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A History of East European Jews

Heiko Haumann, Professor of History of Eastern Europe at the University of Basel

Translated by James Patterson

The origins and life of East European Jewry took on new historical and political importance after the Holocaust. Two thirds of European Jewry and about one third of the world's Jewish population were murdered by the Nazis. In Poland alone - 99 per cent of Polish Jews - three million in all were killed; Yiddish as a spoken language more or less disappeared. This volume presents a history of East European Jewry from its beginnings to the period after the Holocaust. It gives an overview of the demographic, political, socio-economic, religious and cultural conditions of Jewish communities in Poland, Russia, Bohemia and Moravia. The structure of the book is chronological: a 'history of events' description enriched with cultural elements.

Interesting themes include the story of early settlers, the 'Golden Age', the influence of the Kabbalah and Hasidism. Vivid portraits of Jewish family life and religious customs make the book enjoyable to read.

" I am an East European Jew [Ostjude], and our homeland lies wherever we have our dead.' So speaks the millionaire Henry Bloomfield in Joseph Roth's novel Hotel Savoy as he visits the grave of his father, Jechiel Blumenfeld. This sentence encompasses the entire history of the 'East European Jews' (sometimes referred to simply as Ostjuden). They are not simply 'the Jews in Eastern Europe'- although they developed there as a characteristic type - because they are scattered throughout the world. They have left behind their dead in many countries. Often, memory remained their only homeland."
- from the Foreword of the book

An easily readable introduction into a widely researched scholarly field, A History of East European Jews provides useful information for the educated and interested general reader. Further reading on the subject is stimulated by the work's extensive bibliography.

"Haumann is a well-known specialist in eastern European Jewish history who teaches at the University of Basel. His popular one volume history of east European Jewry appeared in two editions in German and it has also been translated into a number of languages.
... a very readable general introduction to east European Jewish life and culture." - Religious Studies Review


1. Poland as a place of refuge for Jews 2. The Ostjuden as a new way of life in Eastern Europe 3. Crisis of the Jews in Eastern Europe and a new identity 4. Attempted annihilation and new hope

250 pages
ISBN 978-963-9241-37-4 cloth $49.95 / €42.95 / £33.00
ISBN 978-963-9241-26-8 paperback $27.95 / €24.95 / £22.99