Past Events

Past EventsTuesday, February 21

On the Eve: The Jews of Europe before the Second World War

Bernard Wasserstein
Daniel Wildmann

This is the portrait of a world on the eve of its destruction. Bernard Wasserstein presented a disturbing interpretation of the collapse of European Jewish civilization even before the Nazi onslaught. He showed how the harsh realities of the age devastated the lives of communities and individuals. By 1939, the Jews faced an existential crisis that was as much the result of internal decay as of external attack.

Ranging from Vilna (‘Jerusalem of Lithuania’) to Salonica with its Judeo-Español-speaking stevedores and singers, and beyond, the book’s focus is squarely on the Jews themselves rather than their persecutors. Wasserstein’s aim is to ‘breathe life into dry bones.’ Based on vast research, written with compassion and empathy, and enlivened by dry wit, On the Eve paints a vivid and shocking picture of the European Jews in their final hour.

Bernard Wasserstein is Ulrich and Harriet Meyer Professor of Modern European Jewish History at the University of Chicago. His many books include The Secret Lives of Trebitsch Lincoln, which was awarded the Golden Dagger for Non-Fiction by the Crime Writers’ Association, and Barbarism and Civilization: A History of Europe in Our Time.

Daniel Wildmann is a historian and film scholar. He is deputy director at the Leo Baeck Institute London and lecturer in the Department of History at Queen Mary, University of London.

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Video

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Jonathan Safran Foer discusses his novel Here I Am with Hephzibah Anderson at an out-of-festival event.