Bernard Wasserstein, D.phil., D. litt.
Professor of History
University of Chicago
Born in 1948 in London, UK
Studied Modern History at the University of Oxford
History of Europe in the Twentieth CenturyA general history covering the period since 1914, to be published by Oxford University Press.
Krakowiec: Jews and Their Neighbours in a Small Polish Town, 1772-1946The project explores the collective relationships among Jews, Poles, Ruthenians (Ukrainians), and others in Krakowiec (Eastern Galicia), a characteristic small town of the Ashkenazic-Jewish heartland in the period between the Enlightenment and World War II. The project examines issues central to the history of modern Jewry and to the larger problem of ethnic relations in the era of the decline of multi-national empires and the rise of national states. Previous attempts to address these questions have been heavily distorted by apologetics, indictment, nostalgia, myth-making, or ideological blinkers. By means of deep immersion in every type of surviving historical evidence, this project aims to test some conventional assumptions about these communal relations and to analyse the stages in the town's evolution from a multi-ethnic to a uni-ethnic society.
Wasserstein, Bernard M. J. Vanishing Diaspora: The Jews in Europe since 1945. London: Hamish Hamilton, 1996 (US, Dutch, German, French, Romanian editions).
-. Divided Jerusalem: The Struggle for the Holy City. London: Profile Books, 2001 (US and German editions).
-. Israel and Palestine: Why They Fight and Can They Stop? London: Profile Books, 2003 (US and German editions).
Tuesday Colloquium, 26.10.2004
Krakowiec: Jews and their Neighbors in a Small Polish Town, 1772 - 1946
How did Jews and non-Jews relate to one other in the small towns characteristic of the Ashkenazi Jewish heartland between the Enlightenment and World War II? This question is central to the history of modern Jewry and to the larger issue of ethnic relations in the era of the decline of multi-national empires and the rise of uni-national states. Previous attempts to address it have been heavily distorted by apologetics, indictment, nostalgia, myth-making or ideological blinkers. In the hope of shedding light on this question, I seek to reconstruct the mental worlds, the social, economic and cultural networks, the quotidian concerns, and the religious and political outlooks of one such town. By means of deep immersion in every type of surviving historical evidence, I aim to recreate the collective life of the Jewish community in Krakowiec. The primary objective is to reconstruct the context, determining influences and evolving patterns of relationships between Jews and their neighbors during the transition from the old order to modernity, emigration, and extinction. The transformation of the town from a functioning tri-national organism to its diminished post-1946 status registers in miniature the seismic effects on the whole of eastern and east-central Europe of the collapse of four empires, the triumph of nation-states bent on ethnic homogeneity, and the separating-out of the peoples of the entire region.