During World War II, about 200,000 Jewish refugees from Poland were stranded in the remote corners of the USSR. While they were able to escape the Nazis and the fate of millions of other Jews, they endured hard labor, extreme temperatures, starvation, and life-threatening depravation.
Join author Eliyana R. Adler (Penn State University) in conversation with Debórah Dwork (The Graduate Center, CUNY) about her book, Survival on the Margins: Polish Jewish Refugees in Wartime Soviet Union streaming on March 3rd at 4pm EASTERN.
Adler draws upon the memoirs and testimonies of the survivors for her book. This is the first comprehensive account of their stories in English.
“Survival on the Margins challenges what we know and understand about how thousands of Polish Jewish refugees survived World War II; the choiceless choices they had to make while fighting to stay alive,” said Dr. Malgorzata Bakalarz-Duverger, Director of Academic Programs at the Center for Jewish History.
After a non-aggression pact between the Nazis and the Soviet Union was signed in 1939, Polish Jewish refugees settled in the newly annexed territories. Most rejected the offer of Soviet citizenship because they distrusted Stalin, even knowing that the alternative was deportation to labor camps in the unoccupied areas of the east.
The refugees were eventually permitted to leave their settlements after the Soviet government granted them amnesty. Many left thinking conditions in Soviet Central Asia would be better, only to wind up coping with hunger and disease.
When they returned home to Poland after the war, they encountered the devastation of the Holocaust, and as many stopped talking about their own experiences, their stories eventually became contained within the greater Holocaust narrative.
When they learned the fate of friends and loved ones, many felt guilty that they had survived while others did not. They viewed their experience as marginal and therefore kept silent.
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