Jewish Themes

“I became first aware of the tremendous importance of sound in prayer, and possibly in all human spiritual expression, during my research among traditional Jewish communities of Eastern Europe. The subtitle of this book refers to the sounds of these communities.”
Based on extensive interviews, musical recordings, photographs and erudite analyses, a poetic testimony of the scholar of traditional Jewish music.
“Everything in this book happened—nothing has been invented for the sake of poetry. Similarly, the photographs were taken at the places I describe in the book. The poetic aspect concerns the form and the style, not the content.”

“Approximately 8.9 percent of those deported by the Soviets in 1941 were Jewish.”
A book on Soviet deportation memoirs from the Baltic States.
“The crimes committed during the German occupation were not addressed on any of the three floors of the Museum of Genocide Victims in Vilnius at the time of the viewing… The Museum of Latvian Occupation treats the Holocaust with due attention. The exhibition also discusses historiographical controversies during the Soviet period… In the Estonian Museum of Occupations the Holocaust is almost completely absent in the physical exposition and completely marginal in the documentary focusing on the Nazi occupation.”

Titles from the backlist, contemporary topics on top, older themes below:

I feel comfortable only in my home area. I am Ashkenazi and people don’t look at me nicely.” – from an interview taken during the research on an ethnically mixed residential area in Israel. Here is a quote from a response from the other ethnicity: “I am very connected to the land. The identity of Jaffa is very strong for me.” The richly documented findings of the research appear among the collection of essays on social space, the challenges of pluralism and the prospects for tolerance.

“Beginning in the 1960s, the ‘rescue’ (or ‘salvation’) of the Bulgarian Jews became more and more instrumentalized by the communist regime to boost its interna­tional image.”
In the majority of cases the fate of Jews before and during World War II is a central issue in post-communist memory politics.
“The Jewish people should be grateful to the Romanian people. Some anti-Jewish ‘persecutions’ had been registered, be­tween (at most) 100,000–120,000 had been murdered, yet no extermi­nation in gas chambers had taken place.”
“Mainstream Hungarian commemorative practices try to integrate the victims of what is regularly called the Hungarian Holocaust (magyar holokauszt) into the larger group of Hungarian victims.”
“Slovenia has, like other countries, ignored the Jewish victims by presenting the Holocaust as a process that had nothing to do with the Slovenes.”

 “Once you have gone through the other German and Soviet crimes, then you are in a position to talk about the singularity of the Holocaust in a convincing way” – concludes the review over the deliberate killing between 1933 and 1945, when both Hitler and Stalin were in power, taking the lives of about 17 million people.
This powerful essay is in the book that analyzes three complementary and interconnected trajectories: the public use of history, politics of memory, and transitional justice in the past decades in Europe.
Examining the troubled variations of coming to terms with the past (communism, fascism, collaboration, complicity, authoritarianism, opportunism, failed democracies etc.) the contributors to the volume assume that practically only Germans and Germany appear to offer “an imperfect but incredibly important model for reckoning with the demons of the twentieth century.”

By the beginning of the 21st century most of the previously taboo topics became subject of scholarly publications and were presented in mass media. New national narratives found their way into official discourse and school textbooks. Old monuments were pulled down, to be replaced by new ones. The concept and practice of historical politics was born. In a number of countries the exploration of minefields of collective memory centered around the wartime treatment of the Jewish population. The overview on recent developments revisits the Historikerstreit, further analyzes the impact of the disclosure of the Jedwabne crime, and gives the account of young historians faced with the fate of Jews in their countries while researching the 1940s in Ukraine and Moldova.

The book explores representations of the Holocaust in contemporary art practices. Through carefully selected art projects, the author illuminates the specific historical, cultural, and political circumstances that influence the way we speak—or do not speak—about the Holocaust.
The international focus brings into view film projects made by key artists, including of course Claude Lanzmann and Steven Spielberg, reflecting critically upon forms of Holocaust memory in a variety of geographical contexts. Kékesi connects the ethical implications of the memory of the Holocaust with a critical analysis of contemporary societies, focusing upon artists who are deeply engaged in doing both of the above within three regions: Eastern Europe (especially Poland), Germany, and Israel.

