For Humanitarian Prize?, Forward, 16 April 2018