Shtetl: The Life and Death of a Small Town and the World of Polish Jews

by Eva Hoffman

Book, 1997



Call number

763 HOF



Boston : Houghton Mifflin, 1997.


In Shtetl (Yiddish for "small town"), critically-acclaimed author Eva Hoffman brings the lost world of Eastern European Jews back to vivid life, depicting its complex institutions and vibrant culture, its beliefs, social distinctions, and customs. Through the small town of Brafsk, she looks at the fascinating experiments in multicultural coexistence--still relevant to us today-- attempted in the eight centuries of Polish-Jewish history, and describes the forces which influenced Christian villagers' decisions to conceal or betray their Jewish neighbors in the dark period of the Holocaust.

User reviews

LibraryThing member rondoctor
Good short history of the culture of the shtetl.
LibraryThing member jonfaith
Jake Pfau selected this book on samizdat and then never posted again. Forgive my snark, but it sucks being him. This book inspired some decent discussions and was appreciated by all. You still suck, Jake.
LibraryThing member SeriousGrace
Inspired by a documentary Hoffman saw on Frontline, this is the biography of Bransk, a Polish town that no longer exists thanks to the thoroughness of the Nazis under Russian rule. One of the most difficult segments to read was the recounting of young Bransk boys conscripted into the Russian army.
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They were religiously converted away from their birthright and upon returning home, shunned by their own people.
As an aside, I am afraid of cult figures and the power they can wield over seemingly intelligent people. I was surprised to learn of a man in the 1750s by the name of Jakub Frank who claimed he was the Messiah. He wanted to rule all of Poland and had a strong sexual appetite for young girls and orgies.
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Original publication date



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