Customer Reviews: Poland's Jewish Landmarks: A Travel Guide
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What can you say about Jewish Poland in 264 pages or less?
This is a subject for volumes, not for a thin paperback.
I suppose that if I had to describe Polish Jewry "on one foot" (as they say) this book would be it. This is the book in your backpack when you travel to Poland. It opens with the Kaddish. You'll need that often, as you travel through the country.
It then goes on to list some of the Jewish landmark events in a "Chronology of Jewish Presence in Poland before and after WWII" which starts at 860 AD. That's just to give you a taste of how rich the Jewish heritage was in Poland.
There are several short chapters on the history of the Jews in Poland, and an introduction to Polish Jewish culture. But the most interesting and useful information in this book is the reference material. The book contains maps of various sorts, showing not just geography but also demographic information. There are lists and photos, diagrams, and names, names and more names.
So many contributed to the rich Jewish life in Poland that they are too great to mention. The section on famous figures and their contributions is simply a list of names
and their contributions. This hardly does justice so giants like Shalom Aleichem and Isaac Bashevis Singer, each one line entries under Yiddish and Hebrew Writers. Imagine that.
Almost a third of this book is a glossary of Polish Jewry. Here you will find an alphabetical listing of some of the most significant locations and a paragraph on each.
Though some of the entries are very thorough, I was disappointed in the number of items missing from this 100-page section, particulary the religious references.

The chapter on major Jewish centers in Poland, focuses on Cracow, Lodz, Lublin, and Warsaw. The book has an interesting chapter on tracing ones roots in Poland. It discusses the types of documents that are helpful for tracing family members and the repositories in Poland where they can be found. There is a list of modern day congregations and synagogues, striking in that it is two sides of a single page. There is another section on current Jewish organizations, recommended reading and an index.
I suppose if such a rich topic as Poland's Jewish Landmarks had to be summed up in a portable paperback, this book does the job. But readers of this book should take the recommended reading section seriously, and use this book as just the start of a fascinating study.
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HALL OF FAMEon February 10, 2008
This stand alone volume is a wonderful beggining of an index of Jewish sites in Poland and is a worthy addition to any traveller going to that country to examine its Jewish past or his or her Jewish roots there. Although it claims to begin in the 9th century AD the sites do not date back so far. Nevertheless the index provided is extensive and interestaint as it is diverse and gives the reader a true taste of the great wealth of the heritage of the Jews of Poland.

A must have for anyone interested in the Jewish history of Poland.

Seth J. Frantzman
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on March 29, 2012
Strictly speaking, this is not a travel guide in the sense of being a step-by-step set of instructions on how to reach a particular destination in Poland. It instead focuses on destinations and gives minimal information as to how to reach the destinations.

This book, an expansion of Kagan's earlier 1992 book, features an extensive alphabetically ordered list of Polish cities and towns, each of which has a 1-4 (or so) set of paragraphs summarizing the Jewish history of that city or town. Especially featured, in each case, is the destruction of the local Jewish community during the German-made Holocaust, and further special attention is devoted to the fate of the local Jewish cultural objects to this day.

One may be surprised to learn that the Germans did not destroy everything. Usually, cemeteries and synagogues are all that have survived.

Special attention is devoted to Warsaw, which had been rebuilt almost from scratch after WWII. Important Jewish buildings in present-day Warsaw are listed. A list of prominent Jews, buried in the Warsaw Jewish cemetery, is provided. An inventory of Jewish organizations is also given.

To aid the reader, this book also has an introductory set of pages summarizing the Jewish history in Poland. There is also a list of Polish Jews who were notable historians, cantors, poets, musicians, etc. A set of maps shows important towns, Poland before and after WWII, the sites and layouts of the Nazi German death camps, etc. A chronology lists important events in the centuries of Poland's Jewry. Finally, there is a list of active synagogues in Poland.

Kagan (p. 18) supposes that there are only, at most, about 10,000 Jews left in Poland. The actual total is at least several times that many. In fact, some estimates suggest that 50,000 Jewish infants were saved by being raised by Polish parents. Every day, more Poles discover their Jewish roots.

Apropos to this, Kagan discusses how to trace your family history. Information is provided on such things as genealogical societies, available archived information, etc.
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on March 27, 2012
This book was a disappointment to me, but perhaps to be fair, I think I had made incorrect assumptions. I think this book does a somewhat OK job of discussing the history, but I found the writing stilted in many spots, dry, and just not that engaging. I expected I was getting a "How To" book designed for people who wanted to visit the Jewish places in Poland. I also expected more How To information related to visiting the extermination camps, ghettos, and other such Holocaust-oriented locations. On the front cover, this book does bill itself as a travel guide, but the author would have done well to research the wide array of travel guides on the market to gain some insight into how to write a user-friendly book that actually got into some of the nuts and bolts of the logistics. The subtitle for this book should not be "Travel Guide," but rather "Historical Companion Guide." I think there is great material in this book, and I think if it were presented with some more user friendly logistics, the second volume could be incredible.

I feel guilty writing this review, but felt it necessary. Many of us travel to Poland for this purpose and we need solid information. I hope the second volume gets better.
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on September 24, 2012
This book has information about many distroyed Jewish Shtetls in Poland. Some of those have no remaining signs of the life of jews in those communities. The name of these communities will remain available, and enable us to remember the past, that was so cruelly destroyed by the nazi troups and their collaborators.
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on June 5, 2015
Just lists, and not very useful
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on May 11, 2016
Nice for travel!
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