In the Shadow of the Shtetl
Small-Town Jewish Life in Soviet Ukraine
Publication Year: 2013
The story of how the Holocaust decimated Jewish life in the shtetls of Eastern Europe is well known. Still, thousands of Jews in these small towns survived the war and returned afterward to rebuild their communities. The recollections of some 400 returnees in Ukraine provide the basis for Jeffrey Veidlinger’s reappraisal of the traditional narrative of 20th-century Jewish history. These elderly Yiddish speakers relate their memories of Jewish life in the prewar shtetl, their stories of survival during the Holocaust, and their experiences living as Jews under Communism. Despite Stalinist repressions, the Holocaust, and official antisemitism, their individual remembrances of family life, religious observance, education, and work testify to the survival of Jewish life in the shadow of the shtetl to this day.
Published by: Indiana University Press
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Title Page, Copyright, Dedication
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When I first started searching for Jewish life in the small towns of Eastern Europe, the shtetls of Yiddish lore, I thought I would find only cemeteries and dilapidated homes, lifeless remnants of a vanished com-munity. Instead, over the last decade, in dozens of shtetls throughout Eastern Europe, I have taken part in oral history interviews with nearly ...
Note on Translation
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I have tried to render the translations as accurately as possible, but rec-ognize that much of the meaning may be lost in translation and that the process of translation and transcription is an interpretive act. Each translation was checked multiple times by multiple people. I apologize, nevertheless, if I have inadvertently misconstrued any interviewee’s ...
1 The Shtetl: A Historical Landscape
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Reading Yiddish literature as a child, I used to imagine the shtetl as a Smurf village, an oasis fantasyland populated with peaceful, joyous, and simple Jews, singing Yiddish songs and humming Hasidic tunes. This blissful flow of life would only be interrupted sporadically by the marauding Cossacks, who, I imagined, lived in the outskirts of the vil-...
2 The Scars of Revolution
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When we met Nisen Yurkovetsky in 2009, he was ninety-one years old—still too young to remember the violence of the revolutionary years. But the physical and metaphorical scars of that violence were still very much with him when we sat down with him in his home in Tulchyn, ninety years af_ter his parents, aunt, and grandfather were murdered by ...
3 Social Structure of the Soviet Shtetl
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In 1924, the Soviet ethnographer Vladimir Bogoraz, better known by his pseudonym V. G. Tan, led an ethnographic expedition to some of the shtetls of Ukraine. Bogoraz’s report on the expedition, published in 1926 as The Jewish Shtetl in Revolution, jubilantly celebrated the victory of socialism during the first decade of the Revolution: “Socialist construc-...
4 Growing Up in Yiddish
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Naf_toli Shor was born in Bershad in 1922. His father, Pinhas, was a leather worker—“he sewed pelts,” Shor told us. Pinhas was also one of the core members of a Hasidic group of pietists in town that met secretly in the 1920s and 1930s in a private house near the synagogue. We inter-viewed Naf_toli on Tishah b’Av, the Jewish holy day that commemorates ...
5 The Sanctuary of the Synagogue
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The Jewish women’s choir of Vinnytsya meets regularly in the Jewish community center not far from the center of town. In 2002, Liudmila Shor invited us to the community center where this group of fif_teen elderly and energetic ladies sings together. We were served a brunch of black bread and cheese, af_ter which Shor began to gather the women ...
6 Religion of the Home: Food and Faith
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When Mendl Osherowitch visited a Ukrainian shtetl in 1932, he la-mented that the Sabbath was barely distinguishable from any other day:In the street .uni00A0.uni00A0. it does not feel like Sabbath. Rarely does a Jew do any-thing different on this day than any other day of the week. There is simply nothing to do. And in the home, there is also no sign of Sabbath food or ...
7 Life and Death in Reichskommissariat Ukraine
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On June 22, 1941, as the first light of the second longest day of the year appeared in the east, over three million German troops stormed across the Soviet border along a line that stretched from the Baltic Sea in the north to the Black Sea in the south. Having ignored the German troops amassing on the border, the Red Army was taken largely by surprise; ...
8 Life beyond the River: Transnistria
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An American immigrant originally from Tulchyn, Manya Ganiyevva, wrote down her recollection of her wartime experiences in Transnistria and deposited that memoir through the Jewish Family Service of Cin-cinnati with the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Wash-ington, D.C. She begins her memoir with the lament that “af_ter the war I ...
9 A Kind of Victory
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Throughout March 1944, the Red Army slowly inched westward across Ukraine, liberating the lands of Vinnytsya Province from German occu-pation. In Transnistria, Soviet soldiers found pockets of surviving Jewish communities: they liberated 12,000 indigenous Jews and another 40,000 Romanian Jews who had been deported to the region from their homes.¹ ...
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Prior to 1989, our views of the Jewish experience in the Soviet Union were derived primarily from the memoirs of émigrés and published writings that came out of the Soviet Union. Both sources agreed that the shtetl had been destroyed and with it “traditional” Jewish life had been eliminated. Whereas Soviet sources—plays, novels, and newspapers—...
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The Archives of Historical and Ethnographic Memories (AHEYM) team con-ducted ninety-five full life-story interviews with forty-three men and fif_ty-two women born in the region covered by this book, as part of a larger project that interviewed nearly four hundred people across Eastern Europe, mostly in Ukraine. Sixteen were born before 1920, twenty were born between 1920 ...
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This book is the product of a collective effort. I am grateful to all those people throughout Ukraine who allowed us to interview them, of_ten on multiple oc-casions. I recognize that it is sometimes difficult to speak about the past on camera to strangers, and I hope that all those who chose to engage with us came out of the process gratified with the experience. I hope as well that they ...
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A typical “Jewish” house in Tomashpil, 2007. Residents commonly ascribed ethnicity to the houses in the shtetl. Photo by Artur Fraçzak.A view down Karl Marx Street from the main square of Sharhorod, 2002.After services in the synagogue of Berdichev. Isaak Vaisman leans forward second from left. Moyshe Vanshelboim stands at far right. ...
About the Author
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...of History and Judaic Studies at the University of Michigan. He ...
Page Count: 424
Illustrations: 21 color illus., 15 b&w illus., 4 maps
Publication Year: 2013