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We expect everyone to read The Hare with Amber Eyes, by Edmund de Waal. When the author, a sculptor in London, inherits 264 small Japanese figures, he decides to take a journey through his family’s rise—and dramatic fall, which begins in Odessa, travels to Paris, and ends in Vienna.

Here you can buy the book in English.

Watch an interview with the author.


The second book we expect everyone to read is The Lazarus Project, by Aleksander Hemon. The latest novel by a writer now compared to Nabakov, this hysterical, poignant novel will bring you closer in touch with Sarajevo and its citizens than any other we know.

You can buy the book in English here.


1941: The year that keeps returning

The Vertigo Years Old Masters

Logavina Street

Sarajevo 1941 The Sleepwalkers

Memoirs and Reportage

On WWII Further Suggested Readings

Online Documentaries / Podcasts


The Vertigo Years. Change and culture in the west, 1900-1914, by Philipp Blom. As The Guardian wrote, this assessment of the gravity-eroding, giddying sweep of European cultural, social, political and spiritual change that permeated the first 15 years of the 20th century is an ambitious book. But Philipp Blom has pulled it off triumphantly.” During his meeting with our group on Friday, July 10 in Vienna, we will have the opportunity to discuss with him his thesis that war came only as a catalyst for permanent change to the already crumbling structure of Europe, rather than as an interruption to a mistakenly interpreted idyll.


1941: The Year That Keeps Returning, by Slavko Goldstein. Slavko Goldstein is a publisher, journalist and political activist in Croatia. The book has been hailed as one of the best Holocaust memoirs in recent years, and 1941 is a combination of family memoir and meticulous research. We will be having dinner with Slavko Goldstein in Zagreb.


Logavina Street, by Barbara Demick (sometimes sold under the title Besieged). Then a reporter at the Philadelphia Inquirer, Demick spent the better part of a year during the siege of Sarajevo getting to know the residents of one narrow street in the city center. By focusing on each household, Demick brings the horrors, the boredom and the pain of what it was like to live in a city surrounded by rockets, mortars and snipers.


Sarajevo 1941 by Emily Greble. Her doctoral study—based on contemporary documents--on how Sarajevo’s multi-ethnic society reacted during the Second World War. Greble spoke at our summer academy in Sarajevo in 2011. Go to our home page, click on podcasts, and you can find her lecture online.


The Sleepwalkers, by Christopher Clark. Over the past century, more than 25,000 books have been written on the origins of the First World War. It seems another 25,000 have been written this year alone. There are several important books to recommend, but we suggest this very well written history as a starting point.


Old Masters, by Thomas Bernhard. This short novel is one long monologue, in which one elderly friend meets another friend each week in front of a Tintoretto in the Kunsthistorishes Museum in Vienna. His friend rails at what perfectly horrible people the Austrians are. Written by an author who makes all other misanthropes seem like St Thomas Aquinas, this is the funniest and most brilliant book one can find on postwar Austria.


Just released is Tim Butcher's book, The Trigger, a portrait of Gavrilo Princip, the Bosnian Serb teenager whose assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand triggered The First World War. Butcher takes us, literally by foot, through Bosnia and Serbia, and his story interweaves the First World War, the Second World War, and the Bosnian War all in a breathless, confidently-told narrative. Historians such as Christopher Clark have described Butcher's books as "a masterpiece of historical empathy and evocation," and the Financial Times called it one of the best books on the First World War. If that's not enough to get you ordering it, here's an NPR interview with Butcher. With his deep, melifluous voice and splendid English accent, Tim Butcher also narrates one of our most popular documentary films, Maps, Central Europe and History


Edmund de Waal has been on many interview shows on radio and television, but we like his interview in the San Francisco JCC best

If there are films specifically about the Holocaust in Yugoslavia, we don't know of them. And while Vienna is mentioned in several films, we have none specifically to recommend. 

We do suggest this HBO/BBC production of Conspiracy, a 90 minute feature film directed by Frank Pierson and starring Stanley Tucci and Kenneth Branagh about the Wannsee Conference.

