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On the Eve: The Jews of Europe Before the Second World War Hardcover – May 1, 2012


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 576 pages
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster; 1ST edition (May 1, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 9781416594277
  • ISBN-13: 978-1416594277
  • ASIN: 1416594272
  • Product Dimensions: 9.4 x 6.6 x 1.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.8 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (19 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #450,749 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Review

"Takes the reader step by step through the history of the Jews of Europe between the two world wars and provides a comprehensive survey of their situation throughout the continent. It is a rare and excellent introduction, an evaluation that furnishes a deeper understanding of the events of the Holocaust." (Yad Vashem International Book Prize citation)

“Enthralling, heartbreaking… Wasserstein commands an intensive and incisive knowledge of the Jewish subculture …and, as may be seen, the ability to write about it evocatively.” (San Francisco Chronicle)

"Meticulous, closely researched, movingly evocative....As an encyclopaedic record of Jewish life before the second world war, Wasserstein's book is nothing less than a marvel. Nothing escapes his gaze....As he shows, Jewish society had a cultural richness and diversity to match any in Europe….Wasserstein's great achievement is to show just how far Jewish life in Europe was embattled even before war broke out in 1939. This was not some lost golden age.” (Sunday Times of London)

“A bright, hard glimpse at the final thriving days of European Jewry…[s]traightforward, scholarly and tidily organized…[a] wide-ranging, marvelously complete overview of a diverse, teeming civilization poised for ruin." (Kirkus Reviews, starred review)

“A substantive, perceptive, and highly valuable kaddish for lost lives and lost worlds.” (Publishers Weekly, starred review)

”At last, we have a comprehensive, richly textured account of Jewish life in Europe before the Holocaust. Bernard Wasserstein is unsparingly honest in his portrayal of a highly diverse, highly accomplished community, weakened by internal divisions and demographic decline as a much larger disaster loomed. On the Eve is essential reading for anyone seeking to understand the world that was about to disappear.” (Andrew Nagorski, author of Hitlerland)

“The Holocaust lingers in the memory not just because of the scale of the terror visited on Europe's Jews but because of the many, many questions the event has raised that remain unanswered. Wasserstein creates a kaleidoscopic portrait of the many different ways Jews lived from France into Russia. An important study with an important message.” (Michael Goldfarb, author of Emancipation: How Liberating Europe's Jews from the Ghetto Led to Revolution and Renaissance)

“Wasserstein chronicles European Jewry in the decade before the war, boldly exploring problems within the community as well as the external pressures of anti-Semitism…I suspect that we think we know all there is to know about this subject, but we don’t; Wasserstein should have us covered. Important.” (Library Journal)

About the Author

Bernard Wasserstein is Ulrich and Harriet Meyer Professor of Modern European Jewish History at the University of Chicago. His many previous 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.

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Customer Reviews

4.6 out of 5 stars
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See all 19 customer reviews
This is truly a fascinating book, and I recommend it very highly.
K. Kennedy
It is well known that many Jews tried to escape being regarded as Jews by changing their names or by conversion - here documented with many individual stories.
Ralph Blumenau
This is a remarkable book in that it provides a great deal of detail yet it does it in a way that is very easy to read, almost like a novel.
Rose S. Ijaz

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

32 of 34 people found the following review helpful By leona on June 21, 2012
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
this is an encyclopedic account of the final years of the Jewish tragedy of life in Europe.One can only marvel at the breadth of Wasserstein's research and his enviably graceful writing.He eschews polemics and though full of empathy and sorrow at the events he unfolds, nevertheless he never sinks into bathos.
Like the previous reviewer ,I believe every Jew and indeed every person who desires to know more than the "Cliff Notes" version of the History of the Jews in Europe until 1939 should read it.
It was recommended to me by a dear non-Jewish friend who insisted that I read it as one of the most profoundly moving books I would ever read.
He was right!
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20 of 22 people found the following review helpful By David A. Satter on August 22, 2012
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Bernard Wasserstein has performed a rare service, evoking with sympathy and honesty the lost world of the murdered European Jews. There are very few books that merit the description, "important" but this surely is one of those. It is fair minded and elegiac depicting European Jewish society with all its faults and contradictions but also its great virtues. In this way, Wasserstein conveys an intense sense of what was lost.
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12 of 12 people found the following review helpful By K. Kennedy on September 26, 2012
Format: Hardcover
On The Eve by Bernard Wasserstein tells the history of Jews in Europe in the 1930s by looking at their communities, relations with and within polities and civil society, the issues of assimilation and turning to Orthodoxy, and so on. Mr. Wasserstein studies communities both small and large, and spreads his observations from Spain eastward all across continental Europe, and brings the reader amazing insight into the world that existed, always with a sense of impending doom, but without judging individuals for the decisions they made (or did not make). Mr. Wasserstein also writes about the smaller communities within these communities--the deaf, the criminal world, the mentally ill, and so on--communities more often ignored and hidden than discussed by other authors. This is truly a fascinating book, and I recommend it very highly.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Ralph Blumenau TOP 1000 REVIEWER on February 8, 2013
Format: Hardcover
This portrait of the Jews of Europe in the period between the First and the Second World War of necessity covers much ground that will be familiar to people who have a good general knowledge of the subject; but there is an enormous amount that is not easily found elsewhere: Wasserstein's list of sources runs to 27 pages. In particular, in the early chapter he describes the life of the Jews in Amsterdam ("Jerusalem of the West") and gives detailed accounts of the Jews of Vilna ("Jerusalem of the North"), of Minsk ("Red New Jerusalem") and of Salonika ("The Jerusalem of the Balkans"). The atmosphere in the Jewish quarters of these places are all vividly described, and we are introduced to the names and deeds of the leading personalities in those communities of whom most readers will never have heard.

We learn in great detail of all the different religious groups and their schools in Eastern Europe; and about the position of women inside Jewish communities; about various kinds of Jewish delinquents. There is even a section about Jewish deaf-mutes and the institutions that cared for them. Jewish sporting achievements are recorded, and we learn that in table tennis "all the Polish national champions in the inter-war period were Jews".

It is well known that many Jews tried to escape being regarded as Jews by changing their names or by conversion - here documented with many individual stories. (There is also the story of an entire community of 80 Italian "primitive and illiterate" peasants converting TO Judaism in the early 1930s, persevering in the faith even after the fascists introduced anti-Jewish laws in 1938).
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Rose S. Ijaz on February 13, 2013
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This is a remarkable book in that it provides a great deal of detail yet it does it in a way that is very easy to read, almost like a novel. There is so much information about the Jews in Europe such as what they read, what they ate, what language they spoke, their profession, their family life, etc. It's a very engrossing and all encompassing portrayal of a group of people. The last chapter was so moving. I know what was going to happen, we all know, but Professor Wasserstein had me so invested in the outcome that I was moved to tears on the last page. I highly recommend this book.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Y. Rosenblatt on March 29, 2013
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This book offers even to the informed reader lots of new insights.
Full of facts, still eminently readable, it gives a sweeping overview on Jewish Europe between the wars.
The plight of a caged people, trying to escape the inevitable, is described very powerfully.
As an orthodox Jew, I am missing more info on the religious pre-war world, though.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Richard Mendelsohn on December 11, 2012
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Highly readable and engaging account of European Jewry on the eve of disaster. Strongly recommended to all with an interest in twentieth century Jewish history.
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By sharky on July 12, 2014
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Book although, advertised as new , was slightly damaged. Not enough to return, but not quite new either.
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