Erased: Van­ish­ing Traces of Jew­ish Gali­cia in Present-Day Ukraine

  • Review
By – March 9, 2012

This small vol­ume is an impor­tant addi­tion to con­tem­po­rary Jew­ish trav­el lit­er­a­ture. Omer Bar­tov has under­tak­en to doc­u­ment what remains today of dozens of towns in for­mer­ly Pol­ish East­ern Gali­cia, which is now West­ern Ukraine, where Jews once com­prised sub­stan­tial minori­ties and even out­right majori­ties in each mar­ket town and city. It is a region rich in Jew­ish cul­tur­al and reli­gious his­to­ry, home to many branch­es of the Hasidic move­ment and the birth­place of such var­ied fig­ures as the Hebrew and Yid­dish author Shmuel Yosef Agnon and the War­saw Ghet­to his­to­ri­an Emanuel Ringlbaum.

Bar­tov writes with clar­i­ty and pal­pa­ble out­rage, as he describes the pat­tern he found repeat­ed almost every­where: Vir­tu­al­ly all traces of the Jews and their his­to­ry have been erased as the local Ukraini­ans have under­tak­en to cre­ate a his­tor­i­cal nar­ra­tive of their own that does not con­cede any sig­nif­i­cant role to the Jews, who were once a major com­po­nent in the region’s urban life. This book is an often bril­liant and impas­sioned response to the anni­hi­la­tion from mem­o­ry of the last traces of the Jews who lived for gen­er­a­tions in the Ukraine. It is a valu­able book both about the destruc­tion of the past and an attempt to pre­serve mem­o­ry into the future. Bib­li­og­ra­phy, index, maps, photographs.

Robert Moses Shapiro teach­es mod­ern Jew­ish his­to­ry, Holo­caust stud­ies, and Yid­dish lan­guage and lit­er­a­ture at Brook­lyn Col­lege of the City Uni­ver­si­ty of New York. His most recent book is The War­saw Ghet­to Oyneg Shabes-Ringel­blum Archive: Cat­a­log and Guide (Indi­ana Uni­ver­si­ty Press in asso­ci­a­tion with the U.S. Holo­caust Memo­r­i­al Library and the Jew­ish His­tor­i­cal Insti­tute in War­saw, 2009). He is cur­rent­ly engaged in trans­lat­ing Pol­ish and Yid­dish diaries from the Łódź ghet­to and the Yid­dish Son­derkom­man­do doc­u­ments found buried in the ash pits at Auschwitz-Birkenau.

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