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Top Customer Reviews
The author has a clear agenda, which is to be more balanced in her treatment of Poles than Jewish writers have usuually been and to be more balanced in her treatment of Jews than Poles have been. The book digs deeply into the sources of Polish perceptions of Jews and vice versa. It gives a deep feel for what life was like in Jewish communities in Poland. The chapter on the period between World Wars I and II is particularly good for showing the political, cultural and economic vibrancy that had come even to the rural shtetls. It must be one of the most "objective" books written about the historical relationship between Jews and Poles. A sympathetic portrait of both peoples that celebrates their virtues and describes their shortcomings as perceived by the other.
I appreciated the author's attempts at balance and her non-vindictive tone especially considering her own background. Focussing on how events played out in one particular town, grounds the account in the lives of real people and makes the subject more accessible. This is a good book for general readers but it suffers from overly academic language and a tendency to repeat itself in some places. I also thought the author's thesis about multiculturalism was underdeveloped.
For this reason, I had a lot of hope pinned on Eva Hoffman's Shtetl. Overall, it's an excellent resource on the political history of the Shtetl and several hundred years of Jewish-Polish relations. It is a complete timeline, from the origins of the Shtetl, through the many years of solid, virtually unchanging tradition, to their period of rapid cultural and intellectual growth, so heartrendingly close to World War II. In the beginning of the book is an excellent introduction that gives a compelling argument about why learning about the Shtetl is important as part of a complete picture of the Holocaust. The best part of the book, in my opinion, is the extremely detailed and well-researched chapter giving the historical background of Jews in Poland.
However, I read the book hoping to get a glimpse of the culture, customs, and daily life of the people in these communities. The book was light in this area, although it did hold some wonderful details.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Received a library copy with photo pages falling out. I'm glad to have the book but this is not what was described. :-(Published 18 months ago by C. Wilson
The book may be a bit dry in the beginning, but the history is important to understand why so many Jewish people were slaughtered in WW2, and they were run out of Russia, and then... Read morePublished 20 months ago by medic 23rd l950 51
Wonderfully readable of life in the shtetl. It is less on the economics and more on the culture.Published 20 months ago by Nathan Carter
Interesting and educational. Learned about the place shetels played in Jewish/European history and how the murder of their Jews changed the life of those who remained both during... Read morePublished 22 months ago by Linda Kay
I must first say that I am blown away by Ms. Hoffman's clear and concise summary of the problems during WWII between the Poles and Jews. Read morePublished on December 27, 2012 by Magda Denes
The superiority of this book over many of the other books out there on Jewish history can be summed up in one word - objectivity. Read morePublished on April 27, 2010 by J. Clarke