The Road to September 1939

Polish Jews, Zionists, and the Yishuv on the Eve of World War II

Jehuda Reinharz and Yaacov Shavit

In European and Holocaust historiography, it is generally believed that neither the Zionist movement nor the Yishuv were mindful of the plight of European Jews in the face of the Nazi threat during the 1930s. Drawing on a wide variety of memoirs, letters, and institutional reports by people from all walks of life, this volume sheds new light on a troubled period in Jewish history. Jehuda Reinharz and Yaacov Shavit trace Jewish responses to developments in Eastern and Central Europe, as well as reactions to British policy on the question of a Jewish homeland, to show that Zionists in the Yishuv worked tirelessly on the international stage on behalf of their coreligionists in Europe. Nevertheless, their efforts were all too often shattered by the realities of their powerlessness and lack of resources. Piercing to the heart of conversations about how or whether to save Jews in an increasingly hostile Europe, this volume provides a nuanced assessment of what could and could not be achieved in the years just prior to World War II and Holocaust.

Paper: $40 | Cloth: $50 | E-book: $34.99
ISBN-13: 9781684580071
Pages: 408 | Size: 6 in. x 9 in.
Date Published: January 2, 2018

This valuable book is a corrective to simplistic views of strategies of the Zionist leaders of European Jewry in general just before the Holocaust… Highly recommended.



  • This valuable book is a corrective to simplistic views of strategies of the Zionist leaders of European Jewry in general just before the Holocaust. ... Highly recommended.

  • This well-researched and pathbreaking book challenges the widely held view that the Zionist movement effectively failed to respond to the worsening situation of European Jewry in the years between 1933 and 1939. Based on a detailed analysis of the situation of the Jews of Poland, it provides a clear account of what the different Zionist leaders attempted to do and why their efforts were doomed to failure. It is essential reading for all interested in the Jewish response to the rise of Nazism and the tragic fate of European Jewry

    Antony Polonsky
    emeritus professor of Holocaust studies, Brandeis University, and chief historian, Museum of the History of Polish Jews in Warsaw
  • This remarkable history focuses on Polish Jewry on the eve of catastrophe against the backdrop of the international arena, including the Yishuv and the Zionist movement worldwide. Its authors muster an outstanding wealth of details and of insights at all levels of their narration. “The Road to September 1939” is a major achievement.

    Saul Friedländer
    professor emeritus, UCLA, and author of “Nazi Germany and the Jews”
  • An incredibly important book documenting how helpless European Jews and the Jewish community in Palestine were on the eve of September 1939. The reader may be tempted to speculate how differently history might have turned out had a Jewish state existed in the 1930s that could have offered a safe haven to those intent on fleeing the gathering storm in Europe. The phrase “never again” assumes a deeper meaning: the difference Jewish sovereignty could have made.

    Shlomo Avineri
    Hebrew University of Jerusalem, and author of “Herzl’s Vision: Theodor Herzl and the Foundations of the Jewish State”

About the Author

Jehuda Reinharz

Jehuda Reinharz is the Richard Koret Professor of Modern Jewish History at Brandeis University, where he served as President for seventeen years. He is the author and coauthor of more than thirty books in Jewish studies, including The Road to September 1939: Polish Jews, Zionists, and the Yishuv on the Eve of World War II and Zionism and the Creation of a New Society. He is the president and chief executive officer of the Jack, Joseph, and Morton Mandel Foundation.

Yaacov Shavit

Yaacov Shavit is professor emeritus at Tel Aviv University. He wrote, with co-author Jehuda Reinharz, Darwin and His Circle and Glorious Accursed Europe: An Essay on Jewish Ambivalence.

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