New Books Network

A refugee crisis of huge proportions erupted as a result of the mid-seventeenth-century wars in the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth. Tens of thousands of Jews fled...

A refugee crisis of huge proportions erupted as a result of the mid-seventeenth-century wars in the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth. Tens of thousands of Jews fled their homes, or were captured and trafficked across Europe, the Middle East, and North Africa. Rescue the Surviving Souls is the first book to examine this horrific moment of displacement and flight, and to assess its social, economic, religious, cultural, and psychological consequences. Drawing on a wealth of primary sources in twelve languages, Adam Teller traces the entire course of the crisis, shedding fresh light on the refugee experience and the various relief strategies developed by the major Jewish centers of the day.

Teller pays particular attention to those thousands of Jews sent for sale on the slave markets of Istanbul and the extensive transregional Jewish economic network that coalesced to ransom them. He also explores how Jewish communities rallied to support the refugees in central and western Europe, as well as in Poland-Lithuania, doing everything possible to help them overcome their traumatic experiences and rebuild their lives.

Rescue the Surviving Souls: The Great Jewish Refugee Crisis of the 17th Century (Princeton University Press, 2020) offers an intimate study of an international refugee crisis, from outbreak to resolution, that is profoundly relevant today.

Adam Teller is a Professor of Judaic Studies and History at Princeton University. He is the author of Money, Power, and Influence in Eighteenth-Century Lithuania: The Jews on the Radziwiłł Estates.


Robin Buller is a Doctoral Candidate in History at UNC Chapel Hill and a 2020-2021 dissertation fellow with the Association for Jewish Studies.