The Jews in Poland and Rus­sia, vol. 1, 1350 to 1881

Antony Polon­sky
  • Review
By – December 14, 2011
This is the first vol­ume of a com­pre­hen­sive new sur­vey of the his­to­ry of Jews in East­ern Europe, where for over eight hun­dred years there have been com­mu­ni­ties of Jews in the lands of Poland and Rus­sia, from which a major­i­ty of the world’s Jews orig­i­nat­ed.

The life and his­to­ry of Poland’s Jews was inti­mate­ly inter­twined in the life and his­to­ry of old Poland, when it was one of Europe’s largest states, and con­tin­ued under Russ­ian, Aus­tri­an, and Pruss­ian rule. Yid­dish-speak­ing Jews con­tributed sub­stan­tive­ly to gen­er­al eco­nom­ic and cul­tur­al life in Poland and Rus­sia, while they cul­ti­vat­ed their rich East Euro­pean Jew­ish her­itage. It is a com­plex sto­ry with many threads that is pre­sent­ed with admirable clar­i­ty, eth­i­cal objec­tiv­i­ty, and hon­esty.

This book is des­tined to become the stan­dard sur­vey of East Euro­pean Jew­ish his­to­ry for the next gen­er­a­tion. It is a live­ly, well-writ­ten work that draws on the wealth of recent schol­ar­ly research pub­lished in Pol­ish, Russ­ian, Hebrew, Yid­dish, Ger­man, French, and Eng­lish. Bib­li­og­ra­phy, glos­sary, index, maps, notes, tables. 
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.

Discussion Questions