Cesarani, David

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Male. Education: Oxford University, M.A., D.Phil.


Office—Department of History, Royal Holloway, University of London, Egham, Surrey, TW20 0EX, England. E-mail—[email protected]


Institute of Contemporary History and Wiener Library, London, England, director of studies; University of Southampton, Southampton, England, Parkes-Wiener Professor of Twentieth-Century Jewish History and Culture, director of the Parkes Institute for the Study of Jewish/Non-Jewish Relations.


(Editor) The Making of Modern Anglo-Jewry, Blackwell (Oxford, England), 1990.

Justice Delayed, Heinemann (London, England), 1992, also published as Justice Delayed: How Britain Became a Refuge for Nazi War Criminals, Phoenix Press (London, England), 2001.

The Jewish Chronicle and Anglo-Jewry, 1841-1991, Cambridge University Press (Cambridge, England), 1993.

(Editor, with Tony Kushner) The Internment of Aliens in Twentieth-Century Britain, Frank Cass (London, England), 1993.

(Editor) The Final Solution: Origins and Implementation, Routledge (London, England), 1994.

(Editor) Genocide and Rescue: The Holocaust in Hungary, 1944, Berg (Oxford, England), 1994.

A History of the Holocaust, Holocaust Educational Trust (London, England), 1995.

(Editor, with Mary Fulbrook) Citizenship, Nationality, and Migration in Europe, Routledge (New York, NY), 1996.

The Holocaust ("Studies in European History" series), Macmillan Press (London, England), 1996.

Britain and the Holocaust, Holocaust Educational Trust (London, England), 1998.

Arthur Koestler: The Homeless Mind, Free Press (New York, NY), 1999.

(Editor, with Paul A. Levine) Bystanders to the Holocaust: A Re-Evaluation, Frank Cass (London, England), 2002.

(Editor) Port Jews: Jewish Communities in Cosmopolitan Maritime Trading Centres, 1550-1950, Frank Cass (London, England), 2002.

Eichmann: His Life and Crimes, Heinemann (London, England), 2003.

(Editor) Holocaust: Critical Concepts in Historical Studies, Routledge (New York, NY), 2004.

The Jews and the Left, the Left and the Jews, Profile Books (London, England), 2004.


Historian David Cesarani has authored and edited numerous books on the Holocaust, Nazi war criminals, and the social and cultural experiences of European Jews, particularly those in Britain. As director of studies at the Institute of Contemporary History and Wiener Library in London, Cesarani drew upon the organization's extensive collection of materials on fascism and anti-Semitism to conduct his research. Cesarani has also served as the editor of several important essay collections based on papers presented at international conferences, and he has produced a major biography of Arthur Koestler, which is based on previously unavailable documentary evidence.

In his first edited volume, The Making of Modern Anglo-Jewry, Cesarani presents a collection of revisionist essays by ten scholars writing on aspects of Anglo-Jewish social history between 1858 and 1945. Earlier approaches to the subject neglected to include the common Jewish immigrant in favor of those few who made up the Anglo-Jewish aristocracy; the essays collected by Cesarani cover more ground, are more contemporary, and more critical. Among the broad themes addressed are the problems of Anglo-Saxon anti-Semitic attitudes and policies, issues of cultural survival in the face of assimilationist pressures, and distinctly Jewish social patterns in working-class immigrant communities in Manchester and Leeds, England. According to Times Educational Supplement reviewer Julia Neuberger, The Making of Modern Anglo-Jewry "gives [readers] a flavour of modern Jewish history, warts and all."

In his next book, The Jewish Chronicle and Anglo-Jewry, 1841-1991, Cesarani examines the social and historical significance of the oldest Jewish newspaper in the world, the Jewish Chronicle, founded in 1841. Cesarani contends that the paper "played a fundamental role in shaping Anglo-Jewish identity," in the words of New York Times Book Review contributor Robert Leiter. Religious themes have occupied only a small portion of the paper's pages; instead, it serves as the newspaper of record for the Anglo-Jewish community, as reviewer Bernard Wasserstein explained in the Times Literary Supplement. Wasserstein also remarked that the Jewish Chronicle reported "every major episode and development in the political and social history of the Jewish people."

Each of the nine chapters in The Jewish Chronicle and Anglo-Jewry, 1841-1991 begins with a brief biography of one of the newspapers editors, then moves on to descriptions of how national and world events were affecting Jews during that editor's administration. In particular, Cesarani focuses on how the Jewish Chronicle covered Nazism and Zionism. During the years of Hitler's persecution of European Jews, the paper's reporting was early, accurate, and constant, so much so that it lost readers on the grounds that "the facts it recorded so harrowed the feelings," noted Wasserstein. In 1896 the Jewish Chronicle printed Theodore Herzl's pamphlet, "The Jewish State," before it became Zionism's great rallying call. While the paper leaned toward support of the terrorist wing of the Zionist movement in the early 1940s, it subsequently moved to a more moderate position, and after 1948 often criticized Israeli policy toward the Arabs. In 1973, for example, it opposed Israeli settlement in the occupied territories, and in 1974 it proposed talks between Israel and the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) regarding a two-state solution. Such positions were contrary to those of the paper's readers, and letters of protest poured in despite the fact that angry readers continued reading the paper. In addition, Cesarani's book elucidates the inner workings of the paper, including struggles between editors and directors. Wasserstein observed in his review that the Jewish Chronicle's "real importance lies in providing the framework for Anglo-Jewry's sense of itself as a community." He concluded, "Cesarani's book demonstrates just how effectively [the newspaper] has performed that task."

