Wasserstein, Bernard 1948- (Bernard Mano Julius Wasserstein)
Wasserstein, Bernard 1948- (Bernard Mano Julius Wasserstein)
Born January 22, 1948, in London, England; naturalized U.S. citizen; son of Abraham (a professor of classics) and Margaret Wasserstein; married Janet Barbara Sherrard (an administrator), November 29, 1981 (divorced, 1996); children: Charlotte Sophia. Education: Oxford University, B.A., 1969, M.A., 1972, D. Phil., 1974. Politics: "Moderate left." Religion: Jewish.
Office—Department of History, University of Chicago, 1126 E. 59th St., Chicago, IL 60637. Agent—Emma Sweeney, 245 E. 80th St., New York, NY 10021; David Higham Associates, 5-8 Lower John St., London W1F 9HA, England. E-mail—[email protected]
Oxford University, Oxford, England, research fellow at Nuffield College, 1973-75; University of Sheffield, Sheffield, England, lecturer in modern history, 1976-80; Brandeis University, Waltham, MA, associate professor, 1980-82, professor of history, 1982-96, director of Tauber Institute, 1980-83, department chair, 1986-90, dean of Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, 1990-92; Oxford University, fellow of St. Cross College and president of Centre for Hebrew and Jewish Studies, 1996-2000; University of Glasgow, Glasgow, Scotland, professor of history, 2000-03; University of Chicago, Chicago, IL, Ulrich and Harriet Meyer Professor of History, 2003—. The Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Israel, visiting lecturer, 1979-80, visiting fellow, 1984-85; University of North Carolina, fellow of National Humanities Center, 2002-03; Wissenschaftskolleg zu Berlin, visiting fellow, 2004-05; Sackler Institute for Advanced Studies, Tel Aviv University, Tel Aviv, Israel, visiting fellow.
Royal Historical Society (fellow), Royal Asiatic Society (fellow), Jewish Historical Society of England (president, 2000-02), Royal Institute of International Affairs, John Simon Guggenheim Foundation (fellow).
Golden Dagger Award, 1988, for The Secret Lives of Trebitsch Lincoln; fellow, National Endowment for the Humanities, 1994; D.Litt., Oxford University, 2001
Wyndham Deedes in Palestine, Anglo-Israel Association (London, England), 1973.
The British in Palestine: The Mandatory Government and Arab-Jewish Conflict, 1917-1929, Royal Historical Society (London, England), 1978, 2nd edition, Blackwell (Malden, MA), 1991.
Britain and the Jews of Europe, 1939-1945, Oxford University Press (New York, NY), 1979, 2nd edition, Leicester University Press (New York, NY), 1999.
(Editor, with Frances Malino) The Jews in Modern France, University Press of New England (Hanover, NH), 1985.
(With J.A.S. Grenville) The Major International Treaties since 1945: A History and Guide with Texts, Methuen (New York, NY), 1987.
Herbert Samuel: A Political Life, Oxford University Press (New York, NY), 1992.
Vanishing Diaspora: The Jews in Europe since 1945, Harvard University Press (Cambridge, MA), 1996.
Secret War in Shanghai, Houghton Mifflin (Boston, MA), 1999.
(Editor, with John Grenville) The Major International Treaties of the Twentieth Century, Routledge (New York, NY), 2000.
Israelis and Palestinians: Why Do They Fight? Can They Stop?, Yale University Press (New Haven, CT), 2003, 2nd edition, 2004.
Barbarism and Civilization: A History of Europe in Our Time, Oxford University Press (New York, NY), 2007.
Contributor to periodicals, including Times Literary Supplement, London Review of Books, Jerusalem Post, Ha-aretz, and the New York Times Book Review. Also contributor to the London Sunday Times, Independent, Evening Standard, Prospect, and Guardian.
