Polin: Studies in Polish Jewry Volume 17

BookPolin: Studies in Polish Jewry Volume 17

Polin: Studies in Polish Jewry Volume 17

The Shtetl: Myth and Reality

Polin: Studies in Polish Jewry, 17


November 25th, 2004

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The shtetl is one of the key concepts for our understanding of the Jewish past in Eastern Europe. Although today most Jews live in big cities, the majority of Jews in Poland historically lived in the villages and small towns known as shtetls; even as late as 1931, only 43% lived in towns with a population of more than 20,000. The shtetl was thus the main context and arena for Jewish life in Poland, but much of what we know of shtetl life still comes from literary accounts rather than historical research.

This volume attempts to redress that imbalance. Among the topics covered are the Jewishness of the shtetl; Polish--Jewish relations and social relations more widely in the shtetl; inter-religious contacts; the hasidic conquest of shtetl life; cultural evolution in the shtetl; Polish shtetls under Russian rule and Soviet shtetls in the 1920s; and a contemporary account of returning to visit a shtetl. Other articles consider how shtetl life has been reflected in Hebrew, Polish, and Yiddish literature.

The New Views section analyses the work of the Russian Jewish writer Lev Levanda and the correspondence of an interwar Polish Jew, Wolf Lewkowicz. There are also two articles on the Gesiowka concentration camp established by the Nazis to clear the remains of the Warsaw ghetto. A special section is devoted to whether the incidents in Przytyk in 1936 constituted a pogrom, while another is devoted to discussing two important documents illustrating Wladyslaw Gomulka's attitude to Jews.

‘This latest volume of Polin fully succeeds in maintaining the scholarly standards set by its predecessors.’ Lionel Kochan, Jewish Historical Studies


Author Information

Antony Polonsky is Professor Emeritus of Holocaust Studies at Brandeis University and Chief Historian of the Polin Museum of the History of Polish Jews, Warsaw.

Table of Contents

Table of Contents
Section TitlePagePrice
Cover 1
Half Title 3
Title Page 4
Copyright 5
Dedication 6
Editors and Advisers7
Note on Place Names16
Note on Transliteration17
List of Abbreviations18
Part I: The Shtetl: Myth and Reality 20
Introduction. The Shtetl: Myth and Reality22
The Shtetl as an Arena for Polish–Jewish Integration in the Eighteenth Century44
Inter–Religious Contacts in the Shtetl: Proposals for Future Research60
The Hasidic Conquest of Small-Town Central Poland, 1754–181870
The Drama of Berdichev: Levi Yitshak and his Town102
Polish Shtetls under Russian Rule, 1772–1914116
How Jewish Was the Shtetl?128
The Changing Shtetl in the Kingdom of Poland during the First World War138
The Shtetl: Cultural Evolution in Small Jewish Towns152
Small Towns in Inter-War Poland162
Jewish Patrons and Polish Clients: Patronage in a Small Galician Town172
Maintaining Borders, Crossing Borders: Social Relationships in the Shtetl190
The Soviet Shtetl in the 1920s216
Shtetl and Shtot in Yiddish Haskalah Drama232
Kazimierz on the Vistula: Polish Literary Portrayals of the Shtetl252
Imagining the Image: Interpretations of the Shtetl in Yiddish Literary Criticism262
Shtetl Codes: Fantasy in the Fiction of Asch, Schulz, and I. B. Singer278
Returning to the Shtetl: Differing Perceptions286
Part II: New Views 296
A Jewish Russifier in Despair: Lev Levanda’s Polish Question298
Like a Voice Crying in the Wilderness: The Correspondence of Wolf Lewkowicz318
Jewish Prisoner Labour in Warsaw After the Ghetto Uprising, 1943–1944344
The Gęsiówka Story: A Little-Known Page of Jewish Resistance372
Part III: Documents 382
Gomułka Writes to Stalin in 1948384
Document 1: Władysław Gomułka’s Letter to Stalin395
Document 2: Cryptogram from Stalin and Molotov to Bolesław Bierut400
Part IV: The Sixty-Fifth Anniversary of Events in Przytyk: A Debate 402
If Not a Pogrom, Then What?404
Pogrom? The Polish–Jewish Incidents in Przytyk, 9 March 1936411
It Was No Ordinary Fight416
Life and History419
Letter from Ryszard Fenigsen420
Przytyk and the Market Stall423
Part V: Reviews 430
Chone Shmeruk, Hakeriyah lenavi: mehkerei historiyah vesifrut, edited by Israel Bartal; Chone Shmeruk, Ayarot ukerakhim: perakim beyetsirato shel shalom aleikhem, edited by Chava Turniansky432
Anna Michałowska, Między demokracją a oligarchią: Władze gmin żydowskich w Poznaniu i Swarzędzu438
Magdalena Sitarz, Yiddish and Polish Proverbs: Contrastive Analysis Against Cultural Background441
Shmuel Feiner and David Sorkin (eds.), New Perspectives on the Haskalah446
Brian Porter, When Nationalism Began to Hate: Imagining Modern Politics in Nineteenth-Century Poland448
Irena Janicka-Świderska, Jerzy Jarniewicz, and Adam Sumera (eds.), Jewish Themes in English and Polish Culture451
Nancy L. Green (ed.), Jewish Workers in the Modern Diaspora453
Gertrud Pickhan, ‘Gegen den Strom’. Der Allgemeine Jüdische Arbeiterbund ‘Bund’ in Polen, 1918–1939457
Anna Cichopek, Pogrom Z ydów w Krakowie, 11 sierpnia 1945 r.459
Michał Horoszewicz, ‘Przez dwa millenia do rzymskiej synagogi’: Szkice o ewolucji postawy Kościoła katolickiego wobec Żydów i judaizmu467
Rafael Scharf (1914–2003)472
Eugenia Shrut (1925–2003)479
George Szabad (1917–2002)481
Notes on the Contributors484