Jewish Warriors

Readings of Interest
By Norman J. Finkelshteyn

Historical Overview of Jewish Warrior Cultures

Caveats in Researching Jewish History

Israel Today --
Notes on the Current Conflict

Hairstyle of the Jewish Khazar

Jewish Partisans in WWII

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Jewish Materials
Before buying any of the recomended books, I recomend a look at the articles on this site Caveats in Researching Jewish History and A critique of "findings" in Khazar research.

Historical References
Povest Vremenykh Let (The Russian Primary Chronicle) -- A 12th century history by a Russian monk. This book is a year by year account from the begining of the world to the year of the book's completion. It includes mention of Russia paying tribute to the Khazars and the story of Knyaz Vladimir's conversion to Orthodox Christianity, after hearing from representatives of the different faiths -- Judaism was represented by Khazar scholars.

Adler, Elkan Nathan (ed.), Jewish Travelers in the Middle Ages: 19 Firsthand Accounts first pub. George Routledge and Sons, London, 1930, republished Dover Publications, Inc., New York, 1987. - A selection of primary source materials, mostly Jewish Travelogs and letters, translated into English. The earliest document is from Charlemagne's scribe, regarding the diplomatic mission to Persia undertaken by Charlemagne's Jewish emisary (focusing on the Elephant he brough back as a present). It includes correspondence about Eldad the Danite and the communications between Hasdai ibn Shaprut and Joseph, the Khazar ruler.

Marcus, Jacob Rader (ed.), The Jew in the Medieval World a Sourcebook: 315-1791, Atheneum, New York, 1938 - Another selection of primary source materials. This one far more extensive, dealing with the whole variety of topics relevant for the medieval Jew - including day to day life, internal religious developments, anti-semitism... One of the earliest documents is a letter from a fourth century anti-semitic passenger describing his voyage on a boat with a Jewish captain. This book is not for the faint of heart, published in 1938, the editor's introduction contains a chilling note of prophesy in it's brief mention of the rising NAZI state (the "last throws of Medievalism"). It also includes a first person, fairly detailed account of an Inquisition torture of a "New Christian" woman accused of Judaising. Another edition is here.

Artamanov -- A Soviet archaeologist writing during the Stalinist and early post Stalinist period. He did a substantial amount of research and writing on the Khazars including a book on the excavation of the fortress of Sarkel and two books on History of the Khazars (a narrow "pamphlet" and a thick "tome" - pub. Hermitage Museum, Leningrad, 1962). As may be evident from the context, watch out for the mark of the Soviet Sensor.

Dunlop -- A History of th Khazars to which I noticed no caveats. A thorough and informative treatment.

Golb, Norman, and Pritsak, Omeljan, Khazarian Hebrew Documents of the Tenth Century. Cornell University Press, New York, 1982. -- An examination of a hebrew letter from Kiev found in the Cairo Geniza, as well as paralel documents elucidating its content. Aside from the historical interest of the letter, the story it tells offers a sad and touching glimpse into the relations between the Jews of Kiev and the surrounding community.

Koestler, Arthur, The Thirteenth Tribe -- While this is a nice popularised overview of the history of the Khazars, Koestler makes sweeping assumptions and generalisations not born out by research. This book is the main source of the anti-semitic Khazar pseudoresearch.

Kokovtzov, P.K., Evreisko Hazarskaya Perepiska v X Veke (Judeo Khazar Responsa in the X Century) Akademia Nauk, Leningrad, 1932 -- A Soviet book on Khazar Jewish documents.

Cohen, Rich, The Avengers A Jewish War Story. New York, Alfred A. Knopf, 2000.
As a child, mr. Cohen discovered that his aunt, living on an Israeli Kibutz, had been one of the major participants in the "Avengers" resistance group, she was also the best friend of the leader. This book was written from interviews with her, the leader of the group, Aba Kovner, and other participants.
Some historians object to the narative style and reliance on personal recollection -- but if you're less interested in the specific numbers of battles and more in how it felt to be there, this book does its job. It reminded me of the summer evenings I spent as a child listening, mouth agape, to a one-armed veteran telling about his experiences.

