When They Come for Us, We'll Be Gone: The Epic Struggle to Save Soviet Jewry
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When They Come for Us, We'll Be Gone: The Epic Struggle to Save Soviet Jewry

4.22 of 5 stars 4.22  ·  rating details  ·  102 ratings  ·  21 reviews
At the end of World War II, nearly three million Jews were trapped inside the Soviet Union. They lived a paradox--unwanted by a repressive Stalinist state, yet forbidden to leave. "When They Come for Us, We'll Be Gone" is the astonishing and inspiring story of their rescue.

Journalist Gal Beckerman draws on newly released Soviet government documents as well as hundreds of o...more
ebook, 608 pages
Published September 23rd 2010 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (HMH) (first published January 1st 2010)
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Jan Rice
This book recounts the predicament of the nearly three million Jews in the USSR and the movement to extricate them. After setting the stage with the culmination of the Stalin era in paranoid antisemitism, the book goes into exhaustive detail, seemingly covering every refusenik and dissident there and every American activist, as well as the political ins and outs of every American administration and every General Secretary of the USSR. It is comprehensive. If you know little about the movement to...more
Mandi | No Apathy Allowed
I have to admit that it was the author, rather than the subject matter, that first intrigued me about this book. Gal and I arrived in Germany at about the same time and took part in the same fellowship program together. At that point, When They Come For Us, They’ll Be Gone: The Epic Struggle to Save Jewry was in its final stages of preparation for publication and all of us in the program got to know him as the “long suffering author” of this book (as he describes himself in the acknowledgements)...more
In 1987, I travelled with about 250,000 others to Washington DC for the rally to demand that Gorbachev release the Jews held in the Soviet Union, the Refuseniks. For decades, Jews in the USSR were not permitted to practice their religion or to leave the country. The process of obtaining an exit visa was expensive, oppressive and often a dead end. Instead, when Jews asked for the right to leave, they often lost their jobs immediately and cut off from society. Within the Soviet Union, they formed...more
This book is a comprehensive history of the struggle for freedom by Jews in the Soviet Union. Chapters alternate between personal stories of refuseniks, and the growing awareness of American Jews of the situation. The interplay of politics between the Soviet Union, the United States, and to a lesser extent Israel, was very interesting. Having taken courses in this subject area while in high school, and having participated in some of the demonstrations (I especially remember the huge demonstratio...more
Oleg Kagan
Sometimes a book is appreciated not because the plot is fast and exciting or the characters are particularly appealing but because its contents are vital to the course of a life. When They Come for Us, We'll Be Gone is that book for me.

When I was five years old my family immigrated to the United States along with thousands of other Soviet Jews. Why were we allowed to leave? I knew it was political but was totally clueless beyond that.

Doing some accidental research on the 1987 Washington Summit...more
The story of Soviet Jews, their struggle to leave the USSR and that of American Jews to advocate for them, was one just dying for a book. Beckerman does that and more, doing service to the refugees and their advocates alike through a magisterial, insightful, and very readable volume. The model seems Taylor Branch's trilogy on MLK and the civil rights struggle. This one nearly matches Branch's in being a gripping page turner.

Michael Brown
Fascinating history about the relationship between American and Soviet Jews. There's an interesting sequel to this to be written about how the Exodus of Jews from the Soviet Union changed the nature of Israeli politics. Hopefully Beckerman is working on it.
WOW WOW WOW. This was an incredibly well-researched and well-executed book. At 500+ dense pages, there were some sections where I slogged through a bit, but I am really glad I read this.

When I was a child, my dad took me to Washington DC with our synagogue to protest Soviet Jewry - I might have been 10 or so (it was the late 1980's) and I can remember being taught that Jews in Russia weren't allowed to practice Judaism and that we were going to DC to get our congressmen to change that. I can rem...more
George Serebrennikov
While reading some chapters of the book, I felt like “déjà vu all over again”, with all the familiar names like Nathan Sheransky, Vladimir Slepack, Iosif Begun, Alexander Lerner, and places like Ovrajki railroad station, and Arkhipova Street in Moscow. For me, it is more than just a history - it is my youth. I did celebrate Simchat Torah, Hanukkah, and Rosh Hashanah outside the synagogue on Archipova Street, where I met my wife; I did listen to the Jewish and Israeli songs in the forest near Ovr...more
An amazing complete account of the American and Israeli involvement in the Soviet Jewry movement, the book also covers what the Soviet Jews were doing and going through at the time. It progresses until the players actually get to communicate with each other, and in some cases, ultimately meet. There is a ton of information here, I actually found the excellent index very useful to remind myself of who someone was or when a given event happened.

A fascinating story that explains the WWII guilt that...more
Margaret Sankey
Piecing together three strands of narrative--the grassroots, secret organizations of Soviet Jews to preserve culture and emigrate in the face of Russian bureaucracy, the shifting US Cold War policies of detente and hostility and the Israeli attempts to react to and juggle both, the author gives valuable sidelights on the fracturing of the American Civil Rights partnership of Jews and African-Americans, the creation of Cold War Jewish Neo-Cons and the unsung but critical importance of small, port...more

This is an interesting subject and worthwhile to know the history. Unfortunately, Beckerman is a poor historian, jumping from narrative to narrative and then back again so that it is difficult to piece together the whole story. I also didn't appreciate the lack of footnotes or endnotes (notes are insufficient) and his imaginative liberties with people's inner dialogues are inappropriate for a history.
Jewish Awakening
Wonderful! Written by a journalist, so it's easy to read, and constantly exciting. Most of the material comes from one-on-one interviews with Soviet Jewry Movement activists. The only drawback is that the book gives the impression of covering the entire scope of the movement, while leaving out many of the local stories that would challenge the grassroots vs. Jewish "establishment" dichotomy.
Elsie Klumpner
I'm on page 200 of this book. It is well-written and informative. I'm learning so much Jewish history that I never knew about. Where was I? He presents each topic very well. He is biased on occasion, but that does not detract from the facts of the history. This is a must read. He covers the Soviet Jewry movement from its infancy and also gives wonderful context to all of it.

Very good read. Being a Russia Jew myself I knew bits and pieces, but never realized the scope of the movement that help us to get out. This very well researched book and I recommended it to many friends.
Very readable and engaging history of the Soviet Jewry movement, both in the US and the Soviet Union. As someone who was only vaguely familiar with it while it was going on, I found the book enlightening.
Highly recommended, and not just because it's about my people. Detailed, wide-ranging, making brilliant connections between far-flung events and yet keeping everything on the human level.
Just wasn't up for it this go round...I think I was expecting more narrative.
So far, I think it's fascinating. And I do find it a page-turner.
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