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History of the Jews in the Modern World Hardcover – 8 Sep 2005

5.0 out of 5 stars 1 customer review

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 848 pages
  • Publisher: Alfred A Knopf; Reprint edition (8 Sept. 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0375414975
  • ISBN-13: 978-0375414978
  • Product Dimensions: 16.9 x 4.9 x 24.1 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,469,745 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description


"A rich and balanced account. . . . There is no other book that attempts, as this one does, to recount the history of the Jews in modern times in all its geographical variation and breathtaking disparity." -"Washington Post Book World"

"Magisterial . . . Sachar situates Jews on a global stage. . . . [He] relates an immensely complex story with precision and learning." -"New York Times Book Review"

"[Sachar's book""features] an erudition that is confidently and casually displayed, a range of topics covered with crisp lucidity, and sentences whose cadences effortlessly sweep the reader along." -"The Boston Globe"

"Like all of Sachar's books, this too is comprehensive, illuminating, and readable. He weaves Jewish history through the intricacies of modern developments with a magisterial sweep." -Shlomo Avineri, Professor of Political Science Emeritus, The Hebrew University

"A magnum opus....comprehensive, analytical, and written in a felicitous style....The book is a must. Both the lay and specialist reader will be richly rewarded." -Isaiah Friedman, Professor of Modern History Emeritus, Ben-Gurion University

"This learned, sweeping, panoramic view of the Jewish experience in modernity will long remain...the standard history of this period." -Alfred Gottschalk, President Emeritus, Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion

"In this expansive and magisterial history of the Jews in the modern world...this distinguished historian and experienced teacher has created a vibrant, highly readable text for students and general readers alike." -Jehuda Reinharz, President, Brandeis University

"This is the work of a lifetime, a magisterial study....a book that all future histories of modern Jewry will be judged by." -Jonathan Sarna, Chairman, School of Judaic and Near Eastern Studies, Brandeis University --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

About the Author

Howard M. Sachar is the author of numerous books, including A History of Israel, A History of the Jews in America, Farewell España, and Israel and Europe. He is also the editor of the 39-volume The Rise of Israel: A Documentary History. He serves as Professor of Modern History at George Washington University, is a consultant and lecturer on Middle Eastern affairs for numerous governmental bodies, and lectures widely in the United States and abroad. He lives in Kensington, Maryland.

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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
I rarely write reviews but this book has moved me to do so, this being testament to its quality.

Hate to use the cliché but this really is a tour de force. It is written in a very academic style, reading it took me back to my university days. It is such an accomplished piece of work, and has increased my understanding of the Jews and their recent history, breaking down a wall of ignorance in the process.

If the subject area interests you then this book is a must.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) HASH(0x9d80aacc) out of 5 stars 8 reviews
18 of 20 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x9d51caa4) out of 5 stars A Good Overview of Recent Jewish History; Correction(s) Needed 28 Aug. 2006
By Jan Peczkis - Published on
Format: Hardcover
This is a mini-encyclopedia of Jewish history beginning about the 17th century. Sachar's main emphasis is on the Jews of Europe. Owing to the large number of topics raised by the author, this review is necessarily limited to consideration of only a few of them.

Sachar presents a nuanced view of the Jewish experience in post-Reformation Europe: "These constructs must be judged in the context of their time, of course. If Jews possessed fewer rights than did their urban Christian neighbors, they also bore fewer obligations and enjoyed more privileges than did Europe's peasant masses."(p. 5).

A moderate amount of attention is devoted to the massive pogroms in 19th century Russia. Based on archival research, Sachar rejects the notion that the pogroms of 1881 had been instigated by the tsarist government (p. 199). However, Sachar believes that Tsar Nicholas II was in fact behind the 600 pogroms that took place in 1905 (p. 295). Sachar also recounts the experience of Mendel Beilis, who had been framed on an accusation of ritual murder (pp. 305-309). Beilis received a considerable amount of international support and was eventually acquitted.

After Poland was partitioned in the late 1700's, the erstwhile Polish Jews of eastern Poland became Russian Jews, as described by Sachar: "All attempts by Jews to participate in municipal government were effectively blocked by their Russian neighbors, on the grounds that the Jews engaged in "parasitical" "exploitative" activities among the surrounding peasants, especially through their control of the liquor trade. The latter charge actually was well founded. Accustomed in Poland to function as middlemen between aristocrats' estates and the countryside, Jews had become proficient in buying up and converting harvested grain and potato crops into mash, and mash into distilled spirits, which resisted the vicissitudes of the weather. The peasantry offered a sure and certain marker for liquor, and the Jews exploited it fully."(p. 54).

During the Russian rule of eastern and central Poland, a Jewish bourgeoisie developed in Congress Poland (pp. 70-71). In time, this pitted Poles against the mostly-Jewish industrialists. Of course, Jewish dominance of commerce also occurred at lower levels. Sachar describes the Polish-Jewish conflicts that became widely known soon after the resurrection of the Polish state: "In the 1920's, too, the government found ways to restrict Jewish economic activity. The rationale was Jewish overcrowding in commerce and the professions. Here, in fact, the statistics bore out the charge. By 1922, Jews comprised 52% of Poland's tradesmen and owned 48% of the nation's retail shops (although most of these were diminutive market stalls). A majority of attorneys in larger cities were Jews, and in medicine the Jewish presence ranked second only to the German."(p. 414). Sachar, however, doesn't put any of the foregoing statistics in context: Jews comprised only 10% of the Polish population.

