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Awakening Lives: Autobiographies of Jewish Youth in Poland before the Holocaust

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4.19  ·  Rating details ·  16 ratings  ·  7 reviews
This never-before-published collection of autobiographies written by young Polish Jews in the 1930s is extraordinary. Their candid and passionate writings not only reveal the personal struggles, ambitions, and dreams of fifteen young authors, they also offer remarkable insight into the nature of ordinary Jewish life in Poland during the years between the world wars. Later ...more
Hardcover, 496 pages
Published August 11th 2002 by Yale University Press (first published 2002)
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4.19  · 
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 ·  16 ratings  ·  7 reviews


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Lewis Weinstein
It is heart-wrenching to read these essays, expressing the hopes of young Polish Jews, knowing that all of them would soon be murdered. I have read several, and will expand this review as my reading progresses.
Meaghan
Jul 18, 2010 rated it really liked it
Recommended to Meaghan by: Lola
For three years during the 1930s, the YIVO Institute for Jewish Research asked Jewish youth between 16 and 22 to write their biographies and send them in for research purposes. They offered a substantial cash prize to the author of the best one. Mostly it was Polish Jews who responded. Fifteen of these autobiographies are included in this book. The writers were anonymous, using pseudonyms and disguising details like their hometowns so they could write frankly without worrying what others would t ...more
Jan Peczkis
Sep 02, 2018 rated it liked it
Jewish Separatism, Hostility Towards Poland, and Movement Towards Atheism and Communism

As might be expected, this book is entirely Judeocentric. Everything is written from the viewpoint of how Polish conduct affects Jews, and never once do the various 1930s Jewish authors even consider how Jewish conduct affects Poles.

ANTI-ASSIMILATIONIST, SEPARATIST, AND CONDESCENDING ATTITUDES AMONG POLAND’S JEWS. ENDEKS CORROBORATED

Author Esther commented, “Naturally, I cherished the Beys Yaakov school more
...more
Chaim
Jun 25, 2018 rated it really liked it
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Chanii
Mar 19, 2018 rated it it was amazing
In 1932, 34 and 39, YIVO in Vilna held a competition for autobiographies and awarded prizes for individuals ages 16 to 22. The purpuse was sociological, and driven by the ideology of "doikeyt" which believed that Jews in Poland had a political and cultural future, and should not emigrate to Palestine, or completely assimilate. 


What surpised me in reading these 15 autobiographies is how wretched, impoverished and chaotic life was in Poland prior to the holocaust. They speak of complete family dis
...more
Lauren Hopkins
Apr 25, 2012 rated it really liked it
An incredible compilation of 15 of the autobiographies written by Jewish Youth in 1930s Poland for a contest sponsored by YIVO. I'm writing a thesis about shtetl youth and what they considered to be pressing, with the argument being that normal elements of daily life - school, sex, parents - were on their minds just as much as the pogroms/anti-semitism that seem to define the lives of most living during this period. I visited YIVO in NY to get my hands on some of the several hundred autobiograph ...more
S.B. Lerner
Dec 10, 2011 rated it really liked it
This compilation of autobiographical essays written by teenagers from all walks of Polish life in the 1930s is a rare glimpse into an era which has been largely eclipsed by the Holocaust. While the prose is not always poetic, most are written with stark honesty. The lives of many were very hard, poverty was rampant and survival far from assured. Yet the main thing that struck me was that most of these essays were written by young men and women in the throes of adolescence, struggling to find the ...more
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