1945–1953 – the short-lived revitalization of Jewish life, 1953–1980 – “sitting on packed suitcases”, 1980–2015 – settled and flourishing: the terms taken from chapter titles tell the dynamic of the trajectory of Jewish communities in Austria and Germany after the Shoah.
Based on primary and secondary materials and oral interviews with some eighty communal and organizational leaders, experts and scholars, this book provides a comparative account of the reconstruction of Jewish communal life in both Germany and in Austria (where 98% live in the capital, Vienna) after 1945. The author explains the process of reconstruction over the next six decades, and its results in each country. She examines the changes in Jewish group identity and its impact on the development of communities. The monograph focuses on the variety of prevailing perceptions about topics such as: the state of Israel, one’s relationship to the country of residence, the Jewish religion, the aftermath of the Holocaust, and the influx of post-soviet immigrants.

Thatcher contrasted the Soviet policy with the situation in the West, where many countries have had to stop people from coming in. Gorbachev replied that 89 percent of those who applied for permits to leave received them. December, 1984
Face to face conversations of superpower leaders on 1000 pages.
Gorbachov’s notes: We know with whom we will start a dialogue: with liberal Jewish organizations in the United States. They are knocking at our door. There are some among them who support Jewish national development in the USSR rather than emigration. They want to develop culture, newspapers, theaters, assemblies, religious communities. How realistic is this? I think it is realistic. May, 1987
Reagan
noted that some one-half million Jews sought to leave the USSR for religious-cultural freedom. Gorbachev said these figures were completely unconfirmed. December, 1987
Gorbachev
. As soon as we see progress on the settlement—we will recognize Israel. We have many interests in common. December, 1989
Bush
. There are points I must raise: human rights, refuseniks, immigration, and human rights in general. You want us to take more Jews. We are taking more—about all we can. June, 1990
Gorbachev
. By the way, our people were recently in Israel and said that Russian speech can be heard everywhere in Tel Aviv.
Bush. Israeli settlements in the occupied territories are a burning issue. We strongly oppose this. In the past, American Jews fully supported Peres’s policy of not building more settlements. However, their position changed under Shamir’s influence. July, 1991

“In Nazi Germany patent law remained comparatively ‘neutral’ toward racial policy and the persecution of the Jews. Under pressure to forcibly sell their patents, administratively obstructed from the payment of patent fees and prohibited from acting as patent agents and consultants, Jewish patent holders experienced various forms of discrimination; their status, however, as right holders with full patent rights remained intact.”
“In 1950, a Jewish publisher who emigrated from Germany, sued the World Zionist organization to prevent it from printing Theodor Herzl’s writings in Hebrew. Which law was to be applied to decide ownership? Was it British law that was carried over onto the Israeli system, or perhaps German law, under which the copyright transactions had been made? The copyright case involving Herzl’s works provides a case study for transplantation-by-immigration.”

In the transnational literary community that was created during the endeavors to help nonconformist literature reach western readership New York Jewish intellectuals were intensely involved, including writers of global fame.
Arthur Miller built a direct biographical link between the destiny of the underground writer and the life of his Jewish ancestors – “we are each other’s continuation.” Tom Stoppard claimed he had been waiting for the call for fifteen years, and within a few days traveled to Prague. More personally involved in creating a concrete link between memories of two kinds of dictatorial experiences was the Romanian Jewish writer Elie Wiesel.
Philip Roth regularly traveled to Prague to meet underground writers before he initiated the Penguin book series entitled Writers from the Other Europe in 1974. His own perspectives on literary life in the city were mirrored in the fictional alter-ego Nathan Zuckermann, a New York Jew who travels to Prague. Even John Updike also relies on a Jewish-American alter-ego, the writer Henry Bech who dives into the literary life of Czechoslovakia.

For more than half a century the truth about Jewish life in post-war Belarus was sealed in inaccessible archives. The detailed presentation of the attrition that the small surviving Jewish community went through during the last years of Stalin’s rule required years of minutious studies that included browsing in KGB archives, thumbing through statistical tables and interviewing former Belarusian citizens in Israel. The roughly 200,000 Jews who remained of the one million Jews who had lived in Belarus within its 1941 borders actively participated in the restoration and reconstruction of the Belarusian economy and of its cultural, scientific, and educational projects. But in 1949–53 the Belarusian authorities were particularly zealous in their conducting of campaigns against “cosmopolitans,” the destruction of Yiddish culture, by the official silence on the Holocaust and its consequences and on the Jewish contribution to the victory over Germany, and finally, by the “Doctors’ Plot.” As a result, the Belarusian Jews suffered possibly considerably more than Jews in other regions of the USSR.

