David Cesarani, British Jewish historian, Died at 58

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David Cesarani was born on November 13, 1956, and passed away on October 25, 2015.

David was an English historian who specialised in Jewish history, especially the Holocaust.

He also wrote several biographies, including Arthur Koestler: The Homeless Mind (1998).

David was a member of the Home Office Holocaust Memorial Day Strategic Group and has been Director of the AHRC Parkes Centre, part of the Parkes Institute for the Study of Jewish/non-Jewish Relations.

He is co-editor of the journal Patterns of Prejudice and the Parkes-Wiener Series of books on Jewish Studies (published by Vallentine-Mitchell).

David campaigned against David Irving, the Holocaust denier, alongside fellow academic Peter Longerich.

At times, his campaigning has itself caused controversy, such as the occasion he reputedly suggested that the Irving case revealed free speech was something that should be strictly controlled.

Journalist David Guttenplan commented Cesarani’s remarks were “more dangerous than anything David Irving has ever said or written.”

In February 2005, David was awarded an OBE for “services to Holocaust Education and advising the government with regard to the establishment of Holocaust Memorial Day”.

David was strongly critical of Hannah Arendt in his Eichmann biography, which itself was sharply criticized in a review that appeared in The New York Times Book Review.

Noting that Arendt and Eichmann shared similar backgrounds, David suggested that they shared a common disdain for Eichmann’s prosecutor, which the reviewer characterized as a “slur reveals a writer in control neither of his material nor of himself.”

He saw the controversy over the Israeli West Bank barrier as being unimportant, and that it is used as a photo opportunity for the world’s media.

Of the wall itself “it’s a concern if land is misappropriated from the Palestinians, or if Palestinian lives become intolerable, but its true significance is in the total disintegration of trust between Jews and Palestinians”, though he also believed some reactions to the barrier have been under-reported, for example that “some Arab towns, especially in southern Galilee, have welcomed the wall as a means of preventing Palestinians entering Israeli towns and adding to the unemployment and instability.”

David recalled his experience while working in a kibbutz: “We were always told that the pile of rubble at the top of the hill was a Crusader castle.

It was only much later that I discovered it was an Arab village that had been ruined in the Six-Day war.”

David believed that Israel’s right to exist is unquestionable, and that “enying the right of Israel to exist begs some serious questions.”

David died at age 58 in October 2015.

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