The Resistible Rise of Antisemitism

Exemplary Cases from Russia, Ukraine, and Poland

Laura Engelstein

Antisemitism emerged toward the end of the nineteenth century as a powerful political movement with broad popular appeal. It promoted a vision of the world in which a closely-knit tribe called “the Jews” conspired to dominate the globe through control of international finance at the highest levels of commerce and money lending in the towns and villages. This tribe at the same time maneuvered to destroy the very capitalist system it was said to control through its devotion to the cause of revolution. It is easy to draw a straight line from this turn-of-the-century paranoid thinking to the murderous delusions of twentieth-century fascism. Yet the line was not straight. Antisemitism as a political weapon did not stand unchallenged, even in Eastern Europe, where its consequences were particularly dire. In this region, Jewish leaders mobilized across national borders and in alliance with non-Jewish public figures on behalf of Jewish rights and in opposition to anti-Jewish violence. Antisemites were called to account and forced on the defensive. In Imperial and then Soviet Russia, in newly emerging Poland, and in aspiring Ukraine—notorious in the West as antisemitic hotbeds—antisemitism was sometimes a moral and political liability. These intriguing essays explore the reasons why, and they offer lessons from surprising places on how we can continue to fight antisemitism in our times.

Paper: $40 | Cloth: $85 | E-book: $33.25
ISBN-13: 9781684580095
Pages: 280 | Size: 5.5 in. x 8.5 in.
Date Published: March 5, 2020

Anyone interested in Jewish or Eastern European history will find this book a stimulating and valuable read.



  • This is a brilliant and original interpretation of the various ways in which anti-Jewish sentiment and antisemitic Weltanschauung were used for popular mobilization, national legitimation, and the defense against liberal modernity. Engelstein notices every case of ambivalence, denial or hypocrisy, thus making her complex but easily read presentation illuminating for both readers interested in history and those who wish to better understand contemporary Eastern Europe.

    Shulamith Volkov
    Tel Aviv University
  • Antisemitism is a transnational force, but so too is opposition to it. In these brilliant and lucid essays, Laura Engelstein considers moments in Russian, Ukrainian, and Polish history when antisemitism became a public liability for those who trafficked in it and illuminates the fragile political conditions that enabled the taboo. Elegantly written and soberly argued, The Resistible Rise of Antisemitism resonates powerfully today.

    Paul Hanebrink
    Rutgers University
  • Celebrated as an historian who reads against the grain, Engelstein takes us beyond the horror of the Holocaust, back to the early decades of the twentieth century, into the political contests that mobilized populations for and against antisemitic violence. This is a consummate political history, finely tuned to the dilemmas of our present moment.

    Ben Nathans
    University of Pennsylvania
  • Anyone interested in Jewish or Eastern European history will find this book a stimulating and valuable read.

    A Publication of the Association of College and Research Libraries

About the Author

Laura Engelstein

Laura Engelstein joined the history faculty in the fall of 2002 as professor in the field of modern Russian and European history. She received her Ph.D. from Stanford in 1976 and taught at Cornell and at Princeton before coming to Yale. Her research has focused on the social and cultural history of late imperial Russia, with attention to the role of law, medicine, and the arts in public life. She has also explored themes in the history of gender, sexuality, and religion.

Among her …

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