Polish Jewish Refugees in the Wartime Soviet Union with Eliyana Adler

Eliyana Adler joins us to talk about Polish Jews who fled to the Soviet Union in 1939, and who subsequently survived the Second World War and the Holocaust in Siberia and Central Asia. Listen in as we discuss her book Survival on the Margins: Polish Jewish Refugees in the Wartime Soviet Union, and the big picture issues it raises about how we understand the Holocaust, what it means to be a survivor, and the paradoxes of history: those Jews who were deported by the Soviet Union found themselves far away from the Nazi genocide.

Survival on the Margins is a phenomenal book, which tells us about those Polish Jews who fled to the east when war broke out in September 1939; after the Molotov-RIppentrop treaty re-partitioned Poland between the Soviet Union and Germany, in the chaos of war about 200,000 Jews escaped from the Nazis into the Soviet Union—where they were subsequently deported further east, in many cases to Siberia and other locations in central Asia. After the war, they were allowed to return to Poland, where they discovered the full extent of the Holocaust’s destruction. In the war’s aftermath, they actually made up a large portion of the total group of Holocaust survivors—but in the years since, for various reasons their story has been subsumed into the main Holocaust narratives.

Eliyana Adler is an Associate professor of History and Jewish Studies at Pennsylvania State University. She is an historian of the modern Jewish experience in Eastern Europe, and her most recent book, Survival on the Margins: Polish Jewish Refugees in the Wartime Soviet Union, is the basis for our conversation today.

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