Some Jewish History books I stumbled onto at I have not read these but they seem interesting:
Barcelona and Beyond: The Disputation of 1263 and Its Aftermath by Robert Chazan - In the Middle Ages, the leaders of the Jewish community were often forced by the Catholic authorities to dispute religion with Churchmen. This book addresses the most famous of these disputes - that between Nahmanides and Pablo Christiani. I have read the dispute as described by Nahmanides. I have not read this book -- the author claims to present descriptions of the dispute from both sides and to arrive at an understanding of what really happened.
Under Crescent and Cross: The Jews in the Middle Ages by Mark R. Cohen
Church, State, and Jew in the Middle Ages Edited by Robert Chazan
European Jewry and the First Crusade by Robert Chazan
In the Year 1096 : The First Crusade and the Jews by Robert Chazan

These World War II materials provided by Andrew Strassmann with his article on the Jewish Resistance - notes are his.

The Bielski Brothers, Films for the Humanities & Sciences, 1996.
Description of the Bielski brothers’ partisan unit and community in the forests of Byelorussia, numbering 1,200-1,500 Jewish men, women and children. This was the largest Jewish partisan group in Europe in World War II.
Partisans of Vilna, Josh Waletzky (dir.),
Euro-American Home Video, 1986.
Story of the Jewish underground force of the Vilna Ghetto, which reached the forest and fought the Germans.

Adler, Stanislaw. In the Warsaw Ghetto: 1940-1943: An Account of an Eyewitness Jerusalem: Yad Vashem, 1982.
Ainsztein, Reuben. The Warsaw Ghetto Revolt. New York: Holocaust Library, 1979.
Arad, Yitzhak. The Partisan: From the Valley of Death to Mount Zion. Holocaust Library, 1979.
The author’s experiences from child in Warsaw to partisan fighting the Nazis in the Lithuanian forests to Brigadier General of the IDF.
Barkai, Meyer, trans. and ed. The Ghetto Fighters New York: Tower, 1962
Burger, Harry. Biancastella: A Jewish Partisan in World War Two. University Press of Colorado, 1997.
The author’s account of his fight against the Nazis in the mountains of northwest Italy as part of the Italian Resistance.
Eckman, Lester and Lazar, Chaim. The Jewish Resistance. The History of the Jewish Partisans in Lithuania and White Russia during the Nazi occupation 1940-1945 New York: Shengold , 1977
Eisner, Jack. The Survivor. William Morrow & Company, 1980.
The author’s experiences in the Warsaw Ghetto, including his fighting during the Uprising.
Gutman, Israel. The Jews of Warsaw, 1939-1943: Ghetto, Underground, Revolt. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1982.
Gutman, Israel. Resistance: The Warsaw Ghetto Uprising. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1994.
Kalish, Shoshana with Barbara Meister. Yes, We Sang!: Songs of the Ghettos and Concentration Camps. New York: Harper & Row, 1985.
Has music plus words in both English and the original languages.
Kermish, Joseph., ed. To Live With Honor and To Die With Honor!...: Selected Documents from the Warsaw Ghetto Underground Archives "O.S." ["Oneg Shabbath"]. Jerusalem: Yad Vashem, 1986.
Korczak, Janusz. The Warsaw Ghetto Memoirs of Janusz Korczak. Washington, D.C.: University Press of America, 1979.
Kowalski, Isaac (ed.), Anthology of Jewish Armed Resistance 1939-1945, Jewish Combatants Publishing House, 1986.
Large three-volume collection of many fighters’ experiences. A must for serious researchers. Includes an article by this web-article’s researcher’s father, Paul Strassmann, in Volume III page 569.
Krall, Hanna. Shielding the Flame: An Intimate Conversation with Dr. Marek Edelman, the Last Surviving Leader of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising. New York: Holt, 1986.
Lazar, Chaim. Destruction and Resistance. A History of the Partisan movement in Vilna. New York: Shengold and The Museum of Combatants and Partisans in Israel, 1985.
Levin, Dov. Fighting Back: Lithuanian Jewry’s struggle against the Nazis.1939-1945. New York: Holmes and Meier, 1985.
Rashke, Richard. Escape from Sobibor. Avon Books, 1982.
The story of the breakout from the Sobibor death camp and the struggle to survive in the Parczew forest against both the Germans and the Poles. Made into a movie starring Alan Arkin and Rutger Hauer.
Ringelblum, Emanuel. Notes from the Warsaw Ghetto: The Journal of Emanuel Ringelblum. New York: Schocken, 1974.
Roland, Charles G. Courage Under Siege: Starvation, Disease, and Death in the Warsaw Ghetto. New York: Oxford University Press, 1992.
Seiden, Othniel J. The Survivor of Babi Yar. Stonehenge Books, 1980.
Story about a Jew who joins a partisan band in the Ukranian forests.
Simkin, Zelman, & Rice, Lethal Laws. Milwaukee, 1994 & 1997 (Rwanda supplement). Documents the legal disarming of the target population prior to each of the eight major genocides of the 20th century (except Bosnia, which was only arms-embargoed), with the resultant crippling of resistance efforts. Provides original and translation of the respective legal texts.
Szwajger, Adina Blady I Remember Nothing More: The Warsaw Children's Hospital and the Jewish Resistance. New York: Pantheon, 1990.
Tec, Nechama. Defiance: The Bielski Partisans. Oxford University Press, 1993.
Description of the Bielski brothers’ partisan unit and community in the forests of Byelorussia, numbering 1,200-1,500 Jewish men, women and children. This was the largest Jewish partisan group in Europe in World War II.
Thomas, Nigel. Partisan Warfare 1941-1945. London, Osprey Publishing, 1983.
Compact source for data on both sides and how warfare was conducted.
Treseder, Terry Walton. Hear, O Israel: A Story of the Warsaw Ghetto. New York, Atheneum, 1990
Uris, Leon. Mila 18. New York: Doubleday, 1961.
Mila 18 was the ZOB’s headquarters during the Warsaw Ghetto uprising.
Werner, Harold. Fighting Back: A Memoir of Jewish Resistance in World War II. Columbia University Press, 1992.
The author’s experiences in a large (400 fighters, 400 noncombatants) Jewish partisan unit in the Parczew forest of eastern Poland.
Zuckerman, Yitzhak. A Surplus of Memory: Chronicle of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 1993

