It is a major history examining the realities of Jewish life across
Europe up to the very eve of World War Two. This is the portrait of
a world on the eve of its destruction. Bernard Wasserstein presents
a disturbing interpretation of the collapse of European Jewish
civilization even before the Nazi onslaught. Wasserstein shows how
the harsh realities of the age devastated the lives of communities
and individuals. By 1939, the Jews faced an existential crisis that
was as much the result of internal decay as of external attack.
Ranging from Vilna ('Jerusalem of Lithuania') to Salonica with its
Judeo-Espanol-speaking stevedores and singers, and beyond, the
book's focus is squarely on the Jews themselves rather than their
persecutors. Wasserstein's aim is to 'breathe life into dry bones.'
Based on vast research, written with compassion and empathy, and
enlivened by dry wit, "On the Eve" paints a vivid and shocking
picture of the European Jews in their final hour.