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Faculty Fall 2017: Eliyana Adler

Survival on the Periphery: Polish Jews in the Soviet Union during World War II

Associate Professor of History and Jewish Studies

Survival on the Periphery: Polish Jews in the Soviet Union during World War II

Poland was once home to the largest Jewish community in the world. Only ten percent of the over three million Polish Jews survived the Second World War. Of those, most survived not in ghettos, camps, or hiding, but in the unoccupied regions of the Soviet Union. These Polish Jews fled the Nazi invasion in 1939, only to face deportation to the Gulag. Even after they were amnestied as a result of the war reaching the USSR in 1941, they had to contend with hunger, overcrowding, and disease in Central Asia before their 1946 repatriation. Their story of exile and struggle in the far reaches of the Soviet Union, however, has received neither popular nor scholarly attention. By stepping across a newly established border in 1939, they essentially stepped outside of history’s purview.

The aim of this project is to recover and reclaim this alterative story of World War Two and the Holocaust. Over the past several years I have collected documentary and testimonial sources from Poland, Israel, Russia, Ukraine and the Kazakhstan. I look forward to using my time at the Humanities Institute to make progress on my book manuscript.