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The Enemy at His Pleasure: A Journey Through the Jewish Pale of Settlement During World War I Hardcover – 15 Apr 2003

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Metropolitan Books; 1 edition (15 April 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 080505944X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0805059441
  • Product Dimensions: 16.2 x 3 x 24.3 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,406,765 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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The world war broke out in 1914 after a brief moment of half-genuine, half-bogus Jewish patriotism for Russia. Read the first page
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This is a great book, but the title is very misleading. I was hoping to read about the lives of Jewish people in the Pale of Settlement, and my particular interest is in the Jews who lived in the east of the Pale, but the book only covers Galicia. The book was originally called 'The Destruction of Galicia' - not sure why the publishers changed the name...I was disappointed to find out that albeit very interesting, the book is not relevant to my research.
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By Mrs V M Storey on 17 Nov. 2013
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I am still reading this book, well written and I believe should be available in all schools as this part of history has I believe largely passed us by. Harrowing in parts but I will finish it.
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful By radiostar35 on 14 Dec. 2009
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I had been searching for this work by Solomon Ansky for a long time. He originally titled this work 'The Destruction of Galicia'. Why the publisher or interpreter decided to change the title to 'The Enemy at His Pleasure' is beyond me as it is not featured within the text and as far as I can tell has no real relevance to the work as written by the author.

It is beautifully written. The author vividly describes the plight of the Jews of Galicia and of the effects of war on the area and on all its peoples regardless of ethnic or religious heritage. Ansky wonderfully describes the psyche of the Russian people as he saw it, and gives his account of the origins of their anti-Semitism and attitude towards the Jews. This work stands as an amazing first hand eyewitness account of the First World War on the Russian/Austrian front, and the period immediately prior to the 1917 revolution.

For anyone interested in modern Jewish history, pre-revolution Russian history, ethnography and First World War history, I thoroughly recommend it.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 7 reviews
16 of 16 people found the following review helpful
A must-read 5 Aug. 2003
By A Customer - Published on
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
If you are interested in the 20th century history of Jews in Eastern Europe, then this is a must-read book. It is difficult to read as we are not familiar with the places, people, or events that Ansky spoke about. And these are not pleasant events to read about. But we need to know this things, if we are to understand what happened to our families during World War I, even before they were annihilated in World War II. I highly recommend this book to historians and genealogists alike.
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
Quite a story 13 Dec. 2008
By Max Heffler - Published on
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I had no idea that Europe during World War I were nearly as atrocious for Jews as World War II, just on a smaller scale. This is quite an eye-witness story of what was happening - difficult to read but necessary.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
Diamond in the rough 13 April 2013
By Theodore D. Sternberg - Published on
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
There are three main themes in this book. One -- what the subtitle alludes to -- is a description of the terrible hardships visited on the Jews of Galicia during World War I. Another is a tribute to the tradition of tzedakah, as it was practiced under conditions of great duress: we read about how the Jews of St. Petersburg and Kiev, and community leaders closer to the front, whose own economic condition had become tenuous enough, and at risk of being accused of helping enemy citizens, did what they could to help. The third theme is the author's interactions with Russian officialdom -- the usually hostile, at best mildly concerned army officers whose permission he needed to carry out his mission.

Though there is much of interest in all three themes, I can understand why the first one gets top billing. The Czar's army, whether advancing or retreating, meted out abuse on a grand scale, and if the results were about an order of magnitude less terrible than what came in WWII, that reflected not so much a lack of cruelty as it did the relative organizational skills of WWI Russia versus WWII Germany. And there weren't even twenty good years between the wars; Ansky's story ends in 1917 (and Ansky himself dies in 1920), too soon to describe the horrors of the Russian civil war, which by some accounts exceeded those of WWI, as far as the civilian Jewish population of (eastern) Galicia was concerned. (For further reading, if more literary than historical, I'd recommend S.I.Agnon's A Guest for the Night: A Novel (Library Of World Fiction).)