In Justice Delayed: How Britain Became a Refuge for Nazi War Criminals, Cesarani describes how Baltic and Ukrainian collaborators involved in mass murders in Riga and Vilna were allowed to live untroubled lives in Bradford and Glasgow. Cesarani attributes this fact, at least in part, to eugenics-influenced immigration policies of the British Labour government, by which men and women of European stock between the ages of twenty and thirty were given preference over Afro-Caribbeans and Asians from the British Empire or Jewish survivors of the Holocaust. Outlining arguments used between 1986 and 1990 in Parliament and elsewhere to promote retroactive war crimes legislation, "Cesarani is remarkably successful in conveying the passions temporarily generated by the issue," according to Times Literary Supplement reviewer Michael Burleigh.

The Final Solution: Origins and Implementation, an essay collection on the Holocaust edited by Cesarani, was developed from a 1992 conference commemorating the fiftieth anniversary of the Wannsee meeting at which Nazi bureaucrats discussed the planned murder of the entire Jewish people, code-named the "Final Solution." The book's seventeen essays are divided into three sections. The first discusses the preconditions and ideology that "legitimized" mass murder, including the role of university-trained legal officials in the Nazis' sterilization program. The second section examines the timing of the decision to proceed with the Final Solution and the German invasion of the Soviet Union. The third section covers the implementation of the Final Solution in Poland, Lithuania, Croatia, France, and Germany, and the world's responses to it in America, Britain, and Palestine. The essays suggest, according to Times Literary Supplement contributor Antony Polonsky, that "a very large part of the German people" were not passive bystanders but "active participants" and that the same was true of the local population in Lithuania and (against Serbs) in Croatia.

Genocide and Rescue: The Holocaust in Hungary, 1944, another essay collection edited by Cesarani, addresses the deportation and extermination of Hungarian Jews near the end of World War II. Though Hungarian Jews had survived much of the war, in the spring of 1944 nearly half a million were rounded up and sent to Auschwitz, where the majority was gassed. Based on papers delivered at a 1994 conference in London, the volume's ten contributors consider whether protests against the deportations or condemnation by Catholic and Protestant church leaders would have helped to avert the tragedy. The book also considers whether leaders of the Jewish community were criminally negligent for failing to alert their constituencies of the Final Solution. As the collection makes clear, the politics behind such questions are complex and the answers uncertain. Writing in History Today, William D. Rubinstein commented that Cesarani's collection "often suffers from a complete failure" to grasp the broader context of events during the war. In particular, Rubinstein observed that the D-Day invasion, which was a major source of distraction for the Allies during the time of the Hungarian deportations, is not mentioned in the collection.

Cesarani has also edited essay collections on European migration and Jewish maritime traders. The first, Citizenship, Nationality, and Migration in Europe, which Cesarani edited with Mary Fulbrook, addresses the subject of national identity, ethnicity, and racial integration in Europe. Writing in the English Historical Review, Panikos Panayi dismissed several essays in the volume that espouse postmodern perspectives. However, Panayi commended Cesarani's "original" contribution, an essay on the history of British citizenship and nationality. Panayi concluded that the collection was "worthwhile" despite, in his view, the uneven quality of the essays and problems stemming from the contributors' divergent perspectives.

The second migration collection, Port Jews: Jewish Communities in Cosmopolitan Maritime Trading Centres, 1550-1950, focuses on European Jews who gathered as refugees around port cities and became involved in maritime trade, an aspect of Jewish history neglected by scholars. The volume consists of papers delivered at a 2001 conference on the subject at the University of Southampton. In defining "Port Jews," the contributors discuss the role of Jewish traders in various Mediterranean seaports as well as ports in continental Europe, Britain, the Black Sea, and South Asia, presenting case studies and suggesting future directions for research. According to Helen P. Fry, a reviewer for European Judaism, the collection represented an "important" contribution that would likely encourage further interdisciplinary investigation into the topic.

