Tomasz Frydel

PhD Program


Fields of Study

Areas of Interest

East Central Europe, Germany, Poland, Holocaust, genocide studies, peasant society, social history, microhistory, Polish “Blue” Police, collaboration, nationalism, ethnic Germans (Volksdeutsche), political movements, colonialism, collapse of empires, philosophy, history of religion.

Major and Minor Fields


  • East Central Europe

Minor 1


Minor 2

Modern Europe

Working Dissertation


“Genocide from Above: Village Society and the Holocaust in Occupied Poland, 1939-45”


Piotr Wróbel
Doris Bergen


My dissertation aims at a social history of the destruction of Poland’s Jewish minority during the Second World War following Operation Reinhard. It pays particular attention to a whole complex of village structures that were co-opted by the occupation authorities into the so-called “hunt for Jews” (Judenjagd) from 1942-45, which included fire brigades, night guards, partisan units, village heads, peasant search parties, and the local Polish “blue” Police. This close study contextualizes the shelter and the hunt for fugitive Jews with parallel processes aimed at other fugitives groups, such as Soviet prisoners of war (POWs), partisans, deserters from the German army, Roma, and others. The primary archival sources used here are the postwar investigation and trial records conducted on the basis of the so-called Decree of August 31, 1944 issued by the pro-Soviet Polish government, much of which have not seen the light of day. The dissertation is built around a microhistory that explores several counties in the southeastern region of District Krakow of the General Government: Tarnów, Dębica, Rzeszów (Reichshof), Jarosław, Jasło, Krosno, Przemyśl, and Sanok. It also uses the German-administered county of Dębica as a statistical case study.

This variation in methodology allows for an interrogation of the meaning of “perpetrators” and “collaboration” in Eastern Europe within a framework that seeks to go beyond anti-Semitism as a primary explanatory mechanism. My research follows the approach and research taken by scholars such as, among others, Donald Bloxham, Barbara Engelking, Havi Dreifuss, Saul Friedlander, Jan Grabowski, Jan T. Gross, Dariusz Libionka, Alina Skibińska, and Marcin Zaremba. It is a study of the social mechanisms and dynamics of genocide in the context of peasant-Jewish relations on the local level. I argue that local violence ought to be understood as situated between two force-fields: Nazi-directed, policy-driven “genocide from above” and grassroots killing that responded to the reshaped social world of the former, or “genocide from below.”


Collaborative degree in the Anne Tanenbaum Centre for Jewish Studies


  • “Konstrukcja pamięci o ratowaniu Żydów na polskiej wsi: Studium przypadku Radomyśla Wielkiego i powiatu mieleckiego” [The Construction of Memory of the Rescue of Jews: A Case Study of Radomyśl Wielki and Mielec County], article in Zagłada Żydów na polskiej prowincji [The Destruction of Jews in the Polish Countryside], eds. Adam Sitarek, Michał Trębacz, Ewa Wiatr, Vol. XXVI (Biblioteka Oddziału IPN w Łodzi, 2012), pp. 335-365.
  • “The Pazifizierungsaktion as a Catalyst of Anti-Jewish Violence: A Study in the Social Dynamics of Fear,” article in The Holocaust and European Societies: Social Processes and Dynamics, eds. Frank Bajohr and Andrea Löw (Palgrave Macmillan, 2016).
  • Judenjagd: Reassessing the Role of Ordinary Poles in the Holocaust,” chapter in Perpetrators: Dynamics, Motivations and Concepts for Participating in Mass Violence, eds. Timothy Williams and Susanne Buckley-Zistel (Centre for Conflict Studies, Marburg University, 2016).
  • “The Devil in Microhistory: The ‘Hunt for Jews’ as a Social Process, 1942-1945,” article in Microhistories of the Holocaust, eds. Claire Zalc and Tal Bruttmann (Berghahn Books, 2016).
  • “Beyond the Ulmas: The Need for a Social History of Genocide in Occupied Poland,” Cosmopolitan Review: A Transatlantic Review of Things Polish, in English 8, No. 2 (Spring 2016). 

Book Reviews

  • Anna Cichopek-Gajraj, Beyond Violence: Jewish Survivors in Poland and Slovakia, 1944-48 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2014). H-Net Poland (2016).
  • Joshua D. Zimmermann, The Polish Underground and the Jews, 1939-1945 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2015). Cosmopolitan Review: A Transatlantic Review of Things Polish, in English (2016).

