2014 Adam Cherrick Lecture - The Ambiguity of Virtue: Gertrude van Tijn and the Fate of the Dutch Jews

Bernard Wasserstein

Bernard Wasserstein’s The Ambiguity of Virtue: Gertrude van Tijn and the Fate of the Dutch Jews challenges the interpretation of the role of the Nazi-appointed Jewish councils in 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 refugee emigration from Germany. After the Germans occupied Holland in 1940, she worked for the Jewish Council in Amsterdam and enabled many more Jews to escape. Later, some 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 opportunities to save Jews from the gas chambers? In such impossible circumstances, what is just action, and what is complicity?

BERNARD WASSERSTEIN is the Harriet and Ulrich E. Meyer Professor Emeritus of Modern European Jewish History at the University of Chicago. Born in London in 1948, he studied history at Oxford. From 2003 to 2013 he taught at the University of Chicago. Before that he was President of the Oxford Centre for Hebrew and Jewish Studies.

Wasserstein's books include Britain and the Jews of Europe 1939-1945 (1979), The Secret Lives of Trebitsch Lincoln (1988) which was awarded the Golden Dagger for Non-Fiction by the Crime Writers Association, Vanishing Diaspora (1996), Divided Jerusalem (2001), Israel and Palestine (2003), and On the Eve: The Jews of Europe Before the Second World War (2012) which was awarded the Yad Vashem International Book Prize. His latest book, The Ambiguity of Virtue: Gertrude van Tijn and the Fate of the Dutch Jews is published by Harvard University Press.

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Jordan and Lorraine Cherrick of St. Louis, Missouri, established the Adam Cherrick Fund in memory of their son in 1989, with the purpose of advancing Jewish studies at Washington University.  Since its inception, the Adam Cherrick Fund has benefitted the university community and St. Louis at large by bringing world-renowned scholars to speak on campus.

Past Adam Cherrick Lectures

2013      David M. Stern, University of Pennsylvania

2011      Marc Saperstein, Leo Baeck College

2009      Peter Schäfer, Princeton University

2008      David Goodblatt, University of California, San Diego

2007      Charlotte Elisheva Fonrobert, Stanford University

2006      Menachem Kellner, University of Haifa

2005      Derek Penslar, University of Toronto

2004      Susan Niditch, Amherst College

2003      Kenneth Seeskin, Northwestern University

2002      Leonard Fein, Founding Editor, Moment Magazine

2001      Jeffrey Gurock, Yeshiva University

2000      Martin Jaffee, University of Washington-Seattle

1999      Fred Lazin, Ben Gurion University

1997      David Berger, Brooklyn College

1996      Pnina Lahav, Boston University

1995      David Novak, University of Virginia

1993      Haym Sloveitchik, Yeshiva University