Bernard Wasserstein was born in London and has taught at Oxford, Sheffield, Jerusalem, Brandeis, and Glasgow Universities. He is now Ulrich and Harriet Meyer Professor of Modern European Jewish History at the University of Chicago. In 2011-12 he is a visiting fellow at the Swedish Collegium for Advanced Studies in Uppsala.
He won the “Golden Dagger” Award for Non-Fiction from the Crime Writers’ Association for The Secret Lives of Trebitsch Lincoln. His books have included Secret War in Shanghai, Divided Jerusalem, and Israel and Palestine.
His next book, On the Eve: The Jews of Europe before the Second World War will be published by Profile in 2012. This is the portrait of a world on the eve of its destruction. Eschewing sentimentality, Bernard Wasserstein’s original and provocative book presents a new and disturbing interpretation of the collapse of European Jewish civilization even before the Nazi onslaught. Wasserstein demonstrates that, by 1939, the Jews faced an existential crisis that was as much the result of internal decay as of external attack.
From Vilna (the ‘Jerusalem of Lithuania’) to Salonica with its Judeo-Español-speaking stevedores and singers, and from the Soviet Jewish ‘homeland’ of Birobidzhan to Amsterdam (the ‘Jerusalem of the west’), the book explores the mindsets of wealthy bankers and far-left revolutionaries, of ultra-orthodox yeshiva bokhers and militant atheists, of cultural revivalists and radical assimilationists.
While portraying the predicament of the Jews in a continent suffused with anti-Semitism, the book’s focus is squarely on the Jews themselves rather than their persecutors. Written with compassion and empathy, based on vast research, and enlivened by dry wit, On the Eve paints a vivid and shocking picture of the European Jews in their final hour.
It will be launched at JBW on Tuesday 21 February at 7.00 pm before it’s available in print.
The Song of Songs (the most worthwhile biblical book – for the sex)