“When it comes to migration patterns, makeup of the Jewish community, Jewish-Gentile relations, and levels of antisemitism, Estonia is perhaps closer to Finland and Norway than it is to Latvia and Lithuania, at least until 1940.”
Spanning over 150 years of Estonian Jewish history, this book wrestles most profoundly with the subject of the Holocaust and its legacy in Estonia.
“Many Jews reacted incredulously to information coming from Soviet sources. A significant factor was the common perception of the Germans as a nation of civilized people devoted to order. This stereotype did not relate well to the crimes allegedly committed by the very same Germans.”
“It is impossible to determine the exact proportion of Jews in the NKVD. As of early summer 1941, the total number of people working for the regime in Narva was 3,424. By ethnicity, 38 percent were Russian, 26 percent Estonian, and 32.2 percent of ‘unknown’ ethnicity.”

According to most historians, the Holocaust in Hungary represented a unique chapter in the singular history of what the Nazis termed as the “Final Solution” of the “Jewish question” in Europe. More than seventy years after the Shoah, the origins and prehistory as well as the implementation and aftermath of the genocide still provide ample ground for scholarship.
In fact, Hungarian historians began to seriously deal with these questions only after the 1980s. Since then, however, a consistently active and productive debate has been waged about the history and interpretation of the Holocaust in Hungary and with the passage of time, more and more questions have been raised in connection with its memorialization.
This volume includes twelve selected scholarly papers thematically organized under four headings: 1. The newest trends in the study of the Holocaust in Hungary. 2. The anti-Jewish policies of Hungary during the interwar period 3. The Holocaust era in Hungary 4. National and international aspects of Holocaust remembrance.
The studies reflect on the anti-Jewish atmosphere in Hungary during the interwar period; analyze the decision-making process that led to the deportations, and the options left open to the Hungarian government. They also provide a detailed presentation of the Holocaust in Transylvania and describe the experience of Hungarian Jewish refugees in Austria after the end of the war.

CEU Press longseller Jewish Budapest has received a powerful rival with How They Lived. An important and integral part of the nation, Jews contributed to a particularly successful historical period in the life of Hungary in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. The richly commented nearly two hundred original black and white photos display environments where Hungarian Jews dwelt, worked or relaxed before their world sank.
The volume portrays life scenes of Jews from every layer of society, the poor, the middle-class, and the wealthy; from unknown people of the street to personalities with full identification, including people of international renown. Some lived in separate communities, others were integrated within the majority society, some photos present Hasidic laborers, others members of the Higher Chamber of the Parliament – in this volume of outstanding aesthetic and intellectual merit.

“How did the inhabitants of Atlantis spend their days before the island sank into the sea?”—begins the Introduction to the presentation of family, religious, and social life, learning, military life, vacationing, sports, charity – dimensions of the everyday lives of Hungarian Jews before the Holocaust. Each one of over two hundred fifty historic photos is accompanied by a text analyzing it and highlighting the social and historical background.
There were huge differences in the lifestyles of the Hassidim, the Orthodox, as well as the assimilated Jews; in addition, there were regional differences among them, and their conditions kept changing within the examined decades. The religion of their ancestors was the prevailing bond combined with a shared awareness that they represented a small minority in a society that frequently discriminated against them.
Koerner hopes to give rise to an illusion of three-dimensional reality in the reader’s imagination about this sunken world, in the belief that even an illusion of continuity is better than resignation to the reality of the schism caused by the Holocaust.

"The higher marriage rate among Jews in late eighteenth-century Bohemia was a fact. In a society where most children were born inside wedlock it led also to higher fertility among Jews. Jewish women breastfed longer, and this was a very important factor for improving the chances of a child's survival during the first six months of life." The population growth of Jews was therefore higher than in the total population." But then, faster modernization of the Jewish population led to a decline in births earlier than in other segments of the society. "In 1930, the share of married people was smaller in almost every age group in the Jewish population than in the total population. The proportion of never-married Jewish women exceeded that of gentiles in every age group. The share of divorcees was also larger in the Jewish than in the total population."

The encyclopedic volume on the Carpatho-Rusyns, and their historic homeland, the Transarpathian region of Ukraine carries a chapter on Jews, who accounted for 14 percent of the province’s population before the Shoah.
Pogroms and other acts of violence against Jews were absent in this region. This was due to the similar socioeconomic status—most Subcarpathian Jews were poor like their Rusyn neighbors—and because both Jews (the Hasidic majority) and Christian Rusyns were God-fearing believers, which encouraged equality and mutual respect between the two groups.
The reader learns about the often bitterly rival divisions inside the Jewish community, renging from charismatic Hasidic rebbes to zealous communists and devoted Zionists.

