Laboratory for World Destruction


Laboratory for World Destruction

Germans and Jews in Central Europe

Robert S. Wistrich

Studies in Antisemitism Series

410 pages
22 photographs, 2 maps, index


May 2007


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eBook (PDF)
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May 2007


$55.00 Add to Cart

About the Book

Published and distributed for the Vidal Sassoon International Center for the Study of Antisemitism
During the sixty years between the founding of Bismarck’s German Empire and Hitler’s rise to power, German-speaking Jews left a profound mark on Central Europe and on twentieth-century culture as a whole. How would the modern world look today without Einstein, Freud, or Marx? Without Mahler, Schoenberg, Wittgenstein, or Kafka? Without a whole galaxy of other outstanding Jewish scientists, poets, playwrights, composers, critics, historians, sociologists, psychoanalysts, jurists, and philosophers? How was it possible that this vibrant period in Central European cultural history collapsed into the horror and mass murder of the Nazi Holocaust? Was there some connection between the dazzling achievements of these Jews and the ferocity of the German backlash?
Robert S. Wistrich’s Laboratory for World Destruction is a bold and penetrating study of the fateful symbiosis between Germans and Jews in Central Europe, which culminated in the tragic denouement of the Holocaust. Wistrich shows that the seeds of the catastrophe were already sown in the Hapsburg Empire, which would become, in Karl Kraus’s words, “an experimental station in the destruction of the world.” Featured are incisive chapters on Freud, Herzl, Lueger, Kraus, Nordau, Nietzsche, and Hitler, along with a sweeping panorama of the golden age of Central European Jewry before the lights went out in Europe.

Author Bio

Robert S. Wistrich (1945–2015) was the Neuburger Professor of European and Jewish history at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and director of the Vidal Sassoon International Center for the Study of Antisemitism. He is the author of numerous books, including From Ambivalence to Betrayal: The Left, the Jews, and Israel (Nebraska, 2012) and A Lethal Obsession: Anti-Semitism from Antiquity to the Global Jihad (2010). His book Hitler and the Holocaust has been translated into more than twenty languages.


“Robert Wistrich has written a book which is not only profound in its analysis of modern Jewish identity in central Europe and outstanding in its feel for nuance, but is also a study marked by a wonderful clarity of thought and expression.”—Professor Gershon Shaked, Recipient of the Israel Prize in Modern Hebrew Literature

“Wistrich argues that during the period between Bismarck’s German Empire and Hitler’s rise to power, the contributions made by German and Austrian Jews significantly imprinted the cultures of Central Europe. Beyond that period, however, he claims, the demise of this cultural history occurred, in part, due to the ‘social psychology of envy.’ . . . It is a collection that will further the reader’s understanding of the periods of social envy and racism.”—Jewish Book World

"Well researched with footnotes and bibliography, this book is essential for Jewish, Holocaust, and academic libraries."—Hallie Cantor, Association of Jewish Libraries Newsletter

"An indispensible work that charts the course of events and ideas that ultimately led to the Holocaust." indispensable—Jack Fischel, New Jersey Jewish News

"Wistrich's expertise and clear prose provide reliable information alongside deft analysis, and give food for thought for novice and expert alike."—Daniel Mark Vyleta, European Historical Quarterly

Laboratory for World Destruction is a useful and thoughtful collection of essays about a range of political and cultural figures and their influence on the ‘Jewish Question’ in the Habsburg Empire. . . . Wistrich’s portraits are valuable for illuminating the special circumstances and obstacles to Jewish life in the Late Habsburg Empire.”—German Studies Review

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