Conference Presentations

  1. “A Narrow Bridge of Agreement: The Rehabilitation of Polish Rescue Efforts through Historical Writing, 1945-2011,” The Polish Institute of Arts & Sciences of America (PIASA), 69th Annual Meeting (A Multi-Disciplinary Conference on Polish Studies), Arlington, VA, June 10-11, 2011.
  2. “Constructing the Memory of Rescue of Jews in the Polish Countryside: A Case Study of Radomyśl Wielki” “The Jewish Towns Are Now All Gone…” The Destruction of Jews in the Polish Countryside, the Institute of History at the University of Łódź, October 27-28, 2011.
  3. “Who Will Write Our History? Remembering and Forgetting the Murder of Jews by Their Neighbors,” The Third Bi-Annual Polish-Israeli Workshop on the History and Culture of Polish Jews on June 24-27, 2012 in kibbutz Sdot-Yam.
  4. “A Historical Forensics of Jewish Refugees in Mielec County: Toward a Social History of Rescue,” Exploring the Micro-History of the Holocaust symposium, December 5-7, 2012, at the Ecole Normal Supérieure, Paris.
  5. “’There Was No Order to Shoot the Jews’: The Polish ‘Blue’ Police and the Dynamics of Local Violence in District Krakau of the General Government,” 2013 Simon Wiesenthal Conference centred around the theme of “Collaboration in Eastern Europe during World War II and the Holocaust,” December 5-7, 2013, Vienna.
  6. “The Everyday in a Crucible: Polish-Jewish Relations in the General Government, 1942-1945,” The Holocaust and European Societies: Social Processes and Social Dynamics, an international conference organized by the Holocaust Zentrum at the Institut für Zeitgeschichte, October 23-25, 2014. 
  7. Discussant on a panel entitled “New Graduate Student Work” led by Dr. Doris Bergen at the Lessons and Legacies XIII Conference in Boca Raton, Florida, October 30 – November 2, 2014.
  8. “The Devil in the Details: Writing an Integrated Microhistory of the Judeocide,” Annual Graduate Student Conference in the Department of History at the University of Ottawa, March 10-12, 2016. Panel entitled “New Sources and New Questions in the Study of the Shoah: Microhistories Compared” with Marie-Dominique Assein and Adrien Dallaire, chaired by Dr. Jan Grabowski.
  9. “Survival Strategy or Collaboration? Jewish Informers in the Service of the Gestapo in the General Government,” 2016 Annual Graduate Conference of the Centre for Jewish Studies at the University of Toronto in April 2016 (details TBD).

Professional Affiliations/Other Projects

1) Member of the Polish Canadian Research Institute (CPRI) in Toronto. 

  • Canadian Trek of Polish Culture [Gościńcami Kanady na tropach polskiej kultury], Jadwiga Kaczmarzyk-Byszewska (Toronto: ECHO Research Institute, 2013) (co-translator).
  • Black Ribbon Day, Edward Sołtys (Toronto: CPRI, 2014) (partial translator and proofreader).
  • An Ordinary Move: Memoirs of Polish Immigrants to Canada, 1988-2012 [Zwyczajna Przeprowadzka. Pamiętniki imigrantów z Polski do Kanady, 1988-2012], eds. Jacek Kozak and Joanna Lustanski (Toronto: CPRI, 2014) (co-translator and proofreader).

2) Member of a collaborative research project entitled “Jewish Survival Strategies, 1942-1945” led by Dr. Jan Grabowski of the University of Ottawa, which studies the trajectories of Jews seeking survival in rural areas of selected counties in occupied Poland. 

3) Contracted translator and editor (2014-2016) for an online project entitled Documenting Life and Destruction, led by Emil Kerenji and Leah Wolfson of the Mandel Center for Advanced Holocaust Studies (USHMM).

4) Historical consultant, trip coordinator, and on-site translator for Ed Burtynsky and photography/film project team traveling throughout Poland and Lithuania in October-November 2014 in order to photograph locations related to the Shoah for the National Holocaust Monument in Ottawa, Canada. 

Teaching Experience

1) Teaching Assistant (TA) for a course on the Cold War, “Conflict and Co-Operation in the International System since 1945” (HIS344), taught by Prof. Vasilis Dimitriadis, University of Toronto.

2) TA for “The Holocaust to 1942, Part I” (HIS338) and “The Holocaust from 1942, Part II” (HIS361), taught by Dr. Doris Bergen, University of Toronto.

3) Head TA for “Europe in the 20th Century” (HIS242H1-S), taught by Dr. Rebecca Carter-Chand, University of Toronto.


Polish, English, intermediate German, beginning Yiddish


MA, Brandeis University
BA, Rutgers University
BA, Rutgers University