The University of Wisconsin Press
The Long Life and Swift Death of Jewish Rechitsa
A Community in Belarus, 1625–2000
Winner of the 2014 Helen and Stan Vine Canadian Jewish Book Award for Scholarship
“A major contribution to our understanding of the history of the Jews of Rechitsa, a typical Jewish shtetl, and of the transformation and tragic end of Jewish life there.”
—Antony Polonsky, Brandeis University and the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum
Located on the Dnieper River at the crossroads of Belarus, Russia, and Ukraine, the town of Rechitsa had one of the oldest Jewish communities in Belarus, dating back to medieval times. By the late nineteenth century, Jews constituted more than half of the town’s population. Rich in tradition, Jewish Rechitsa was part of a distinctive Lithuanian-Belorussian culture full of stories, vibrant personalities, achievement, and epic struggle that was gradually lost through migration, pogroms, and the Holocaust. Now, in Albert Kaganovitch’s meticulously researched history, this forgotten Jewish world is brought to life.
Based on extensive use of Soviet and Israeli archives, interviews, memoirs, and secondary sources, Kaganovitch’s acclaimed work, originally published in Russian, is presented here in a significantly revised English translation by the author. Details of demographic, social, economic, and cultural changes in Rechitsa’s evolution, presented over the sweep of centuries, reveal a microcosm of daily Jewish life in Rechitsa and similar communities. Kaganovitch looks closely at such critical developments as the spread of Chabad Hasidism, the impact of multiple political transformations and global changes, and the mass murder of Rechitsa’s remaining Jews by the German army in November to December 1941.
Kaganovitch also documents the evolving status of Jews in the postwar era, starting with the reconstitution of a Jewish community in Rechitsa not long after liberation in 1943 and continuing with economic, social, and political trends under Stalin, Khrushchev, and Brezhnev, and finally emigration from post-Soviet Belarus. The Long Life and Swift Death of Jewish Rechitsa is a major achievement.
Albert Kaganovitch is Senior Research Fellow at the Institute for Humanities, University of Manitoba, and a former research fellow at the Judaic Studies Program of Manitoba University; the Center for Advanced Holocaust Studies of the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C.; the Vidal Sassoon International Center for the Study of Antisemitism at Hebrew University in Jerusalem; and the International Institute for Holocaust Research at the Yad Vashem Museum of the Holocaust in Jerusalem.
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“It is precisely in nuanced ordinariness that Kaganovitch seeks the nature of Jewish life in Eastern Europe under Poland-Lithuania, the Russian Empire, and the USSR. He thus contributes to wider debates on the nature of central power, local authorities, Jewish institutions, and family life.”
—Holocaust & Genocide Studies
“Considerably enriches Belarusian micro-history and Jewish studies. . . . Highly recommended for both an academic and general readership.”
—Canadian Slavonic Papers
Of Related Interest:
The Tree of Life:
A Trilogy of Life in the Lodz Ghetto
Book I: On the Brink of the Precipice, 1939
Book II: From the Depths I Call You, 1940–1942
Book III: The Cattle Cars Are Waiting, 1942–1944
LC: 2012013015 DS
416 pp. 6 x 9
21 b/w photos, 1 map
Paper $29.95 s
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Updated 11/17/2014© 2013 The Board of Regents of the University of Wisconsin System