Friday, March 7, 2008

The Enemy At His Pleasure by S. Ansky

The full title is The Enemy At His Pleasure, A Journey Through the Jewish Pale of Settlement During World War I, by S. Ansky, edited and translated by Joachim Neugroschel. This is the personal account of the author four-year journey through the Pale of Settlement while working with relief agencies in the war torn borderlands during WWI. S. Ansky was an influential Jewish-Russian journalist, playwright, and politician. The author's daily accounts detail his struggles to raise funds, lobby and bribe at the czar's court, procure and transport food, medicine, and money to the ravaged Jewish towns, which, in the course of the war, were conquered and reconquered by Cossacks, Germans, Polish mercenaries, and Russian revolutionaries.

I generally purchase books like this because I still had family in Europe during WWI, in Brest-Litovsk, Poland, and in Lozdzieje (Lazdijai), Lithuania. I'm not sure if my grandfather's family was evacuated from Brest-Litovsk. My grandmother's family was evacuated east from Lithuania to Belarus in 1915 and remained there until at least 1917 (when her youngest brother was born). I always hope to see mention of my towns but rarely do. That doesn't mean I didn't learn something about what life was like for my ancestors. One thing I remember from the book that I did find interesting is that most of the Jews did not want handouts...they preferred a loan to take care of their families and communities themselves.

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