“The ‘homecoming’ of Polish (Jewish) medical experts from abroad to a newly founded Poland in 1918, and their active contribution to the project of Pol­ish state building, leads us to reconsider the relationship between expert knowledge gained in Western Europe and the processes of adopting this knowledge to the allegedly national contexts of Eastern Europe.”
In the volume on the intertwined relationship between public health and nation building.
After the First World War, “the immense influx of transatlantic goods, in the form of food and clothing, guaranteed the saving of the masses of impoverished Hun­garian Jewish children.”

“Jews did not pose a threat to Lithuanian national culture. In the sphere of national culture, the question of Lithuanian–Russian and Lithuanian–Polish relations was a hundred times livelier and more acute than that between Lithuanians and Jews.”
This explains why in Lithuania, where more than 90 percent of Jews were killed during WWII pogroms in the nineteenth century were less cruel than further down in the south. The anti-Jewish excesses that took place in Lithuania were shortlived. The accounts imply that these outbreaks did not last for more than a few hours. Smaller domestic conflicts between Jews and Christians would turn into violence between young people, especially on market days.
During the nineteenth the superstition about blood libel was the strongest part of Lithuanian Judeophobia. The book discusses cases connected to the disappearance of a child or a young girl, especially during Easter.

“The Karaites, who in the 1790s considered themselves conservative non-Talmudic scripturalist Jews, by the 1940s transformed into an ethnic group with a distinctive Turkic identity and religion.” The Karaite case, the only example in which the loss of Jewish identity was carefully thought out and supported by scholarly literature, is discussed in the volume on the history of ethnography in imperial Russia and the USSR. Among others, the broad scope of the ethnography cultivated in Ukraine is described, pointing at the example of the Jews. Jewish ethnography in Ukraine inscribed itself into the transnational context of yidishe visnshaft. “The tragedy of German Jewry was that most German Jews wanted to be part and parcel of the nationalizing core of the empire. However, the eminent historian Heinrich von Treitschke reminded them in 1879 that they, in his view, were Germany’s ‘misfortune.’ Culturally and ethnically, they could not be integrated into the German nation.”

Eminent scholars examine trajectories of nation-building within the empires in Europe.
“In most parts of the empire, local Jewish populations seem to have placed their hopes in a liberal Ottomanism and remained deaf to the call of Zionism. In Palestine, the political landscape was more complex, but here too, the indigenous Jewish population seems to have felt more secure in supporting liberal Ottomanism.”
“The leading figure of Russian nationalist journalism, Mikhail Katkov openly argued for the emancipation of the Jews, who constituted around 5% of the population of the empire. Katkov insisted that emancipation would open the way to Jewish assimilation into Russianness, instead of pushing them towards Poles and Germans. ‘The Jews,’ emphasized Katkov, ‘are acting in the interests of the political unity of the state wherever their rights are recognized.’”

“According to Piccolomini, the Turks were ‘foes of the Trinity.’ They followed a certain false prophet called Mohammed, ‘an Arab imbued with gentile error and Jewish perfidy’.”
The essays in this book provide interesting contributions to the ongoing debate concerning the representation of differing cultures in the early modern period.
“Nicholas of Cusa points out that some sentiments in the Koran, written against Christians, were introduced only later by Mohammed under the influence of his Jewish advisors.”
“Pius II uses the Jews as an example: although they were conquered by the Assyrians and the Romans and were oppressed and led off into slavery, they remained true to their religion.”
“Apart from the Muslim population—Moors, Ottoman Turks, renegades, corsairs, Moriscos—a great number of Jews and Christians lived in Algiers: artisans, merchants, free men, and slaves. An important distinction indicated by dress and hairstyle is between Jews and Muslims: no Jew is allowed to wear shoes of any color.”

Every historical monograph hopes to match the success of the life story of an extraordinary woman from the 16th century. One tells about the deeds and vicissitudes of Jesuit communities in the eastern half of the Habsburg empire. "Jesuits' negative view of Jewish 'perfidy' inevitably spilled over the ways Jesuits interacted with Jewish families. Almost any activity undertaken by a Jew might be in fact suspect, and the mere Jewish nature of a thing was sufficient cause for its name to be used as an insult."

“The culture of medieval and Renaissance Spain arose from the fusion -—coexistence and interaction—of three traditions, Jewish, Christian and Muslim.” The many examples and illustrations corroborate Peter Burke’s thesis about cultural hybridization being the essence of the Renaissance. Jews were a pivotal element in these processes, especially in the great multicultural centers of Venice, Constantinople /Istanbul or Wilno/Vilnius.
At the time of the Renaissance, Venice, like Spain, harboured Jews and Muslims. Its population included Greek Christians as well as Latin ones. Its printers produced books in different scripts such as Arabic, Hebrew, Greek and Glagolitic (for liturgical books destined for Croatia, for example).

