Bernard Wasserstein (University of Chicago), presents a public lecture on his new book, “The Ambiguity of Virtue: Gertrude van Tijn and the Fate of the Dutch Jews during the Second World War”. 16 June 2014, 5:15-6:30pm, Lecture Room 1, New College
In his new book, ‘The Ambiguity of Virtue: Gertrude van Tijn and the Fate of the Dutch Jews’, Bernard Wasserstein challenges the ahistorical interpretation of the role of the Nazi-appointed Jewish councils in Nazi-occupied Europe that was offered by Hannah Arendt in her Eichmann in Jerusalem. The Ambiguity of Virtue tells the story of Gertrude van Tijn’s work on behalf of her fellow Jews as the avenues that might save them were closed off. Between 1933 and 1940 Van Tijn helped organize Jewish emigration from Germany. After the Germans occupied Holland, she worked for the Jewish Council in Amsterdam and enabled many Jews to escape. Some later called her a heroine; others denounced her as a collaborator. Was she merely a pawn of the Nazis, or should she be commended for taking advantage of such opportunities as offered themselves to save Jews from the gas chambers? In such impossible circumstances, what is just action, and what is complicity?
Bernard Wasserstein is Professor Emeritus of Modern European Jewish History at the University of Chicago. He was born in London and educated at Oxford where he was later President of the Oxford Centre for Hebrew and Jewish Studies. His many books include The Secret Lives of Trebitsch Lincoln, which won the Golden Dagger award for Non-Fiction from the Crime Writers Guild, and On the Eve: The Jews of Europe before the Second World War, which was awarded the Yad Vashem international book prize in 2013. The Ambiguity of Virtue: Gertrude van Tijn and the Fate of the Dutch Jews is published in spring 2014 by Harvard University Press.