‘In the year 1648, the wicked Ukrainian hetman, Bogdan Chmelnicki, and his followers… spread havoc in Tomaszow, Bilgoraj, Krasnik, Turbin, Frampol—and in Goray, too….They slaughtered on every hand, flayed men alive, murdered small children, violated women and afterward ripped open their bellies and sewed cats inside. Many fled to Lublin, many underwent baptism or were sold into slavery. Goray, which once had been known for its scholars and men of accomplishment, was completely deserted.”
Every reader of this opening paragraph of Isaac Bashevis Singer’s Satan in Goray in the Warsaw Yiddish periodical Globus in January 1933 would have recognized these shocking scenes in the same way that today’s readers can instantly identify images of the Holocaust. The events in Ukraine three centuries earlier that Singer was describing in his novel—tens of thousands of Jews killed, dozens of towns destroyed—were as deeply imprinted on the consciousness of East European Jews as the Shoah would prove to be on a later generation.