Things were not different centuries earlier in the realm of Louis IX. "The crown's anti-Jewish measures were intended to protect common people - le menu peuple chrétien - from what was stigmatized as usury but may have been counterproductive in reducing the numbers of men and women who could provide needed consumption loans to poor people."

In Byzantium, “Jews held a special position for Christians: they were ‘a dialogical necessity’. That is, Christians needed to refute the objections of the Jews in order to assert the truth of Christianity. Argument was the essential tool in this intellectual and religious struggle. The defeat of the Jews, real or not, who featured in such debates was the proof of Christian superiority.” The book focuses on the leading literary genre of the place and the era, prose dialogues in Greek.
The few thousand Jews, Rabbanite and Karaite, living in the Pera district were treated badly by the Greeks. “Yet the Jews are rich and good, kindly and charitable, and bear their lot with cheerfulness.”

“The idea of Christ’s vicarious and redeeming death was comprehensible for both Jews and pagans alike, whereas the divinity of Jesus was comprehensible and acceptable for the pagans, but to the Jews it was, on the contrary, pure blasphemy.”
Issues of human sacrifice and martyrdom in the early period of Christianity.
“While Christian exegetical tradition concentrates mainly on the figure of Abraham, in Jewish tradition it was Isaac’s merits, rather than those of Abraham, which received ever greater attention. The twelfth-century Jewish reality was that Jewish parents, imitating Abraham, killed their own children in order to avoid their forced Christianization.”
“A highly cultivated Jew in the early first century found nothing at all repulsive in human sacrifice; on the contrary, he found it natural and sometimes even praiseworthy.”
“Pious Jews accept death for the glory of God. And it is not their task to defeat the evil forces; the cosmic battle is waged by God.”

Earlier titles on Jewish subjects from our backlist:

Besides books fully belonging to Judaica, Jewish subjects crop up in many more academic works of CEU Press. Starting from the earliest times to arrive at contemporary issues:

  • The narrative of medieval Christian culture is also the narrative of its relationship to Jews. In another work Jews are described as believers in, and (more typically) targets of witchcraft and related magic.
  • How did the conversion policies in the Russian empire affect Jews? Notwithstanding discriminatory practices, with the brief exception of a decade in the reign of Nicholas I, these practices did not include massive pressure to convert.
  • The first story in the collection of the Nobel Prize winning author is about the tragic love between a Croatian nobleman and a Jewish girl in Bosnia.
  • Among the essays on national ideologies in east Europe Jews occupy prominent position in the studies on Croatia and Romania.
  • Jewish emancipation was a major issue in the history of Hungarian conservatism.
  • Besides emphasizing the Jewish component in the early history of Lodz, it is in the Hungarian context that the book that explores the influence of Christianity in Eastern Europe's social, cultural, and political history also refers the most often to Jews.
  • Students of Jewish subjects will not be indifferent about a book on the history of the swastika.
  • The latest member of the series on the history of eugenics is about how the nazis tried to identify the blood group specific to their ideal German race; ironically, the pioneer of the relevant science, serology, was a Polish Jew. The historical survey of eugenics in east Europe is also intertwined with references to Jews (and includes a chapter on Moses als Eugeniker?); including in the context of health and hygiene. By the 1940s, Italian eugenics, too, became pervaded by racism and anti-Semitism.
  • Both CEU Press books that analyse the historic self-perception of Ukrainians, relate to the fate of Jews from the Czarist time till World War II.
  • The exemption of 47,250 Bulgarian Jews from the Holocaust is also touched upon in the historiographic review of a century of that country.
  • The monograph on forced migrations in the USSR covers also that of Jews in the previous centuries. An oral history collection contains the record of an Estonian Jewish victim of those tribulations.
  • A point is made about the collective nature of responsibility for collective crime done in the past decades across the world.
  • When the diabolic career of Stalin and Stalinism nears its end, Jews appear at increasing frequency in the records.
  • The biographical account of the leading scholar begins in a middle class Jewish home in Budapest.
  • It is inconceivable to discuss post-communist restitution in Europe without ample references to Jewish property.
  • The issue of memorial places to holocaust and genocide.
  • The Jews in Tatarstan have also availed of the opportunity to revive their identity after the collapse of the Soviet Union.

Some of the older titles are out of print nevertheless bookshops or online distributors may get you print-on-demand copies, and all CEU Press titles are sold in digital version at the major electronic distributors.