I have a few complaints. At times, the editing is a bit unpolished, the chronology of what came first and what came next a little ambiguous. I don't know how much that comes from Ansky, and how much from the translator. In fact I'm not so sure about the translator; a few times it seems he misunderstood some Hebrew/Judaic terminology. A few maps would have helped too; we can all find Lwow, Tarnow, Brody and Kiev on a map, but the book mentions a lot of smaller places (whose names might have changed a few times since then) that I could not find. If I knew where they were, that would have helped clear up some of the chronological ambiguity I mentioned above. Or maybe I didn't try hard enough; I might make another go at this and try drawing a map showing all the places mentioned, with arrows tracing Ansky's travels. At least the book comes with a good index.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
A mixed business 22 Nov. 2012
By Curious - Published on
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
The author can write and the rather long list of his activities, accomplished or attempted and of the various tribulations of the Jewish Communities of Galicia and the Ukraine are certainly useful to read, but get a bit tedious at times. The business might have been cut back into some shorter work of summary that may have made the point as well. As it is, the work is more a memoir than a skillfully edited summation.
Some ongoing illustration of relative geographic location of the sites referred to might interest some, illustrative material of the areas before the war might also have been nice.
One always must consider, as the work of a single figure, if some liberties may have been taken in regards to his role or the local events (whether in moderation or hyperbole).
The work is worthwhile, even if it is only inasmuch as no real competition addresses the events discussed of this time.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
Welcome to the 20th Century 15 Dec. 2013
By R. L. Huff - Published on
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Jewish ethnologist and ex-revolutionary S. Ansky (Shloyme Rappoport) has left one of the most thorough and heart-wrenching accounts of ordinary men and women caught in the meatgrinder of war. Although his focus was on the Jews of the old Pale, his narrative embraces the sacrifice of all human society on the altars of patriotism, while its high priests chant rituals of victory safe in their temples of privilege. Unfortunately for the Jews of Galicia, *their* travails were only beginning: the civil war slaughters of 1918 continued the agonies depicted here, followed by the final flood of genocide in the decades to come.

It was this prior holocaust, the commitment to total war, that gave rise to the totalitarian movements of the interwar years; but here we see that no esoteric ideologies were really necessary. Conventional hatreds and prejudices, militarism and patriotism - with a good dose of greed - were sufficient, uncorked with official sanction to drench the land in blood. Those who rail at Bolsheviks and Nazis for unleashing later horrors in the East (ie, Timothy Snyder, "Bloodlands") conventiently forget the "mainstream" leaders whose noble warmongering for Democracy, Fatherland, and Order set the stage for the rise of beasts.

Thus it's really unfortunate that Ansky's work is largely confined to "Jewish studies," since the tragedy of this time and place is an evocation of trampled humanity still echoing through the following century. Those now embracing "humanitarian intervention" in the name of the same cliches and platitudes should study this work; to know how innocent folk, who merely wish to live, will forfeit their lives for delusions of "justice through strength." "How can you prove that bloodshed is a sin and not a supreme act of heroism?" rhetorically asks Demidov, the intellectual humanist, on page 89 - especially when it's someone else's. Ansky's ensuing rumination on war and its protagonists was unfortuntely buried with him, and is confirmed by my own observations of combat veterans:

". . . Many months later, I found something rather interesting, which reminded me of my conversation with Demidov. I noticed that officers who had fought in battles and had met the enemy face-to-face looked and behaved with a mystical serenity. They spoke softly, slowly, never grew excited. They seemed to have grasped a great truth that made them calm. I wondered if this was the renewal Demidov had talked about. Later, I reached a different conclusion. Perhaps the lust for bloodshed has stayed with man since his animal beginnings. Perhaps blood keeps him calm, while the lack of it makes him nervous, so he tries to appease his passion for it. Perhaps people who have shed blood are so tranquil because they have sated their need. I was shocked by the idea, but the more officers I met who had actually fought, the more I was convinced it had merit."

Indispensable reading for anyone, Jewish or otherwise, concerned with the irreconcilable difference between war and humanity.
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