Sachar elaborates on the role of Jews in Communism. On one hand, he cites Alexander Kerensky, who asserted that 99% of Russian Jews were anti-Bolshevik (p. 334). On the other hand, the very disproportionate number of Jews in Communism is striking. Bearing in mind the fact that Jews comprised a small percentage of the Russian population, one can appreciate Sachar's figures on Jewish Communism (the Zydokomuna). In December 1917, 5 of the 21 members of the Soviet Central Committee were Jews, prompting Sachar to remark: "Never before had so many Jews served in any European cabinet."(p. 327). Sachar believes that Jews were prominent in Soviet Communism no less so than they were in the Communist parties of western Europe. By the early 1920's, Jews in the Soviet Union accounted for 15-20% of delegates to party congresses (p. 330), and comprised an even higher percentage of party technocrats (including mid-level administrators).

Unfortunately, Sachar recycles an old canard from WWII-era Communist propaganda. He repeats the charge (p. 551) that Tadeusz Bor-Komorowski, the head of the Polish Underground Army (AK) and later leader of the Warsaw Uprising, gave an order for the killing of Jewish partisans because of their "banditry" and "Bolshevism." In fact, Bor-Komorowski never ordered the killing of Jews. He did order armed resistance against bands of bandits. This has been twisted, without any supporting evidence, into a supposed veiled order to kill fugitive Jews. Anyone who has actually lived in formerly-northeast Poland during the German occupation will attest to the fact that banditry, conducted by bands of Poles as well as Jews, was in fact a serious problem. As for partisan action, even non-Communist Jewish partisans eventually became subordinated to the Soviet Union. Owing to the fact that the Soviets progressively came out as enemies of the AK, the Jewish partisans and the AK were also drawn into enmity against each other.

Sachar discusses the reparations for the Holocaust paid out by West Germany (p. 630), including the fact that the reparations cover property losses of the Jews. Those individuals and organizations seeking compensation from Poland for WWII-era property losses are clearly asking the wrong nation for reparations.
24 of 28 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x9d59339c) out of 5 stars Wonderful, as Always 26 Aug. 2005
By Seth J. Frantzman - Published on
Format: Hardcover
Sacher has previously written on such subjects as Zionism, the Jews in Europe between the wars and Jews in the Diaspora. Now he applies his wonderful talents as a historian and writer to the Jewish experience in modern times from the 17th century to today. He examines European anti-semtism and the rise of nationalism alongside the enlightenment and the new rights for Jews. Also looked at is the situation of Jews in Muslim lands and elsewhere, subjects usually given short shrift in books of this kind. Finally we are given excellent portraits of Jewish migration to the Americans and within Europe. Most are not aware that in 1930 many of the Jews in Germany and France were recent arrivals from the east, Jews from the Shtetl of Russia and Ukraine escaping persecution, dire poverty and revolution. These Jews contrasted greatly with the `liberated' and `assimilated' Jews of Germany who had created the reform movement. Important Jewish personalities like the Rothschilds are interwoven along with fascinating stories about Jews in Latin America and elsewhere.

This is a tour de force, as always well written and researched and easily readable.

Seth J. Frantzman
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x9d3abc54) out of 5 stars Wonderful 11 April 2009
By Ilya Elyashkevich - Published on
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I've been looking for a secular based book of Jewish history for a while and I randomly stumbled upon this gem. Firstly, I really like Sachar's writing style; for me the reading was like a history textbook on one side and a novel on the other, it grabs you to an extend where it's actually difficult to put it down sometimes. His approach is also great, this is a secular based book and one realized this almost from the start. It does not go into any religious interpretations of events, but shows the effect secular life had on the mainstream Jewish religion. I think that's great, if I want to read a religious or philosophical history of the Jews, there are lot of options, but this is the first real HISTORY book I've found.
12 of 19 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x9dbfc5ac) out of 5 stars Very accurate... 10 Jan. 2006
By PaulN - Published on
Format: Hardcover
I know a lot about certain aspects of Jewish history [and very little about other ones]. I found absolutely no contradiction between what Sachar writes and what I know. This rarely ever happens in books about history.

I recommend this book highly to everyone, Jews and Gentiles alike although people with non-European background will probably be overwhelmed and will miss a lots of the finer points. For instance, a typical American has no idea what/where Hungary is, so why should he care that Horthy didn't really want to see all the Jews gassed - some maybe, but not all.

A genuine gem.

Please note that, contrary to the general perception, not every Jew is filthy rich.
3 of 6 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x9d62e168) out of 5 stars Jewish history before we landed in America. 28 Feb. 2006
By Herbert Belkin - Published on
Format: Hardcover
The Jewish-American experience for most of us goes back about 150 years. Professor Sachar's book tells us, in compelling detail, how our ancestors lived - and died - in Europe and Russia and the meciless anti-Semitism that pushed our ancestors to these shores.

Page after page, the Jews who trembled and the Jews who triumphed, come to life as Professor Sachar recounts Jewish life in the Old World. The array of information in the book is sometimes overwhelming but always revealing about how Jews hung on to life and beliefs through the tortured course of European history.

"A History of the Jews in the Modern World" tells it all. Between its covers American Jews will learn, identify and be grateful to their ancestors for coming to America
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