Ha Kuzari by Yehuda HaLevi -- A medieval Jewish work of philosophy, it uses the tale of the conversion of the Khazars as the framework for argument. Yehuda HaLevi was a Spanish Jew who may have had access to the letters between Hasdai ibn Shaprut and the Khazar ruler Joseph and may have met the Khazar Jews who were living in Toledo in his time, however, he was not writing a history but an argument for his own philosophy.

Called Bylyni in Russian, the Russian heroic cycle of Kiev (telling the adventures of the warriors of Knyaz Vladimir) has a similar place in Russian culture to the Arthurian stories in the English. Among the tales are two that are of interest:
Ilya Murometz i Bogotyr Zhydovsky (Ilya Murometz and the Warrior Jew) -- the Khazar as enemy. Because of the overtly anti-Jewish nature of this story, you will not be likely to find it in popular publications of Bylyni (most of which are targeted to children). It is often found in scholarly editions with the title Ilya Murometz guards the Border.

Mihailo Khazarin -- a Khazar hero of Kiev. The motifs of the story make it likely that it was, in fact, of Khazar origin. Read my translation and commentary online

Alexander Pushkin was the premier Russian poet of the Romantic period -- more than a match for the Englishmen Byron and Shelley. His poetry included Satire, History, and the retellings of Russian Folktales and Legends. The following two works are relevant to the subject at hand:
Ruslan and Ludmila -- an epic adventure of true love set in the time of Vladimir of Kiev (Russia's Camelot). One of Ludmila's rejected suitors (the only positive character of the lot) is a Khazar prince (he does not, however, seem to be Jewish).
The Song of Oleg the Seer tells of the death of one of the early Viking Russ rulers. The Khazars are alone mentioned by name among his enemies. This was my first meeting with the Khazars and where most Russians will know them from.

Armour/Military Resources
Oriental Armour by H. Russel Robinson (written in the 60ies) - Mr. Robinson was curator at the Royal Armouries and an expert on Eastern and Roman armour. This book is still the foundation piece for anyone researching Eastern Armour. The book is out of print. It is unfortunate, but does not yet offer to look for it on your behalf. If you can get it some other way -- Do so!

The Armour of Imperial Rome by H. Russel Robinson (from the early 70ies) - The author is described above. This book contains a thorough overview of the available information on Roman helmets. It also contains the first responsible reconstructions of both well known types of the "Lorica Segmentata" (reconstructions of which only one has been mildly challenged since that time). If you have pretentions to enthusiasm for Roman armour, beg, borrow, or otherwise obtain this book if you can at all do it. The book is out of print but listed by Amazon -- this means that they will try to get it for you. They have a second listing for it here.

