In the Midst of Civilized Europe

Jeffrey Veidlinger

03 November 2022
480 pages


A Times Literary Supplement Book of the Year

A riveting account of a forgotten holocaust: the slaughter of over one hundred thousand Ukrainian Jews in the aftermath of the Russian Revolution. In the Midst of Civilized Europe repositions the pogroms as a defining moment of the twentieth century.

‘Exhaustive, clearly written, deeply researched’ - The Times

‘A meticulous, original and deeply affecting historical account’ - Philippe Sands, author of East West Street

Between 1918 and 1921, over a hundred thousand Jews were murdered in Ukraine by peasants, townsmen, and soldiers who blamed the Jews for the turmoil of the Russian Revolution. In hundreds of separate incidents, ordinary people robbed their Jewish neighbours with impunity, burned down their houses, ripped apart their Torah scrolls, sexually assaulted them, and killed them. Largely forgotten today, these pogroms – ethnic riots – dominated headlines and international affairs in their time. Aid workers warned that six million Jews were in danger of complete extermination. Twenty years later, these dire predictions would come true.

Drawing upon long-neglected archival materials, including thousands of newly discovered witness testimonies, trial records, and official orders, acclaimed historian Jeffrey Veidlinger shows for the first time how this wave of genocidal violence created the conditions for the Holocaust. Through stories of survivors, perpetrators, aid workers, and governmental officials, he explains how so many different groups of people came to the same conclusion: that killing Jews was an acceptable response to their various problems.

Veidlinger’s book ranks alongside Timothy Snyder’s Bloodlands in forcing our eyes eastwards. It is deeply researched and masterfully written, with a cool restraint that only intensifies its power. It reminded me of Faulkner’s line that “the past is never dead. It’s not even past.”
[An] exhaustive, clearly written, deeply researched story of events in a time and place most of us know nearly nothing about - the pogroms of 1918-21 in Ukraine and Poland . . . [an] imortant and scholalry book.
We now know much more about the pogroms of 1918–21 because of Veidlinger’s painstaking research . . . he has succeeded in shining a bright scholarly light on a much less well-known attempt to exterminate European Jews two decades before the Holocaust. In its thoroughness and controlled passion, In the Midst of Civilized Europe is descriptive history at its best.