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32 of 34 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars magnificent
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...
Published on June 21, 2012 by leona

versus
3.0 out of 5 stars Three Stars
Book although, advertised as new , was slightly damaged. Not enough to return, but not quite new either.
Published 17 days ago by sharky


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32 of 34 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars magnificent, June 21, 2012
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This review is from: On the Eve: The Jews of Europe Before the Second World War (Hardcover)
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
5.0 out of 5 stars A lasting contribution, August 22, 2012
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This review is from: On the Eve: The Jews of Europe Before the Second World War (Hardcover)
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
5.0 out of 5 stars a fascinating history of a world about to be destroyed, September 26, 2012
This review is from: On the Eve: The Jews of Europe Before the Second World War (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
5.0 out of 5 stars A wealth of detail about the Jews of Europe between the wars, February 8, 2013
By 
Ralph Blumenau (London United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
(TOP 1000 REVIEWER)   
This review is from: On the Eve: The Jews of Europe Before the Second World War (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). There are striking portraits of Jews who publicly lambasted Jews as a group, and of a handful who wanted to be followers of Hitler - but this section is one of several that made me feel that, in his desire to be as comprehensive as possible, Wasserstein sometimes gives as much weight in his accounts to comparatively unrepresentative groups of Jews as he does to more representative ones. At other times he illustrates his general theme with innumerable instances, some vivid, others more of a catalogue.

As the Nazis led in the persecution of the Jews, many other countries, some, like Poland and Romania with their own antisemitic traditions and even Italy where Jews had been fully accepted stepped up their own anti-Jewish measures. A harrowing chapter goes into detail about the dilemma of Jews who desperately wanted to emigrate from these countries, and of Jews, like those of Polish origin, who were expelled from Nazi Germany and Nazi Austria, but were not admitted to Poland. Many of those who managed to get out of Germany were in refugee camps: "Indeed, in the summer of 1939, more Jews were being held in camps outside the Third Reich than within it."

In the face of all this, the Jews were deeply divided among themselves: the religious against the secular; the various socialist groups against each other and against the Jewish bourgeoisie; the Zionists, themselves divided between the General Zionists and the Revisionists.

But long before Wasserstein came to the mounting horror of the thirties, he showed the pressure which Jewish culture was experiencing, and which was not the direct result of persecution. There is, for example, a discussion of the decline of the several Jewish languages spoken in Europe, seen by Wasserstein as sign of the decline of the vitality of Jewish culture. Several times, from the opening to the closing pages, he shows how by 1939, before the Holocaust, "European Jewry was close to terminal collapse" (p.xvii), were indeed "far advanced on a road towards what one of their most perceptive and sympathetic observers called `race suicide'." (p. 434) This is shown many times over as he catalogues the diminishing fortunes of Yiddish plays, films, music, novels, libraries, newspapers, schools etc. The Holocaust of course speeded up the process, and it continued when that nightmare was over and has been chronicled in Wasserstein's earlier book, Vanishing Diaspora (1996).
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Wonderful portrayal of European Jewish life before the war., February 13, 2013
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This review is from: On the Eve: The Jews of Europe Before the Second World War (Hardcover)
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
5.0 out of 5 stars Lots of new insights, March 29, 2013
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This review is from: On the Eve: The Jews of Europe Before the Second World War (Hardcover)
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
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent book on European Jewry on the eve of the Holocaust, December 11, 2012
By 
Richard Mendelsohn (Waltham, MA United States) - See all my reviews
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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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3.0 out of 5 stars Three Stars, July 12, 2014
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This review is from: On the Eve: The Jews of Europe Before the Second World War (Hardcover)
Book although, advertised as new , was slightly damaged. Not enough to return, but not quite new either.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Wasserstein's "On the Eve", June 11, 2014
This review is from: On the Eve: The Jews of Europe Before the Second World War (Hardcover)
Admirable and rewarding for its scope and wealth of information.

Lest anyone get the wrong impression from other reviews, this book encompasses much more than anti-semitism; it provides an overview of broad swaths of inter-war cultural, political and economic life.

However, it did not have much of an overall theme or thesis. As a result, I think what we have here is more of a topically organized (and perfectly readable) collection of data rather than a great history.

Also, when I wanted to return to a few items I read, I could not find them with the index.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Great book, June 10, 2014
By 
Danielle Benzinger (Dallas, Texas United States) - See all my reviews
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Great book written by someone who knows his subject matter.
Very easy to read and so interesting.
In two more words ;Great book.
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On the Eve: The Jews of Europe Before the Second World War
On the Eve: The Jews of Europe Before the Second World War by Bernard Wasserstein (Hardcover - May 1, 2012)
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