What the soldiers wore on Hadrian's Wall by H. Russell Robinson - Haven't read this one, but if it's Robinson, it's got to be good! This one's out of print as well.

Arms and Armor of the Medieval Knight by Edge and Paddock - The first recommendation after the Robinson classics because it is the first reference book for anyone interested in armour, whether armourer, collector, or medieval combat enthusiast. Mr. Edge is curator at the Wallace collection.

The Armourer and His Craft : From the XIth to the XVth Century by C. J. Ffoulkes - While the book was written early in this century, it nevertheless still stands as a must for any armourer's library. Mr. Ffoulkes was curator at the Royal Armouries, and while I deplore his position that "Oriental Armour" did not belong there, I must acknowledge his pionering genius in the historical study of armour.

"Armourers" from the Medieval Craftsmen Series by Matthias Pfaffenbichler - I have been told that this book is what you want to update the Ffoulkes book to the present day. I have not read it. Last I checked this link, the book was out of print, but Amazon will look for you.

Glossary of the Construction, Decoration and Use of Arms and Armor in All Countries and in All Times : Together With Some Closely Related Subjects by George Cameron Stone - A big title for a big book. In a dictionary format, Mr. Stone came pretty close to fulfilling the promise of the title. An excelent collection of photographs and information on both Eastern and Western Armour. This book was done early in the century and must be viewed within those limitations. Mr. Stone's personal armour collection is what became the collection of the Metropolitan Museum in New York. The link promises a new paperback edition in the year 2000. This may not be the best way to go. I have been told that the quality of photographs has gotten steadily worse with each edition -- but maybe in 2000, they will have "digitially remastered" from the original.

Arms and Armor of the Samurai by Turnbull, Bottomley, and Hopson - Same format as "Arms and Armor of the Medieval Knight" (above) and just as usefull. A must for anyone talking about Japanese armour. Mr. Bottomley is curator at the Royal Armouries.

Greece and Rome at War by Peter Connolly - Another must. Armour, combat, and tactics of the Greek and Roman world. Detailed, accurate reconstructions by an artist and historian. Mr. Connolly followed in the footsteps by H. R. Robinson and developed on his findings (he is mentioned in Robinson's earlier work as a friend and coleague).

Arms and Armour of the Crusading Era, 1050-1350 : Western Europe and the Crusader States by David Nicolle - First of two volumes. Mr. Nicolle is probably the most prolific armour historian out there today, and the most available to laymen. With that prolific accessibility (see the "Osprey books" table below), however, he seems to be somewhat free in making assumptions that are not necessarily fully supported by the evidence.

Arms and Armour of the Crusading Era, 1050-1350: Islam, Eastern Europe and Asia by David Nicolle - Second of two volumes. See above for my caveat regarding the author.

The Osprey Military Books -- They have their limitations but no armour enthusiast's library is complete without them.
However, please remember
-- the artist is often less interested in accuracy then in drama, so read those artist's representations with a grain of salt...
Similarly, because of the popular rather than scholarly nature of the source, the authors often feel free to make more assumptions about the evidence than is necessarily waranted.
In fact, you will notice that all of the books on this list are by one author - David Nicolle. If you go to the Search form below the book recommendations, and use his name as the search parameter, you will find at least twice as many books -- I have listed here only those books by him that are relevant to the main subject of this Web Site. As I mentioned above, possibly because of the volume and expanse of his knowledge and erudition, Mr. Nicolle sometimes makes assumptions not necessarily waranted by the evidence.
Keep in mind that these books are brief overviews not end-all authorities.
Attila and the Nomad Hordes : Warfare on the Eurasian Steppes 4Th-12th Centuries (Elite Series, No. 30) by David Nicolle - The various Central Asian nomadic groups who entered the Eurasian steppes during the centuries listed, including the Huns, Avars, Khazars, Magyars, Pechenegs...

Romano-Byzantine Armies 4th - 9th Century (Men-At-Arms, No. 247) by David Nicolle

Armies of Medieval Russia, 750-1250 by David Nicolle

Lake Peipus 1242 : Battle of the Ice (Osprey Military Campaign Series, 46) by David Nicolle - The Battle, and the events surrounding it, that made Alexander, Knyaz of Novgorod into Saint Alexander Nevsky.

