In the Shadow of the Shtetl
Small-Town Jewish Life in Soviet Ukraine
Published by: Indiana University Press
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.
Hitherto the story of the Holocaust in the Eastern European shtetl has been told by those who left—on behalf of those who did not survive. What do we learn from these stories told from the shtetl itself? In the Shadow of the Shtetl restores horror to the setting in which it occurred: at home, among familiar people and places. . . . In their accounts the everyday and the extraordinary, the innocuous and the gruesome are continually intertwined. The same people participated in both. The relationship between the normal and the abnormal, the intimate and the alien takes on a different shape in these stories—perhaps a shape that can help us better understand places like Rwanda or Cambodia—or Bosnia.~New York Review of Books
Related site: AHEYM The Archives of Historical and Ethnographic Yiddish Memories (AHEYM—the acronym means "homeward" in Yiddish) is a linguistic and oral history project that includes Yiddish language interviews with approximately 380 people, most of whom were born between the 1900s and the 1930s. These interviews are the basis for In the Shadow of the Shtetl. Podcast: Yiddish Book Center Book trailer: