Their Sense of Belonging


A historian vividly reconstructs Eastern Europe as a place of Jewish life rather than of Jewish death


Timothy Snyder


Day to day, memory is what we choose to forget. A major Jewish experience of the last century has been one of emigration, be it to the United States or Israel. The integration that follows means forgetting the old country, right down to its name. American and Israeli Jews often know little about the place of birth of their great-grandparents, which was usually in eastern Europe. Emigration in conditions of want and discrimination have left a bitter taste, and the Holocaust made eastern Europe seem like a place of Jewish death rather than Jewish life. Yet for half a millennium, as Antony Polonsky records in his exemplary and formidable three-volume work of historical synthesis, Poland and Russia were the world Jewish homeland.


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