The Enemy at His Pleasure: A Journey Through the Jewish Pale of Settlement During World War I, by S. Ansky, translated by Joachim Neugroschel, is an intense, horrific, violent and incredible book depicting the events of Ansky’s travels through the Pale of Settlement during WWI. His travels and writings were an effort to try and bring medical help, food and money to the communities of Jews, living in shtetls, on the front lines. It is as graphically worded as a book of this type can get.
Written as a journalist might write a diary, Ansky’s accounts leave nothing left unsaid, no events colored over with fluff, and we, the readers, are left “watching” the evil through the vivid word images of brutality, destruction, rape, murder, mob mentality, mass-murder, and the affects on the Jewish communities in the shtetls from the events of the nauseating horrors of anti-semitism.
I won’t quote from the book, because one passage alone wouldn’t be sufficient to render the scope of the atrocities and horror. How can I choose one, out of so many? For me it is impossible, and would diminish the content of the book, down to that one blurb. One must read this in order to grasp the intensity of the compelling events.
The Enemy at His Pleasure is a compelling read, and if you are prone to having a weak stomach from graphic word content, then I suggest you read this with that in mind. Do read it, because it will open your eyes to the accounts and sickening events that took place during the turbulent time when Russian, Austrian and German armies overtook the small Jewish shtetls catching and trapping the Jews in the middle. The word images are vividly depicted. It is a look at history you will not soon forget.