Urban Society and Ethnic Communities: Lwów 1918-1945

Prof. Christoph Mick

When the well-known German author Alfred Döblin visited Lviv in 1924 he wrote: “Lviv is a lively, medium-sized, western, modern town; its streets are peaceful and bustling with life. But suddenly something strange confronts me. This city lies in the arms of two enemies, each of whom wants to dominate it. Subterranean enmity and violence are fermenting in the background”. Döblin, the son of assimilated German Jews from Stettin, also commented on the undercurrent of antiSemitism and voiced his fears, especially for the many poor Jews living in the city. (Alfred Döblin, ReisenachPolen).

The Austrian-Jewish writer Joseph Roth, born in nearby Brody, visited Lviv in the same year. He wrote of the peaceful coexistence persisting between the different groups and called Lviv the city of “blurred boundaries”. The course will focus on both aspects of Lviv. It will start with a seminar which will take a look at the views from outside. How did visitors see Lviv and its multiethnic population before and after the First World War? The second session will focus on the Polish-Ukrainian war of 1918/19 within the broader context of the wars and revolutions between 1914 and 1921. In the third session we will be asking whether the war really ended all possibility of achieving a compromise between Poles and Ukrainians and did away with the tolerance between different ethnic and religious groups. Every-day life in inter-war Lviv was not an endless succession of acts of ethnic violence,it was also a time of manifold positive contacts between Poles, Ukrainians and Jews. The fourth session will look at the diversity within the Jewish community and examine the place of Jews in the urban society of Lviv. In the final session we will be analysingthe Soviet and German occupation policies and their impact on ethnic relations in the city.

This course forms a part of Jewish History, Common Past and Heritage: Culture, Cities, Milieus summer school.

Travels to ‘Half-Asia’: Galicia as an exotic tourist destination

Seminar with introduction

Alois Woldan, “The Imagery of Lviv in Ukrainian, Austrian and Polish Literatures: From the Sixteenth Century to 1918, in Lviv: A City in the Crosscurrents of Culture, ed. by John Czaplicka (Cambridge, Mass.: HURI, 2005), 75-94.

Excerpts from travel guides and travelogues

The Polish-Ukrainian War and the Battle for Lviv, 1918/19

Mass violence and peaceful coexistence

Jewish life in Lviv

War, occupation and ethnic violence: L’viv, 1939-1945

General reading

Diaries and memoirs

Comments and discussions