Historian and university professor Bernard Wasserstein has devoted himself to the study of modern political and diplomatic history, including that of the Jews in Europe and the history of the Arab-Israeli conflict. "The picture which Dr. Wasserstein gives" in Britain and the Jews of Europe, 1939-1945 according to Elie Kedourie in the New York Review of Books, "is … an ugly one." Wasserstein reveals the contents of archives on British policy toward the Jewish victims of the Nazi Holocaust. He shows how the British refused to allow food aid to be carried through the economic blockade of Europe to concentration camp victims while permitting it for occupied Greece, how they constricted Jewish immigration to Palestine, and how they blocked proposals presented by Jewish organizations for the bombing of the railroad routes to Auschwitz. Telford Taylor in the New York Times Book Review noted Britain and the Jews of Europe, 1929-1945 as a "melancholy, moving and generally excellent book," noting that "Wasserstein has not written a neutral analysis of British policies, which he attacks in a powerful concluding summary. But his book is all the more forceful for its restraint, and the author deals directly, honestly and … effectively with the political arguments in defense of the British record."
In The Secret Lives of Trebitsch Lincoln Wasserstein chronicles the activities of Ignacz Trebitsch, who immigrated to England from Hungary as a young man. Under one of his many aliases, Trebitsch Lincoln, he became a member of the British Parliament in 1910, but it was only one of his many scams and plots. As Wesley K. Wark reported in the Toronto Globe and Mail, "Trebitsch Lincoln had all the makings of a great villain. He was a man without scruples, totally amoral, uprooted from society, hungry for power and conceited beyond measure. If this were not enough, he was also clever, a superb linguist and a dab hand at the minor arts of forgery, disguise and escape. Not loveable, but certainly charismatic." In addition to being a member of Parliament, Lincoln served stints as both a Christian missionary and a Buddhist monk, despite being born Jewish. He claimed also to be a spy, and a refusal by the British government to trade his espionage services for his freedom from forgery charges awakened in him his longtime desire to bring about the overthrow of the British Empire. To this end, it is surmised, Lincoln also involved himself in early far-right movements in Germany, despite the fact that many of his co-conspirators were anti-Semitic. But "in all the biggest things he tried," noted Wark, Lincoln was "a spectacular failure." John Gross in the New York Times reported that The Secret Lives of Trebitsch Lincoln "is a fascinating story, and Mr. Wasserstein makes the most of it, tracking down his quarry with wit and verve." Similarly, Douglas Porch in the Washington Post Book World observed that "Bernard Wasserstein has produced a very readable, impressively researched biography." Speaking in terms of previous biographies of Lincoln, New York Review of Books contributor R.H.R. Trevor-Roper wrote that "Wasserstein has gone much further, and deeper, been more critical, more reflective. This is surely the final work on a truly extraordinary career."
Wasserstein's biography, Herbert Samuel: A Political Life, takes as its subject a longtime British liberal politician. In the words of Roy Jenkins in the Observer, "Samuel was an able and diligent man of high public spirit who lived for a very long time, occupied a wide variety of public positions between 1905 and 1955, although not the ones he most coveted, and was a slight disappointment in most of them." Samuel was also Jewish, but that did not prevent him from favoring the agreement that former British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain made in Munich, Germany, with Nazi leader Adolf Hitler. Jenkins described Wasserstein's work as "extremely accurate"; Peter Clarke in the Times Literary Supplement labeled Herbert Samuel "an exemplary account."
Wasserstein looked at the sobering picture of Jewish life in Europe since World War II in Vanishing Di-aspora: The Jews in Europe since 1945. In 1939 nearly ten million Jews lived in Europe; Poland alone had a population of 3,250,000 Jews. The Nazi Holocaust took the lives of more than half the Jews in Europe. In the years since then, emigration, intermarriage, and a very low birthrate have reduced their numbers to less than two million in 1994; Poland's Jewish population had fallen to 6,000. Jewish languages—Hebrew, Yiddish, and Ladino—were almost extinct, and many elements of religious practice have vanished. In this "exceptional social and political history," as George Cohen described it in Booklist, Wasserstein concludes that European Jewry can only survive if its remaining members make a concerted effort to save it. Vanishing Diaspora is, in the words of a Publishers Weekly reviewer, "a provocative source for everyone concerned with the fate of European and indeed American Jewry."
