Bodies and Souls: The Tragic Plight of Three Jewish Women Forced into Prostitution in the Americas, 1860 to 1939

Isabel Vincent, Author . Morrow $25.95 (276p) ISBN 978-0-06-009023-4

One of the saddest and most shameful stories in Jewish history has been suppressed for generations: between 1860 and 1939, thousands of poor young women from Eastern European shtetls were sold into sexual slavery by the Jewish-run Zwi Migdal crime syndicate, which controlled brothels on several continents. Focusing on three women, Vincent reconstructs the miserable lives of many of these women. One, sent to New York, saw 273 men in a two-week period. Many, unable to find support in the Jewish community—which ostracized them—committed suicide. And one, Sally Knopf, whose own uncle was a trafficker, escaped by disguising herself as a man. There is some triumph here: the Jewish prostitutes of Rio de Janeiro purchased their own cemetery in 1916 and ran their own burial society. By the time they bought their own synagogue in 1942, they had seen the demise of the Zwi Migdal gang. Unanswered questions, many raised by Vincent herself, abound. Clearly, poverty and lack of opportunity in Europe drove women into the trade, but why did they stay? Canadian journalist Vincent (Hitler's Silent Partners: Swiss Banks, Nazi Gold and the Pursuit of Justice ) demonstrates her strength as a writer and storyteller, which enables her to at least partially retrieve this all-but-lost world. Agent, Dorian Karchmar. (Nov.)

Reviewed on: 09/05/2005
Release date: 11/01/2005
Genre: Nonfiction
Hardcover - 276 pages - 978-0-679-31162-1
Paperback - 276 pages - 978-0-679-31163-8
Paperback - 276 pages - 978-0-06-009024-1
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