CfP: "(Not) Ours: Jews of Central and Eastern Europe and their neighbors", a thematic issue of the AREI Journal

Anna Wylegala Discussion

"AREI: Journal for Central and Eastern European History and Politics" ( is now inviting paper proposals for its thematic issue entitled "(Not) Ours: Jews of Central and Eastern Europe and their neighbors". While the journal is published in English, we also welcome submissions in Polish, Ukrainian, Belarussian, Russian, and Hebrew. Authors are provided with a translation of their papers and with an honorary of 2000 PLN.

Please submit your abstract by February 28 and a draft of your paper by April 30 to the issue editors, Anna Wylegała and Magdalena Semczyszyn:, The thematic issue is planned to be published by the end of 2023. 

Thematic issue concept: "(Not) Ours: Jews of Central and Eastern Europe and their neighbors"

It has been more than 20 years since the publication of Jan Gross’ famous book, which changed how scholars and societies thought about the Jewish-gentile relationship during and immediately after the Second World War. In the light of this book, scholarly discourse and public discussions focused on the complicity of local collaborators, an issue which had previously been under-researched and marginalized. The neighbourhood concept has now become of primary importance in understanding not only the Holocaust but also the period before it and its immediate and long aftermath. At the same time, official and vernacular narratives about the Righteous Among the Nations, Jewish property, anti-Semitic violence after 1945, as well as “Jewish” involvement in the communist system are used and misused in the public debate, thus creating an instrumental, politicized and simplified vision of the history of Jewish-gentile relations in Central and Eastern Europe itself, but also in Western Europe, Israel and the USA.

This special issue aims to critically reassess the very concept of Jewish-gentile historical and contemporary neighbourhoods in Central and Eastern Europe. We want to reflect on what it meant and means now for Poles, Ukrainians, Belarusians, Czech, Slovaks, and many more to live as neighbours of Jews. How much “ours” were Jews in the past and how much are they now, when their physical presence in the region is somewhat symbolic but the burden of complex past and material heritage is a constant reminder of their absence? This term “being ours” clearly resonates with the title of another essential book, “Our People. Discovering Lithuania's Hidden Holocaust” by Rūta Vanagaitė and Efraim Zuroff, and this term brings about notions of community, belonging, identity and responsibility. Are Central and Eastern European Jews more “ours” when we claim that it was them who founded the state of Israel? Are they less “ours” when there is a need to come to terms with local collaboration with the Germans during the Holocaust? Is it easier to accept remarkable Jewish emigres from Central and Eastern Europe as “ours” rather than Jewish victims of the Holocaust, whose remnants are still buried in the mass graves that remain part of the landscape of many Central-European areas? How does the concept of neighbourhood evolve when the Jews are largely gone but their memory remains inscribed in the landscape and the collective imagination?

Our goal is to bring together interdisciplinary scholarship that explores the various dimensions of the “ourness” concept. While on the most intuitive level we define this concept as including someone in the community, the concept of “being ours” can be approached in various ways: from historical neighbourhoods, ties and belonging, to contemporary responsibility, memory practices, identity and imagination. We want to look back at how the “Neighbours’ turn” changed Holocaust and Jewish Studies, but we also want to show how the societies and local communities of Central and Eastern Europe reacted to it and changed themselves in response. Therefore, we will focus not only on exploring the neighbourhood in its historical dimension, but also on the issues of contemporary cultural relationships and activities, symbolic space and commemoration, collective memory, and public discussions. Last but not least, in the time of the unprecedented brutal Russian war against Ukraine and the employment by both parties of historical rhetoric and arguments, including references to the Holocaust, we want to ask how these concepts are and will be influenced by the current situation.