Wasserstein turns his attention to the world of intrigue in Secret War in Shanghai. Under Japanese occupation for most of the war, the city of Shanghai was teeming with spies from Germany, Japan, France, Great Britain, the Soviet Union, the United States, and Nationalist China. Operatives frequently worked for more than one government, and criminal activity on the side was common. "Declining to appraise the worth of the frantic espionage, Wasserstein yet turns it into an unusual story of spies, overlayed with the brutalities customary to Japanese occupations in World War II," commented Gilbert Taylor in Booklist. A Publishers Weekly reviewer noted that for all the intelligence activity that went on in Shanghai, little of importance really came from it. Yet, "it is exactly this absence of momentous historical drama that gives the book its charm…. [It will] appeal to those who find irresistible the lifestyles of the eccentric, the raffish and the villainous."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
American Historical Review, June, 1986, Phyllis Cohen Albert, review of The Jews in Modern France, p. 675; February, 1990, Modris Eksteins, review of The Secret Lives of Trebitsch Lincoln, p. 139; April, 1993, John D. Fair, review of Herbert Samuel: A Political Life, p. 497; October, 1997, Sander L. Gilman, review of Vanishing Diaspora: The Jews in Europe since 1945, p. 1151.
Booklist, February 15, 1996, George Cohen, review of Vanishing Diaspora, p. 988; September 1, 1999, Gilbert Taylor, review of Secret War in Shanghai, p. 67.
Commentary, February, 1980, David Vital, review of Britain and the Jews of Europe, 1939-1945, p. 80.
Commonweal, July 31, 1981, Robert Leiter, review of Britain and the Jews of Europe, 1939-1945, p. 443.
Economist, July 5, 1986, review of The Jews in Modern France, p. 80; February 17, 1996, review of Vanishing Diaspora, p. S7.
Globe and Mail (Toronto, Ontario, Canada), June 4, 1988, Wesley K. Wark, review of The Secret Lives of Trebitsh Lincoln.
History Today, June, 1993, Geoffrey Wheatcroft, review of Herbert Samuel, p. 50.
Library Journal, June 1, 1985, Marie Marmo Mullaney, review of The Jews in Modern France, p. 126; March 1, 1996, Mark Weber, review of Vanishing Diaspora, p. 92; September 1, 1999, Mark E. Ellis, review of Secret War in Shanghai, p. 213.
New Statesman, July 7, 1989, Robin Lustig, review of The Secret Lives of Trebitsch Lincoln, p. 38.
New York Review of Books, November 22, 1979, Elie Kedourie, review of Britain and the Jews of Europe, 1939-1945, pp. 6, 8, 10; June 2, 1988, H.R.R. Trevor-Roper, review of The Secret Lives of Trebitsch Lincoln, p. 3.
New York Times, July 27, 1979, Joseph Collins, review of Britain and the Jews of Europe, 1939-1945, p. A3; May 17, 1988, John Gross, review of The Secret Lives of Trebitsch Lincoln, p. 20.
New York Times Book Review, October 7, 1979, Telford Taylor, review of Britain and the Jews of Europe, 1939-1945, pp. 7, 27; June 26, 1988, Julian Symons, review of The Secret Lives of Trebitsch Lincoln, p. 14.
Observer (London, England), January 19, 1992, Roy Jenkins, review of Herbert Samuel, p. 53.
Present Tense, spring, 1980, Robert O. Freedman, review of Britain and the Jews of Europe, 1939-1945, p. 56.
Publishers Weekly, January 22, 1996, review of Vanishing Diaspora, p. 56; August 9, 1999, review of Secret War in Shanghai, p. 333.
Smithsonian, July, 1988, William Dieter, review of The Secret Lives of Trebitsch Lincoln, p. 136.
Times Literary Supplement, April 22, 1988, Peter Clarke, review of The Secret Lives of Trebitsch Lincoln, p. 439; March 6, 1992, Peter Clarke, review of Herbert Samuel, p. 4.
Washington Post Book World, July 10, 1988, Douglas Porch, review of The Secret Lives of Trebitsch Lincoln, p. 7.