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Shtetl: The History of a Small Town and an Extinguished World Paperback – January 28, 1999

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage (January 28, 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0099274825
  • ISBN-13: 978-0099274827
  • Product Dimensions: 7.7 x 5 x 0.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 7.8 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,888,126 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By L. Angert on March 8, 2010
Format: Paperback
As one who came to this book with a realistic understanding of Jewish life in the shtetls of eastern Europe, I was delighted by the wealth of new information gathered by Hoffman and her admirable Polish guide. The historical background concerning the earliest settlement of the Jewish population in the region set the stage for her presentation of the political and economic life in the region throughout the 18th - 20th centuries, especially as it impacted Jews and their gentile neighbors. Hoffman brought the skills of both an historian and and interviewer to the book. Combining that with the apparently honest and candid information that her native collaborator was given by the local population, Hoffman's history has the positive air of authenticity and accuracy.
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Format: Paperback
Hoffman traces the experience of Jews in pre-modern Poland, partitioned Poland, the Second Republic, WWII, and the immediate postwar period. There is a wealth of information presented in this volume, and I focus on only a few matters. Without doubt, this book is much more objective than Marian Marzynski's rather anti-Polish SHTETL.

After the Partitions, and particularly as the 19th century wore on, Jewish and Polish political interests increasingly diverged. Consider the situation in Russian-ruled eastern Poland: "In fact, Jewish attitudes towards tsarist rule were mixed. In contrast with the Poles, Jewish communities basically accepted the legitimacy of the Russian government, even though they may have bridled against some of its policies." (p. 117). Hoffman sees the later Litvak Jewish immigrants as not so much a force of Russification, as a significant source of pro-Russian political orientation as well as radical-left sentiment (p. 137).

By the time of the resurrection of the Polish state in 1918, the Polish-Jewish gulf had grown large. Polish Jews wanted not only civil rights, but, in contrast to western European Jews, also minority rights (p. 164). [In modern parlance, this would be called special rights. They would, in effect, make the Jews into a nation-within-nation in Poland.] Not surprisingly, this led to overt separatism. Hoffman writes: "In Bialystok, representatives of the Jewish community proposed that the city and surrounding region should become part of Lithuania rather than Poland, because this would put Jews in a better numerical position. The suggestion was met with outrage by Polish politicians." (p. 164). During the Polish-Bolshevik War of 1920, Jewish loyalties were ephemeral.
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