An insightful chronicle of this 700-year-old community, this book is the definitive historical work on Lithuanian Jews, Charting its beginning in the early part of the 14th century through its virtual destruction during the Holocaust.
“A comprehensive, meticulously researched and eminently readable sourcebook charting the rise and fall of this once-vibrant community.” - The Jerusalem Report
Reader Reviews: The Jews of Lithuania: A History of a Remarkable Community 1316-1945 by Masha Greenbaum.
My entire family comes from Lithuania - the small shtetls of Jonava, Seduva, Skaudvile, Vilkomir (Ukmerge), Anyksciai, Balbieriskis and others. I've done a lot of research about my families' history, and I generally consider myself well-versed in world history. But when I finally started reading this book I bought a couple of years ago, I was surprised to see how much I didn't know about Lithuanian history in general, the Jewish community in particular, and how it likely impacted my ancestors.
What I find particularly interesting is how unique Lithuania was. They were the last country in Europe to adopt Christianity, and for centuries treated all the churches with suspicion. This led to fairly good relations with the Jews. I also didn't know just how recent the Russian conquest of the Lithuania was - only from 1795-1917. Before that no Jews lived in Russia. And those Russians Czars were bad - really bad. Lithuania also had a pretty decent democracy between WWI and WWII (for at least the first 10 years or so) and the Jews got much more autonomy than anywhere else in Europe.
But for all the ups and downs in the book, I know that the story is going to end very badly. I'm in the chapter just preceding the Nazi invasion (another piece of history I knew little about was the Soviet occupation of Lithuania from 1939-1941). While most of my relatives came to the States between 1880-1910, some still remained after WWI. I can't imagine the horror that must have come from realizing their chance for democratic Jewish autonomy in Lithuania would end up in the worst crime in human history.