From Publishers Weekly
Today there are fewer than two million Jews in Europe, compared with 10 million in 1939. Brandeis history professor Wasserstein predicts that, as Europe's Jews continue to assimilate, intermarry and maintain an extremely low birthrate, the European Jewish community will become virtually extinct?both as a population group and as a cultural entity?unless Jews launch a revival of Hebrew and Yiddish culture. A provocative source for everyone concerned with the fate of European and indeed American Jewry, this history delineates Jewish postwar reconstruction, upward mobility and a traumatizing coming to terms with the past among Jews of western and eastern Europe, even as they faced resurgent anti-Semitism and nationalist xenophobia. His chronicle includes in-depth discussions of Soviet Jewish emigration, Christian?Jewish relations and the Jewish communities of England, France, Germany, Poland and Hungary.
Copyright 1996 Reed Business Information, Inc.
Wasserstein points out in this exceptional social and political history that in 1939 there were nearly 10 million Jews in Europe, but during the Holocaust more than half were murdered. By 1994, emigration and a surplus of deaths over births had reduced Europe's Jewish population again by more than half, to less than two million. Wasserstein, a professor of history at Brandeis University, predicts that by the year 2000 the number of Jews in Europe will not be much more than one million, the lowest figure since the Middle Ages. He believes that during the next two or three decades the Jews of Europe at best face slow diminution and at worst virtual extinction. (Poland's Jewish population of 3,250,000 in 1937 had been reduced to 6,000 by 1994, for example.) Wasserstein finds that Jewish languages (Hebrew, Yiddish, and Ladino) have practically died out in Europe, along with most elements of religious practice. In conclusion, his view is that survival of Europe's Jews will ultimately depend on the choices they themselves make. "If the Jews of Europe do, in the end, disappear, it will be because, as a collectivity, they lost the will to live," he sadly notes. George Cohen