Littman Library of Jewish Civilization

Polin: Studies in Polish Jewry, Volume 25

Jews in the former Grand Duchy of Lithuania since 1772
Edited by Sarunas Liekis, Antony Polonsky & ChaeRan Freeze

This volume of Polin is a wide-ranging contribution to the complex history of the Jews in Lithuania and to developing an inclusive national narrative. It deals in depth with the specific character of Lithuanian Jewry; Lithuanian–Jewish relations; Vilna as the focus of Jewish life; the impact of the Soviet and Nazi occupations, and of the post-war Soviet reoccupation; the subsequent slow revival of Jewish life; and recent attempts to investigate the past and to accommodate the legacy of the Holocaust.

More info

This volume of Polin, based on scholarship that has emerged since the fall of communism, is a wide-ranging contribution to the complex history of the Jews in Lithuania. Focusing on the specific character of Lithuanian Jewry, the volume opens by examining how their relationship with the surrounding society developed after 1772, both under tsarist rule and then in independent Lithuania. Moving to more recent times, the devastating impact on the Jewish community of the Soviet and Nazi occupations during the Second World War is discussed, as are the further negative consequences on Jewish life of the reoccupation of the country by the Soviets between 1944 and 1990.

The volume concludes with material on the slow revival of Jewish life since the collapse of the Soviet Union and the re-emergence of an independent Lithuania, which was accompanied by the revival of many disciplines, such as the study of Jewish history, repressed by Soviet censorship. This revived interest in the country's Jewish past is now playing a key role in the broader transformation of historical memory of the post-Soviet era and the problem of coming to terms with the widespread local collaboration in Lithuania during the Holocaust—a process which has led to important scholarly advances but also to bitter controversy.

Collectively, the studies in this volume contribute to a better understanding of the complex history of the Jews in Lithuania and of Lithuanian–Jewish relations and constitute a part of the necessary process of creating a more rounded and inclusive history of the country.


About the Editors

Šarūnas Liekis is Dean and Professor of the Faculty of Political Science and Diplomacy at Vytautas Magnus University, Kaunas. He studied and did postgraduate research at Vilnius University (habilitation procedure passed in 2005); Brandeis University (1993–98, Ph.D.); the Hebrew University of Jerusalem; and the University of Oxford. He publishes extensively on Jewish history, minority issues, and the international and political history of Lithuania and Poland. His latest book is 1939: The Year that Changed Everything in Lithuania's History (2010).

Antony Polonsky is Albert Abramson Professor of Holocaust Studies at Brandeis University and the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. Until 1991, he was Professor of International History at the London School of Economics and Political Science. He is chair of the editorial board of Polin: Studies in Polish Jewry; author of Politics in Independent Poland, 1921–1939 (1972), The Little Dictators (1975), The Great Powers and the Polish Question, 1941–45 (London, 1976); co-author of The History of Poland since 1863 (1980) and The Beginnings of Communist Rule in Poland (1981); and co-editor of Contemporary Jewish Writing in Poland: An Anthology (2001) and The Neighbors Respond: The Controversy over the Jedwabne Massacre in Poland (2004). His most recent work is The Jews in Poland and Russia, I: 1350–1881); II: 1881–1914; III: 1914-2008 (2010–12), published by the Littman Library.

ChaeRan Freeze is associate professor of Near Eastern and Judaic Studies at Brandeis University. She is the author of Jewish Marriage and Divorce in Imperial Russia (2001), which received the Koret Foundation Publication Award and the Salo Baron Award for the Best First Book in Jewish Studies. She is co-editor (with Jay Harris) of Everyday Jewish Life in Imperial Russia, 1825–1914: Select Documents (forthcoming) and is working on a book Sex and the Shtetl: Gender, Family, and Jewish Sexuality in Tsarist Russia.


