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The Fight Against Epidemics in Interwar Poland and the Warsaw Ghetto: Finding Sara-Zofia Syrkin-Binsztejnowa | Lecture

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JDC Archives and the Center for Medicine, Holocaust and Genocide Studies at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles


History Jewish studies


February 16, 2022

12pm-1:30pm EST/9am-10:30 am PST


A woman medical doctor, Sara-Zofia Syrkin-Binsztejnowa, played a central role in fighting epidemics both in post-World War I Galicia and later in the Warsaw Ghetto during World War II. She was also pivotal in launching the national Jewish public health system TOZ (Jewish Health Protection Society) in Poland. Research in the digitized archives of the Joint Distribution Committee allowed for the restoration of the lost biography of this key figure in the history of emergency medical relief and public health from both interwar Poland and during the Holocaust. Through uncovering this woman’s history, we are invited to consider the important linkages between the two eras and Syrkin-Binsztejnowa’s relentless commitment to public health. Her story illuminates the intersecting histories of public health, refugeedom and the Holocaust, and assumes haunting relevance at the time of the current pandemic and the humanitarian crisis on Europe’s borders. 

Juliet D. Golden is the Director of the Syracuse University Abroad Central Europe Program. She received a B.A. in Political Science from Indiana University, an M.A. in International Relations from Columbia University, and a PhD in International Education from the University of Lower Silesia. Her research and teaching center on the politics of memory, the history of women and public health in interwar Poland and the Holocaust, and architecture and public space in Central Europe.  Her article, “‘Show that you are really alive’: Sara-Zofia Syrkin-Binsztejnowa’s Emergency Medical Relief and Public Health Work in Early Interwar Poland and the Warsaw Ghetto,” published in Medizinhistorisches Journal (Medicine and the Life Sciences in History), is based on research in the JDC Archives.

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