On the Margins

About the History of Jews in Estonia
$90.00 / €79.00 / £71.00
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Publication date: 
330 pages

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.

Introduction (by Antony Polonsky)
Studying Estonian Jewish History: A Professional and Personal Journey

1. New in Town: Jews in Narva, 1874-1917
2. Thanks to the Germans! Jewish Cultural Autonomy in Interwar Estonia
3. The Soviet Occupation of Estonia in 1940-41 and the Jews
4. Accidentally Jewish: Helmut Weiss and the Il(logic) of Political Violence in Hitler’s Germany and Stalin’s Russia
5. Ordinary People Facing the Holocaust: As Reflected in the Estonian Security Police Investigation Files, 1941-42
6. The End Complete: The Destruction of Jews in Provincial Cities
7. The Business of Survival: Baltic Oil Ltd. and Jewish Forced Labor Camps in Estonia
8. Estonian Perpetrators of the Holocaust in the Annals of the Cold War: Prosecution of War Criminals in the Soviet Union, 1943-1987
9. Why the Holocaust Does Not Matter to Estonians

Appendix: Primary Sources for Estonian Jewish History until 1941

"What distinguishes this volume from other more traditional histories is the interconnectedness of the author and his personal context with his historical subject. Weiss-Wendt interweaves his own career trajectory and historical and social questions into the contemporary world of Estonia, the historiographical debates about the Final Solution in eastern Europe, and the roll of antisemitism in the history of Estonia and its collaboration with the German occupiers during the war. The result is a unique and compelling collection of essays that sometimes do not hold together, yet which if taken as a whole and read in the spirit for which they are intended, offer real insight and meaning into much neglected areas of Estonian, German, Soviet, and Jewish histories."