Kulczycki Book Prize in Polish Studies


Honorable Mention

An Unchosen People: Jewish Political Reckoning in Interwar Poland

Honorable Mention: Kenneth B. Moss
Title: An Unchosen People: Jewish Political Reckoning in Interwar Poland (Harvard University Press)

Kenneth Moss’s Unchosen People masterfully revises a history of Jewish predicament in interwar Poland. By bringing to life the voices of Jewish journalists, sociologists, and politically active youth, it presents how people cast as an ethnic minority critically assessed their status and life opportunities in an era of majoritarian nationalism and fascism. Moss brilliantly demonstrates that Jewish popular political thinking shifted from progressivism toward skepticism already in the late 1920s and early 1930s, well before Piłsudski’s death. In the moment of overlapping political, constitutional, and economic crises, the enchantment with ideas and ideologies of the late nineteenth century gave way to thinking in terms of risk assessment, individual survival, and fundamental doubts about the viability of Jewish life in the Polish nation-state. Based on Yiddish, Hebrew, and Polish sources, this reading convincingly reframes both the chronology of modern Jewish politics and the history of post-Versailles Eastern European nation-statehood. Even more broadly, Moss models how to write historically about futurelessness and minorityhood. Unchosen People offers a captivating and highly appealing history of the present by showing how people who lived on the edge of a catastrophe wondered fearfully about what the future held, questions that remain hauntingly relevant for our current global moment.

Winner: Aleksandra Kremer