Our Children Are Our Future”: Child Care, Education, and Rebuilding Jewish Life in Poland after the Holocaust, 1944 – 1950
Nicole Freeman

About the research


NAEd/Spencer Dissertation Fellowship

Award Year



Ohio State University

Primary Discipline

My dissertation examines the rehabilitation and education of Polish Jewish children after the Holocaust. I argue that schools, summer camps, and children’s homes in Poland were national and international sites for the rehabilitation of child survivors; therefore, they served as laboratories and arenas for debates regarding Polish Jewry’s future. By comparing Zionist and non-Zionist institutions of child care, I illustrate how educators and caretakers engaged with competing ideologies to create normalcy in the best interests of the children. Rehabilitation was not just physical or mental; it required Jewish children to develop skills that would make them independent and good citizens. What did they study? What did they read? Did they learn Yiddish or Hebrew in school? Did they speak Polish in the classroom? The answers to these questions have broader implications regarding the reconstruction of Jewish communities in Poland after the Holocaust. While the Central Committee of Jews in Poland desperately fought to keep Jewish children in Poland, Zionist organizations saw no future for Jews in Poland. Through an analysis of correspondences, meeting minutes, educator conference programs, lesson plans, children’s own homework assignments, memoirs, and oral histories gathered through multi-sited archival research, my dissertation exposes tension between organizations and traces how the Central Committee of Jews in Poland’s pedagogy and ideology drastically evolved under the growing influence of Poland’s communist government. Ultimately, studying education as a form of nation-building enhances our understanding of the delicate nature of rebuilding Jewish life after war and genocide.
About Nicole Freeman
Nicole Freeman is a Ph.D. candidate in History at the Ohio State University. She specializes in twentieth-century East Central European history and her research interests include children, families, migration, and displacement in the aftermath of war and genocide. Currently, Nicole is completing her dissertation titled “Our Children Are Our Future”: Child Care, Education, and Rebuilding Jewish Life in Poland After the Holocaust, 1944 – 1950. It is based on extensive research completed in archives and libraries across Poland, Germany, Israel, and the United States. Nicole has received grants and fellowships from the Fulbright-Hays, Yad Vashem, Hadassah-Brandeis Institute, Auschwitz Jewish Center, American Jewish Archives, and Bradley Foundation as well as the Ohio State University’s Melton Center for Jewish Studies, Polish Studies Initiative, and Global Mobility Project. She received her M.A. in History from the Ohio State University in 2015 and B.A. in History and Secondary Education from Salem State University in 2012. Prior to entering graduate school, she held an internship in the Division of the Senior Historian at the US Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, DC.

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