Monday, April 7, 2014

International Book Prize for Holocaust Research Awarded to Dr. Avihu Ronen and Prof. Bernard Wasserstein

Dr. Avihu Ronen presenting a lecture on his book about the way in which
 the Shoah was perceived in Israel's first few decades
Scheduled for last December but delayed by the unprecedented Jerusalem snow storm that month, the 2013 Yad Vashem International Book Prize for Holocaust Research, in memory of Abraham Meir Schwarzbaum, Holocaust survivor, and his family members murdered in the Holocaust, was awarded Thursday, April 4, 2014 to Dr. Avihu Ronen for his book, Condemned to Life: The Diaries and Life of Chajka Klinger (University of Haifa and Yedioth Books, 2011) and to Prof. Bernard Wasserstein for his book, On the Eve: The Jews of Europe Before the Second World War (London: Profile Books, 2012). At the event, Dr. Ronen presented a lecture on his book and Sabina Schwarzbaum, daughter of the late Abraham Meir Schwarzbaum upon whom the International Book Prize is named after, spoke about her father and his dedication to Holocaust commemoration. 
The judges noted that: “Of all the books that were presented to the Book Prize Committee this year, two books were especially notable. Condemned to Life by Dr. Avihu Ronen weaves together meticulous research regarding different chapters of the Holocaust, with a thorough and sensitive account of the way in which the Holocaust was viewed during Israel's first few decades. Through a critical examination of both of these two central aspects, the author, a respected historian and son of Chajka Klinger, an activist and leader of the underground in Bedzin, Poland, seamlessly combines them together without compromising either. The book offers a rare blend of logic and emotion, humanity and power - a combination that sweeps the reader with it from the very first page and makes the book suitable for both researchers and the general public alike.”
Dorit Novak, Director General of Yad Vashem and Professor Dan Michman,
Head of the International Institute for Holocaust Research and Incumbent 
of the John Najmann Chair of Holocaust Studies attended the event
On the Eve provides a fitting response to the need, felt both in the research world and in higher education, for a broad, comprehensive analytical overview of European Jewry in its entirety and its situation and internal dynamics before the disaster. This lacuna has now been filled by Prof. Bernard Wasserstein’s study which is an excellent work of historical synthesis by a leading scholar that deals with the condition of European Jewry in the 1930's. The author deals with economics, politics, language, culture and intellectual life, institutions, beliefs, internal divisions and more. Elegantly written and organized in a generally thematic manner, the book provides a truly comprehensive, continent-wide step-by-step overview of the situation of European Jewry between the two World Wars which the author describes as "close to terminal collapse. Wasserstein has an unerring feel for telling an anecdote, poignant poem, folk song, or literary selection, all of which appear in abundance throughout his gripping narrative. On the Eve is a thought-provoking and rare academic introduction to European Jewish history during a crucial era, which provides an evaluative framework that allows for a deeper understanding of the Shoah and in many ways is a tour de force.
Sabina Schwarzbaum, daughter of the late Abraham Meir Schwarzbaum
upon whom the International Book Prize is named after, spoke about her
 father and his dedication to Holocaust commemoration
The Yad Vashem International Book Prize for Holocaust Research is dedicated to the memory of Holocaust survivor Abraham Meir Schwarzbaum and his family members murdered in the Holocaust: parents Yitzchak and Sara Salamonowicz, sister Rivka Friedman, and brothers Hershel, Gershon, Moshe and Pinchas Mendel. Meir Schwarzbaum, born in Czestochowa on Hanukkah, December 1922, survived the Holocaust in ghettos and camps, among them Theresienstadt and Buchenwald. Born Meir Salamonowicz and later known as Schwarzbaum, he built himself a new life after the war, dedicated to Holocaust commemoration. His daughter, Sabina Schwarzbaum, took it upon herself to continue his legacy, and to carry the torch of memory as an example for the generations to come.
The finalists this year were Alon Confino, Foundational Pasts: The Holocaust as Historical Understanding, Laura Jokusch, Collect and Record, Jewish Holocaust Documentation in Early Postwar Europe and Joanna Tokarska-Bakir, Okrzyki pogromowe. Szkice z antropologii historycznej Polski lat 1939-1946.
The members of the Yad Vashem Book Prize Committee for the year 2013 were: Committee Chairman Prof. Dan Michman, Yad Vashem and Bar-Ilan University, Israel; Prof. Sam Kassow, Trinity College, USA; Dr. Iael Nidam-Orvieto, Yad Vashem, Israel; Prof. Dina Porat, Yad Vashem and Tel Aviv University, Israel; Avner Shalev, Chairman of the Yad Vashem Directorate, Israel; Dr. David Silberklang, Yad Vashem, Israel; Prof. Dr. Sybille Steinbacher, University of Vienna, Austria.

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