Pidyon shevuyim, obtaining the release of captives, has been an imperative for Jews since Abraham mounted up to rescue his nephew, Lot. The Ransom of the Jews is a concise chronicle of the relatively unknown relationship between the Jewish State of Israel and the corrupt Communist regime of Romania that resulted in the emigration of more than a quarter-million Jews in exchange for payment amounting to hundreds of millions of dollars during the halfcentury after the Holocaust. Written by a Jewish native of Romania who is now a distinguished scholar associated with the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, this book tells a remarkable story of both venality and heroism conducted under a clandestine cloak that is now extensively documented in the source notes.
Some minor defects in the book are the lack of a bibliography, the peculiar transcription of the Hebrew word Aliyah as Alyah, and the mistaken characterization of the American Howard M. Sachar as an “Israeli” historian.
This book tells an exciting story of daring, steadfast commitment to the rescue of entrapped Jews, and playing on the greed of Communist rulers. The book’s foreword is by Romanian-born Elie Wiesel and its afterword by Ion M. Pacepa, a high-ranking defector to the West who had worked closely with the dictator Ceausescu.
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.