Hungary and the Fall of Eastern Europe, 1000-1568 (Men-At-Arms Series, 195) by David Nicolle

Rome's Enemies : The Desert Frontier (Men-At-Arms, No. 243) by David Nicolle

Armies of the Muslim Conquest (Men-At-Arms, No 255) by David Nicolle

Armies of Islam : Seventh to Eleventh Centuries (Men at Arms, 125) by David Nicolle

Armies of the Caliphates 862-1098 (Men-At-Arms Series, No 320) by David Nicolle

Saracen Faris 1100-1250 Ad (Warrior, No 10) by David Nicolle - A good discussion of what made for a "Knight" of Islam (including a 12th century Middle Eastern Omelete recipe). Illustrations include clothing (down to socks and underware), banners, horse gear and armour. However, there is at least one glaring mistake in the illustration of armour (just to illustrate the care one needs to take in relying on these books) -- there is a detail of how leather thongs are laced into a Maile collar -- the thongs in the illustration are laced perpendicular to the way they are actually laced on every historical Maile collar I have seen.

Saladin and the Saracens Armies of the Middle East 1100-1300 (Men-At-Arms Series, No 171) by David Nicolle

Hattin 1187 : Saladin's Greatest Victory (Campaign, No. 19) by David Nicolle

The Age of Tamerlane : Warfare in the Middle East C.1350-1500 (Men-At-Arms, No. 222) by David Nicolle

Armies of the Ottoman Turks, 1300-1744 (Men at Arms, 140) by David Nicolle

The Mamluks 1250-1517 (Men-At-Arms, No 259) by David Nicolle

The Janissaries (Elite, No 58) by David Nicolle

Mughul India 1504-1761 (Men-At-Arms, No 263) by David Nicolle

Cultural Resources

Two Stories from the Shahname -- the main national Epic of Persia / Iran:
The Tragedy of Sohrab and Rostam : From the Persian National Epic, the Shahname of Abdol-Qasem Ferdowsi by Abolqasem Ferdowsi (Translator), Abdul Perdowsi
- Father and Son fighting to the Death - this dramatic story finds parallels throughout the world, David and Ansalem, Cuchulain and his Son, Ilya Murometz and his children... and in the terrible reality of Ivan IV and his son, Peter I and his son...

In the Dragon's Claws: The Story of Rostam and Esfandiyar from the Persian Book of Kings by Jerome Clinton (Translator) - Esfandiyar is Persian for Alexander. For whatever reason, Alexander the Macedonian (Alexander the Great) has become the legendary hero of many nations. This story is the story of Alexander the Macedonian according to the Shah Nameh (the Persian national Epic).

The stories of the Turk
The Book of Dede Korkut by Geoffrey L. Lewis (Editor), Lewis Geoffrey (Editor)
- This collection of tales may be characterised as the Turkish Camelot.
Here, another translation... by Faruk Sumer (Editor), Ahmet E. Uysal (Editor), Warren S. Walker (Editor)
Europe's Heroes
Beowulf translated by Seamus Heaney
- A new translation of the classic, this one has the modern-English translation on facing pages with the original old-English, and scholarly notes on the culture. I saw this at a book store and was sold -- as of this writing, Amazon has it for half the price at the store.

Sir Gawain and the Green Knight translated by JRR Tolkien - This work stands outside of the Malory cycle most of us are used to (Malory may have retold it and made it fit, but this is the original). It is a wonderful tale in itself and interesting in tying the courtly romance of Arthur with the early Celtic myths (it is a retelling of the Irish Beheading-Game story). Before becoming creator of "Lord of the Rings" Tolkien was a professor of Medieval Literature (or was it Mythology?). The original and the translator are both wonderful, and the translation is worthy of its author.

Other Books
Being an expectant Father-to-be, I couldn't help adding two child rearing classics:
Dr. Spock's Baby and Child Care
by Benjamin Spock, Stephen J. Parker, Steven Parker, Sharon Scotland (Illustrator)

The New First Three Years of Life by Burton L. White

And if one is doing Medieval reenactment, wo can leave out these Jems of authenticity -- The Diskworld series!
(this is just the latest to come to the US):
The Fifth Elephant by Terry Pratchett

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