Synopses & Reviews
On the Brink of the Precipice, the first volume of the trilogy The Tree of Life
, describes the lives of the noveland#8217;s ten protagonists in the Lodz Ghetto before the outbreak of World War II. Chava Rosenfarb, herself a survivor of the Lodz Ghetto, Auschwitz, and Bergen-Belsen, draws on her own history to create realistic characters who struggle daily to retain a sense of humanity and dignity despite the physical and psychological effects of ghetto life. Although the novel depicts horrendous experiences, the light of faith in the human spirit shines through this noveland#8217;s every page.
Winner of the 1972 J. J. Segal Prize and the 1979 Manger Prize for Yiddish Literature
“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
“Albert Kaganovitch has superb command of diverse primary sources in several languages and organizes his findings in a well-balanced and vivid reconstruction of Jewish life in Rechitsa, an old town on the crossroads between Russia, Ukraine and Belarus.”—Mikhail Krutikov, University of Michigan
andquot;Chava Rosenfarbandrsquo;s The Tree of Life. . .and#160;is aand#160;work that rises to the heights of the great creations of world literature and towers powerfully over the Jewish literature of the Holocaust.andquot;andmdash;Jury decision for the Manger Prize for Yiddish Literature
"With your work you give artistic meaning to an epoch of Jewish experience that is so unbelievably brutal that it is not possible for those who were never there to grasp the full breadth of its horrors. Your manner of conveying the ghetto life is, however, of such scope and literary power that the reader feels himself to be living with you."and#8212;Decision of the Jury for the J. J. Segal Prize for Yiddish and Hebrew Literature for the Year 1972
andquot;Descending into the abyss of the ghetto, the author has descended into the depth of awareness of the full range of human nature.andquot;--B. Shlevin, Undzer Shtimme, Paris
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.
About the Author
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.
Table of Contents
AcknowledgmentsTransliteration Notes and Territorial Definitions Introduction1. Rechitsa and the Jews under the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth in the Seventeenth and Eighteenth Centuries2. Under Russian Rule, 1793–19173. The Economy of the Town in the Nineteenth and Early Twentieth Centuries4. Demography of the Social-Economic Landscape in the Nineteenth and Early Twentieth Centuries5. Pre-Revolutionary Jewish Social Life and Education6. Between Revolution and War, 1917–19417. Under German Occupation, 1941–19438. From Liberation to the Collapse of the USSR, 1943–1991Conclusion NotesBibliographyIndex