In 1998 Cesarani published a biography of Arthur Koestler, the first biography of Koestler to appear after his death in 1983. A brilliant and complex Hungarian-born Jewish intellectual, Koestler earned admiration for his political journalism and fiction, including the classic 1940 novel Darkness at Noon, which documented the hypocrisy and horror of ideological commitments—notably Soviet communism. As a student in Vienna, Koestler embraced the right-wing Zionism of Vladmir Jabotinsky and dropped out of school to go to Palestine as a journalist. During the 1930s Koestler joined the Communist Party and was imprisoned and nearly executed in Spain while reporting on the civil war. However, in 1938, in light of Stalin's purges and tightening party orthodoxy, Koestler terminated his communist affiliation, an act of political and moral courage that solidified his reputation as a champion of individual liberty. Koestler rejected Zionism after World War II and, to the bafflement of his admirers, devoted himself to paranormal pseudoscience during his later years.

In Arthur Koestler: The Homeless Mind, Cesarani suggests that Koestler's political and intellectual wanderings can be attributed to a restlessness and self-loathing stemming from his identity as a Jew. As Richard Powers observed in the National Review, Cesarani's thesis was likely shaped by the conditions of his access to Koestler's estate, which stipulated that he focus on Koestler's Jewishness so as not to compete with a full-length authorized biography already in progress. While noting that Cesarani's Jewish explanation "goes too far," Powers praised the book as a "prodigiously researched and satisfying biography." Jacob Heilbrunn, a reviewer for the Wilson Quarterly, similarly commended Cesarani's research but found fault in Cesarani's tendency to resort to "glib psychological theories" concerning Koestler's Jewish identity.

In reconstructing Koestler's personality, Cesarani also reveals disturbing incongruities between his public persona as a celebrated political moralist and his private life as a predatory womanizer. Praising Cesarani's book as "an absorbing biography," New Statesman reviewer Geoffrey Wheatcroft commented that the popularity of Cesarani's account had less to do with his analysis of Koestler's political or Jewish identity than revelations about "Koestler the sexual athlete, serial rapist, and misogynist." According to Bonnie Sallans, a reviewer for the Canadian Journal of History, Cesarani's biography is "well-researched" but relies too much upon "innuendo and interpretation" in exposing Koestler as a hypocritical domestic tyrant. A Publishers Weekly reviewer noted that Cesarani's juxtaposition of Koestler's public achievements and personal failings results in a biography that is at once "authoritative and ambivalent."



Booklist, October 15, 1999, Bryce Christensen, review of Arthur Koestler: The Homeless Mind, p. 409.

Canadian Journal of History, December, 1999, Bonnie Sallans, review of Arthur Koestler, p. 475.

English Historical Review, July, 1993, U. R. Q. Henriques, review of The Making of Modern Anglo-Jewry, pp. 765-766; September, 1994, Geoffrey Alderman, review of The Jewish Chronicle and Anglo-Jewry, 1841-1991, pp. 970-972; June, 1998, Panikos Panayi, review of Citizenship, Nationality, and Migration in Europe, p. 805.

European Judaism, autumn, 2003, Helen P. Fry, review of Port Jews: Jewish Communities in Cosmopolitan Maritime Trading Centres, 1550-1950, p. 151.

Foreign Affairs, November-December, 1999, Robert Levgold, review of Arthur Koestler, p. 139.

History Today, October, 1997, review of Genocide and Rescue: The Holocaust in Hungary, 1944, p. 60; December, 1998, William D. Rubinstein, review of Genocide and Rescue, p. 51.

Library Journal, October 1, 1999, Gene Shaw, review of Arthur Koestler, p. 90.

National Review, December 20, 1999, Richard Powers, review of Arthur Koestler, p. 58.

New Statesman, November 20, 1998, Geoffrey Wheatcroft, review of Arthur Koestler, p. 45.

New York Times Book Review, October 30, 1994, Robert Leiter, review of The Jewish Chronicle and Anglo-Jewry, 1841-1991, p. 47; January 2, 2000, Mark Mazower, review of Arthur Koestler, p. 7.

Publishers Weekly, November 8, 1999, review of Arthur Koestler, p. 54.

Times Educational Supplement, April 27, 1990, Julia Neuberger, review of The Making of Modern Anglo-Jewry, section A, p. 37.

Times Literary Supplement, April 20, 1990, Bernard Wasserstein, review of The Making of Modern Anglo-Jewry, p. 426; July 10, 1992, Michael Burleigh, review of Justice Delayed: How Britain Became a Refuge for Nazi War Criminals, pp. 6-7; May 6, 1994, Bernard Wasserstein, review of The Jewish Chronicle and Anglo-Jewry, 1841-1991, p. 9; May 6, 1994, Antony Polonsky, review of The Final Solution: Origins and Implementation, pp. 11-12; July 3, 1998, Istvan Deak, review of Genocide and Rescue, pp. 23-24.

Wilson Quarterly, winter, 2000, Jacob Heilbrunn, review of Arthur Koestler, p. 120.


H-Net Online,http://www.h-net.msu.edu/ (December 2, 1998), Keith H. Pickus, review of The Final Solution.

University of Southampton Web site,http://www.soton.ac.uk/ (August 4, 2004), profile of David Cesarini.