Estonia is perhaps the only country in Europe that lacks a comprehensive history of its Jewish minority. Spanning over 150 years of Estonian Jewish history, On the Margins is a truly unique book. Rebuilding a life beyond so-called Pale of Jewish Settlement in the Russian Empire, the Jewish cultural autonomy in interwar Estonia, and the trauma of Soviet occupation of 1940–41 are among the issues addressed in the book but most profoundly, the book wrestles with the subject of the Holocaust and its legacy in Estonia.
Specifically, it examines the quasi-legal system of murder instituted in Nazi-occupied Estonia, confiscation of Jewish property, and Jewish forced labor camps and develops an analysis of the causes of collaboration during the Holocaust. The book also explores the dynamics of war crimes trials in the Soviet Union since the 1960s and so-called denaturalization trials in the United States in the 1980s. The haunting memory of Soviet and Nazi rule, the book concludes, prevents a larger segment of today’s Estonian population from facing up to the Holocaust and the universal message that it carries.