In the Midst of Civilized Europe: The Pogroms of 1918-1921 and the Onset of the Holocaust
Between 1918 and 1921, over a hundred thousand Jews were murdered in Ukraine and Poland by peasants, townsmen, and soldiers who blamed the Jews for the turmoil of the Russian Revolution. In hundreds of separate incidents, ordinary people robbed their Jewish neighbors with impunity, burned down their houses, ripped apart their Torah scrolls, sexually assaulted them, and killed them. Largely forgotten today, these pogroms—ethnic riots—dominated headlines and international affairs in their time. Aid workers warned that six million Jews were in danger of complete extermination. Twenty years later, these dire predictions would come true.
Drawing upon long-neglected archival materials, including thousands of newly discovered witness testimonies, trial records, and official orders, acclaimed historian Jeffrey Veidlinger shows for the first time how this wave of genocidal violence created the conditions for the Holocaust. Through stories of survivors, perpetrators, aid workers, and governmental officials, he explains how so many different groups of people came to the same conclusion: that killing Jews was an acceptable response to their various problems. In riveting prose, In the Midst of Civilized Europe repositions the pogroms as a defining moment of the twentieth century.From award-winning historian Jeffrey Veidlinger, In the Midst of Civilized Europe presents the first full depiction of the wave of pogroms that followed the Russian Revolution and how they laid the groundwork for the Holocaust.
In the Shadow of the Shtetl: Small-Town Jewish Life in Soviet Ukraine
The story of how the Holocaust decimated Jewish life in the shtetls of Eastern Europe is well known. Still, thousands of Jews in these small towns survived the war and returned afterward to rebuild their communities. The recollections of some 400 returnees in Ukraine provide the basis for Jeffrey Veidlinger’s reappraisal of the traditional narrative of 20th-century Jewish history. These elderly Yiddish speakers relate their memories of Jewish life in the prewar shtetl, their stories of survival during the Holocaust, and their experiences living as Jews under Communism. Despite Stalinist repressions, the Holocaust, and official antisemitism, their individual remembrances of family life, religious observance, education, and work testify to the survival of Jewish life in the shadow of the shtetl to this day.
“In the Shadow of the Shtetl restores horror to the setting in which it occurred: at home, among familiar people and places. . . . In their accounts the everyday and the extraordinary, the innocuous and the gruesome are continually intertwined. The same people participated in both. The relationship between the normal and the abnormal, the intimate and the alien takes on a different shape in these stories―perhaps a shape that can help us better understand places like Rwanda or Cambodia―or Bosnia.”
― New York Review of Books
Jewish Public Culture in the Late Russian Empire
In the midst of the violent, revolutionary turmoil that accompanied the last decade of tsarist rule in the Russian Empire, many Jews came to reject what they regarded as the apocalyptic and utopian prophecies of political dreamers and religious fanatics, preferring instead to focus on the promotion of cultural development in the present. Jewish Public Culture in the Late Russian Empire examines the cultural identities that Jews were creating and disseminating through voluntary associations such as libraries, drama circles, literary clubs, historical societies, and even fire brigades. Jeffrey Veidlinger explores the venues in which prominent cultural figures―including Sholem Aleichem, Mendele Moykher Sforim, and Simon Dubnov―interacted with the general Jewish public, encouraging Jewish expression within Russia’s multicultural society. By highlighting the cultural experiences shared by Jews of diverse social backgrounds―from seamstresses to parliamentarians―and in disparate geographic locales―from Ukrainian shtetls to Polish metropolises―the book revises traditional views of Jewish society in the late Russian Empire.
This is the first book in English to trace the fascinating and tragic history of the Moscow State Yiddish Theater, founded in 1919 and liquidated by the Soviet government in 1949. Since the conventional view of the fate of Jews in Soviet Russia is that from the beginning, the Soviet state pursued policies aimed at stamping out Jewish culture, it is surprising to learn that from the 1920s through World War II, secular Yiddish culture was actively promoted and Yiddish cultural institutions thrived, supported by the Soviet government, albeit for its own propaganda purposes. Drawing from newly available archives, Jeffrey Veidlinger uses the dramatic story of the Moscow State Yiddish Theater, the premiere secular Jewish cultural institution of the Soviet era, to demonstrate how Jewish writers and artists were able to promote Jewish national culture within the confines of Soviet nationality policies. He shows how a stellar group of artists, writers, choreographers, directors, and actors led by Solomon Michaels brought to life shtetl fables, biblical heroes, Israelite lore, exilic laments, and dilemmas of contemporary life under the guise of conventional socialist realism before the theater and many of its principal figures fell victim to Stalinist antisemitism and xenophobia after World War II. Enriched by rare photographs of the theater’s artists and performances, The Moscow State Yiddish Theater brings to life a complex period in the history and culture of Soviet Jewry.
Taking S. An-sky’s expeditions to the Pale of Jewish Settlement as its point of departure, the volume explores the dynamic and many-sided nature of ethnographic knowledge and the long and complex history of the production and consumption of Jewish folk traditions. These essays by historians, anthropologists, musicologists, and folklorists showcase some of the finest research in the field. They reveal how the collection, analysis, and preservation of ethnography intersect with questions about the construction and delineation of community, the preservation of Jewishness, the meaning of belief, the significance of retrieving cultural heritage, the politics of accessing and memorializing “lost” cultures, and the problem of narration, among other topics.