The best documentary series on the Second World War, in our opinion, is the BBC production of The Nazis: A Warning from History. The series producer was Laurence Rees and it was released in 1997. The historical advisor was Sir Ian Kershaw, certainly one of the best historians writing on the subject.You can find the entire series free at this link


The Pity of It All by Amos Elon. Here is a link to the amazon page so you can order the book in English, and here is a page for ordering the same book auf deutsch. Here is a page for ordering the book in Hebrew. Here is an insightful review of Elon’s book in The Guardian in English, and here is a review in German in the Frankfurt Allgemeine Zeitung.  This is a review of the book in Hebrew. It can be found on Yad Vashem’s site. Here is a poignant article about Amos Elon, a Viennese-born, Israeli journalist, written by Tony Judt in 2009, just after Elon died.

Defying Hitler, by Sebastian Haffner. When newspaper writer, editor and historian Sebastian Haffner died in 1999 at the age of 91, his son found a manuscript he had written in 1939, after he had fled Germany for England. Haffner, known for his best selling book, The Meaning of Hitler (English title) and other histories of Germany, had never thought to publish this very personal memoir. His son did publish it a few years later, and it soared to the top of the best-seller list, where it remained for 42 weeks. Here is a link to the book in English. And here it is in German.

The Holocaust, by Wolfgang Benz. Concise and to the point. By one of Germany’s leading scholars

Bloodlands, by Timothy Snyder. Snyder is one of the most important historians working today and this study is based on years of archival research in Poland, Russia, Lithuania, Germany and Ukraine. This book details how both Stalin and Hitler treated the lands between them--the Baltics, Poland and Ukraine, and how many people they shot, starved and gassed. A very powerful historical study. It is one of the most important books written on the Holocaust in the past decade.

All or Nothing by Jonathan Steinberg. A portrait that compares German with Italian troops in five common war zones, most of them in the Balkans. The summary at the end is devastating. A very important book.

The Gestapo and German Society by Robert Gellately. Only two cities did not have their SS records destroyed, and Gellately explores the relationship between the unpaid informers and the SS. Not a pretty conclusion.

Ordinary Men, by Christopher Browning. Truly a landmark study. This short book details how a group of reservists from Hamburg, many of which had exhibited no hardline Nazi tendencies, turned themselves into brutal murderers. There are very difficult chapters to read regarding atrocities, but these are what Browning uses to set up his conclusion.

Highly recommended: click here to read the transcript of a discussion between Daniel Goldhagen (Hitler’s Willing Executioners) and Christopher Browning.


George Clare, who died in 2009, wrote a memoir, Last Waltz in Vienna, a poignant family history. The book has been in and out of print for years, and you can find it on or The Independent in London published this obituary on Clare.

We also recommend Anne-Marie O'Connor's The Lady in Gold,which tells the story of Gustav Klimt's painting of Adele Bloch-Bauer. Adele died in 1934 and in her will, she asked her husband to donate the portrait to an Austrian museum. Yet in 1938, her husband fled Vienna for his life and died in greatly reduced circumstances in Switzerland. He was the painting's owner and wanted to give it to his niece, Marie Altman. The Austrians would not budge. Into the picture walked a young, relatively untested lawyer, Randol Schoenberg. O'Connor, an investigative reporter for The Los Angeles Times, digs deep into turn-of-the-century Vienna, the Second World War, and Schoenberg's battle to get the painting back. The book is now being filmed in Vienna, with Helen Mirren playing Marie Altman. Reviews of the book have been stellar, like this one.


There are surprisingly few books in English on the Holocaust in Austria, but two years ago, Polity Press brought out a translation of Doron Rabinovici's excellent Eichmann's Jews, a study of the leadership of the Vienna Jewish community and how they were trapped into cooperating with Adolf Eichmann. A chilling, sober study and highly recommended. 


Turning our attention to Yugoslavia during the Second World War, we begin by recommending David Albahari's brilliant novel, Goetz and Meyer. Written in stream-of-conscisouness and in a single paragraph, a teacher in Belgrade wonders just what the two men (and these are, in fact, their names) who drove the infamous gas van chatted about all day. There is truly nothing like it and we recommend it highly.Here is how The Guardian described it.