Contributor Information

Aelita Ambrulevičiūtė, Lithuanian Institute of History, Vilnius
Marta Aleksandra Balinska, Professor of Public Health, Ecole des Hautes Etudes en Santé Publique, France
Eglė Bendikaitė, Research Fellow, Lithuanian Institute of History, Vilnius
Michael Casper, doctoral student in history, University of California, Los Angeles
Ellen Cassedy, author
Immanuel Etkes, Professor Emeritus of Modern Jewish History, Hebrew University of Jerusalem
David E. Fishman, Professor of Jewish History, Jewish Theological Seminary of America
Jack Jacobs, Professor of Political Science, John Jay College and the Graduate Center, City University of New York
Grigory Kanovich, prose writer, playwright, screenwriter, poet, and translator
Saulius Kaubrys, Associate Professor, Faculty of History, University of Vilnius
Andrey Krotau, Associate Professor, Department of World History, Frantsysk Skaryna State University, Homel, Belarus
Larisa Lempertienė, researcher and teacher, University of Vilnius
Šarūnas Liekis, Dean and Professor of the Faculty of Political Science and Diplomacy, Vytautas Magnus University, Kaunas
Miriam Offer, Lecturer in the Holocaust Studies Program, Western Galilee Academic College
Avi Ohry, Chairman of the Section of Rehabilitation Medicine; Reuth Medical Center, Tel Aviv; Professor of Rehabilitation Medicine, Sackler Faculty of Medicine, Tel Aviv University
Karin Ohry-Kossoy, translator and editor
Aušra Pažėraitė, Reader, Centre for Religious Studies and Research, University of Vilnius
Antony Polonsky, Albert Abramson Professor of Holocaust Studies, Brandeis University and the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum
Anna P. Ronell, Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Vladas Sirutavičius, senior researcher, Lithuanian Institute of History, Vilnius
Darius Staliūnas, Deputy Director, Lithuanian Institute of History, Vilnius
Saulius Sužiedėlis, Professor Emeritus, Millersville University, Pennsylvania; formerly investigator, Office of Special Investigation of the Criminal Division, United States Department of Justice
Vytautas Toleikis, journalist and essayist
Anna Verschik, Professor of General Linguistics, Tallinn University
Theodore R. Weeks, Professor of History, Southern Illinois University, Carbondale
Mordechai Zalkin, Associate Professor of Modern Jewish History, Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, Beer Sheva



Note on Place Names
Note on Transliteration

Šarūnas Liekis and Antony Polonsky

Lithuanian Jewry and the Concept of 'East European Jewry'
Mordechai Zalkin

Economic Relations between Jewish Traders and Christian Farmers in the Nineteenth-Century Lithuanian Provinces
Aelita Ambrulevičiūtė

The War of Lyady Succession: R. Aaron Halevi versus R. Dov Baer
Immanuel Etkes

Lithuanian Antisemitism in the Late Nineteenth and Early Twentieth Centuries
Darius Staliūnas

'I Have Chosen the Belarusian Word . . .': On the Life and Creative Career of Zmitrok Byadulya
Andrey Krotau

Authentic and National: Some Lithuanian–Jewish Correlations in the Search for 'Folk Culture' in the First Half of the Twentieth Century
Larisa Lempertienė

Jewish Prayer Halls and Synagogues in Vilna, 1914–1920
Aušra Pažėraitė

Walking a Thin Line: The Successes and Failures of Socialist Zionism in Lithuania
Eglė Bendikaitė

Jewish Converts in Independent Lithuania, 1918–1940: An Attempt at a Case Analysis
Saulius Kaubrys

'A Close, but Very Suspicious and Dangerous Neighbour': Outbreaks of Antisemitism in Inter-War Lithuania
Vladas Sirutavičius

The Bund in Vilna, 1918–1939
Jack Jacobs

The Lithuanian-Language Jewish Periodicals Mūsų garsas (1924–1925) and Apžvalga (1935–1940): A Sociolinguistic Evolution
Anna Verschik

'Listen, the Jews are Ruling Us Now': Antisemitism and National Conflict during the First Soviet Occupation of Lithuania, 1940–1941
Saulius Sužiedėlis

Soviet Resistance and Jewish Partisans in Lithuania
Šarūnas Liekis

The Vilnius and Kaunas Ghettos and the Fate of Lithuanian Jewry, 1941–1945
Theodore R. Weeks

'To Transform Ourselves': Lithuania Looks at the Holocaust
Ellen Cassedy

The Problem of Jewish National Symbols in Vilnius
David E. Fishman

Some Remarks on the History of the New Lithuanian Jewish Community: The Road Travelled in Establishing a Litvak Identity
Vytautas Toleikis

The Recent Works of Grigory Kanovich
Anna P. Ronell

The Dream of a Vanished Jerusalem
Grigory Kanovich


Aušra Paulauskienė, Lost and Found: The Discovery of Lithuania in American Fiction
Michael Casper

Tomas Venclova, Vilnius: A Personal History
Michael Casper


Dr Gershon Lewin (1868–1940): Pioneer of Public Health and Promoter of Jewish Culture in Poland
Karin Ohry-Kossoy and Avi Ohry

Dedicated Physicians in the Face of Adversity: The Association of Jewish Physicians (ZLRP) and the Jewish Health Organization (TOZ) in Poland, 1921–1942
Karin Ohry-Kossoy and Avi Ohry

The Medical School in the Warsaw Ghetto, 1941–1942
Marta Aleksandra Balinska

Ethical Dilemmas in the Work of Doctors and Nurses in the Warsaw Ghetto
Miriam Offer

Notes on the Contributors



'A major contribution to the field of Lithuanian Jewish history that is, to this day, abysmally under-researched. Because the book presents so many great archival and periodical materials, it is a wellspring of ideas for students in search of ideas for an academic project or scholars thinking about new research related to Lithuanian Jewry.'
Jolanta Mickute, Lithuanian Historical Studies