Jadwiga Maurer (née Graubard)was born in 1930 in the town of Kielce in Central Poland. Her parents, who met during their studies at the Jagiellonian University in Cracow, Poland, taught Polish language and literature in Jewish schools during the interwar period. At the start of World War II in September 1939, the family left Kielce for Eastern Poland, hiding under a new name during the Holocaust, and surviving on false identity papers that labeled them "Aryan." In 1943, after the liquidation of the Jewish Ghetto in Cracow, the family, still hiding its Jewish identity, lived in an apartment in the former Jewish quarter. In the spring of 1944, she and her parents fled to Slovakia, where she spent the last years of the war in a Franciscan convent school. After the war the family returned to Cracow briefly, moving to Gdansk, and then emigrating to Munich, Germany in 1946. In Munich she completed her undergraduate and graduate studies at the Ludwig-Maximilian University, defending her doctoral dissertation on Polish linguistics in 1955. At that time, she had already met her husband Warren Maurer, who had come to Germany on a fellowship from the University of Chicago in1953.
In 1959 the couple moved to Berkeley, California, where Doctor Maurer took up a position as an Assistant Professor of Slavic Languages, and her husband completed his doctoral studies. After Berkeley, the couple taught at Indiana University for three years and then came to Lawrence in 1968. In 1970, with recommendations from Czesław Miłosz and Jerzy Kosinski, Dr. Maurer was hired in the Slavic Department at KU as an Associate Professor, and in 1974 she was promoted to Full Professor. Professor Maurer retired from KU in 2001.
In her thirty-year career at KU, Professor Maurer taught a wide range of courses in Polish Language and Literature. Her scholarly career spanned a similarly broad arc, starting with her dissertation that was focused on Polish linguistics, and ending with her groundbreaking 1990 study ‘Of an Alien Mother’ – Sketches on the Ties of Adam Mickiewicz with the Jewish World. This book broke new ground in the interpretation of Adam Mickiewicz, the national poet of Poland. Starting with the likelihood that Mickiewicz’s mother was a descendant of converted Jews, Professor Maurer probes the significance of these Jewish roots to Mickiewicz’s fashioning of his life and art.
Following that publication, Professor Maurerwas invited to give a number of talks internationally. In January 1996 she was invited back to Poland and gave an interview for Channel 1 of Polish National Television with journalist Andrzej Zuławski. She spent several days in Chile in December 1998 as the guest of the Polish Embassy and she gave talks at the University of Chile and the University of La Serena.
In addition to an active scholarly profile, Professor Maurer also published numerous semi-autobiographical stories dealing with Jewish survivors of the Holocaust. Starting in 1960, her stories appeared numerous Polish émigré venues, including the prestigious Paris Kultura, and later in Poland in the top journal Tygodnik Powszechny [The Universal Weekly].Her first collection of stories appeared under the title Liga Ocalałych[=The League of the Saved] in 1970, Podróż na wybrzeże Dalmacji[=A Voyage to the Coast of Dalmatia] in 1982, andSobotwóry[=Doubles] in 2002 by Scriptum Publishers in her home town of Kielce.
Professor Maurer’s own literary works became the topic of other scholars’ investigations. In 1997 Anna Zacharska of the Jagiellonian University in Krakow wrote her M.A. thesis "Literackie świadectwa 'Ocaleńców'" [The Literary Witness of the "Survivors"] about Jadwiga Maurer's, Ida Fink's and Henryk Grynberg's prose. In 1999, the national meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Slavic Studies featured a whole panel devoted to “Jadwiga Maurer’s Polish/Jewish Dialogue.” And in 2001 Professor Maurer’s contributions to Polish and Polish/Jewish cultural studies were the topic of a symposium at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor.
Professor Maurer died on Tuesday, October 16, 2012 in Urbana, IL.