Leningrad 1970

Fifty years ago, on Christmas Day 1970, a handful of British Jews gathered in the bitter cold outside the Soviet Embassy in Bayswater. The news had reached London the night before that two Soviet Jews, Mark Dymshits and Edward Kuznetsov, had been sentenced to death. The announcement on Christmas Eve of these draconian sentences had … Read more

On Harry Houdini

Review of Adam Begley’s Houdini: The Elusive American (Yale 2020) pp.221 If someone is described as a ‘Houdini’ today, it usually means that person is adept at getting out of difficult situations. In a sense, that is what ‘Harry Houdini’ – born Ehrich Weiss to an impoverished rabbi and his wife in Budapest – sought … Read more

Louis Jacobs and Jonathan Sacks

The sudden death of the respected former Chief Rabbi Jonathan Sacks elicited an outpouring of grief. Last month also saw the publication of a new biography of Rabbi Louis Jacobs, a revered and venerated Talmudic scholar in Britain. This ironic juxtaposition brought back memories of a controversy within British Jewry over 50 years ago which led … Read more

Journey into the Land of the Zeks

People in the gas chambers knew, when they were dying, that the world had risen up against their executioners. People in the (Soviet) camps, however, did not have even this consolation. These stark, shocking words were written by Julius Margolin over 70 years ago in Tel Aviv after a forced sojourn of five years in … Read more

On Viscount Allenby

Review of Allenby: Making the Modern Middle East, by C. Brad Faught, (I. B. Tauris 2020) pp.231 Edward Henry Hynman Allenby was born in 1861 in Brackenhurst, Nottinghamshire in comfortable circumstances — a Victorian squire, seemingly destined to govern the British Empire on behalf of the Queen-Empress. Yet he failed his civil service exams and … Read more

Thirty Years after Meir Kahane’s Death

Thirty years ago, on 5 November 1990, Rabbi Meir Kahane, founder of the Jewish Defence League (JDL) in the US and the Kach party in Israel, was gunned down by an Egyptian Islamist, El Sayyed Nosair, at the Marriot Hotel in Manhattan. He was 58 and a father of four. Kahane had repeatedly proclaimed his … Read more

Twenty Five Years after Rabin’s Murder

An interview with Itamar Rabinovich, Israeli Ambassador to the US 1993-1996 during Rabin’s tenure as prime minister Your biography of Rabin opens with a quote from Amos Oz that Rabin was not endowed with Ben-Gurion’s prophetic passion, Levi Eshkol’s warm gracefulness, Golda’s sweeping simplicity or Begin’s populist energy. How then would you characterise Yitzhak Rabin? … Read more

The Banality of Evil

Review of Review of Daniel Lee’s The S.S. Officer’s Armchair: Uncovering the Hidden Life of a Nazi, published by Hachette (New York 2020) PP.303 It all began at a dinner party in Florence. A guest related how a collection of documents, bearing the Nazi insignia, had fallen out of an old chair that her mother had … Read more

The Hitler Conspiracies

Review of Richard J. Evans’s The Hitler Conspiracies: The Third Reich and the Paranoid Imagination Published by Allen Lane, London 2020, pp. 276, price £20 This a compelling book about ‘fantasies and fictions, fabrications and falsifications’ — an excursion through five episodes of the Nazi period by the celebrated Cambridge historian, Sir Richard Evans. It … Read more