Leeds Literary Festival

A Festival of Words and Ideas



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MiliM is non-profit making and run entirely by volunteers, we are proud to be able to offer an exciting programme of webinars during the Covid-19 crisis.

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Milim Spring 2019

Michael Tobias

Ich bin ein Berliner: (re)uniting 5 half-siblings from 4 different mothers

During the Covid19 pandemic in the UK in July 2020 a woman asked for help in identifying her newly-discovered (via DNA) Jewish birth-father. She could not imagine the story about to unfold. In the next three weeks, following the DNA trail and building family trees for each of 8 significant DNA hits on 3 different websites, her ties to four half-siblings were identified, all sharing the same father but with four different mothers. To be certain of the connections between the DNA matches and the half-siblings, it was necessary to use the JRI-Poland database to create family trees going back to the late 1700s. In the process the accuracy of the DNA-estimated family relationships could be compared with the true family relationships and the impact of any endogamy could be analysed.


Michael is a co-founder and Board Member of Jewish Records Indexing – Poland (1995-); Vice President of the Jewish Genealogical Society of Great Britain (JGSGB 2019-); Honorary Research Fellow – Genealogical Studies, University of Strathclyde (2020-); Former Vice President, Programming of JewishGen, Inc (1995-2018). He was Database matching consultant to the International Commission on Holocaust Era Insurance Claims.  Michael was awarded the International Association of Jewish Genealogical Societies Lifetime Achievement award in Washington in 2011. He was awarded the OBE for services to the Jewish Community in the Queen’s New Year Honours List 2021.

Abigail Green

Sir Moses and Lady Judith Montefiore: Between tradition and Modernity

Humanitarian, philanthropist, and campaigner for Jewish emancipation on a grand scale, Sir Moses Montefiore (1784–1885) was the preeminent Jewish figure of the nineteenth century—and one of the first truly global celebrities. His wife, Judith, too was a remarkable woman who dared to venture where European few Jewish women were able to tread. Drawing on her acclaimed biography of Sir Moses, Abigail Green will discuss the life, work and legacy of this extraordinary couple – and reflect upon what it tells us about the place of Jewish men and women in the modern world

Abigail Green is Professor of Modern European History at the University of Oxford and Tutor and Fellow in Modern History at Brasenose College. She is the author of a prize-winning biography of Sir Moses Montefiore, and writes regularly for publications like the Times Literary Supplement and the London Review of Books. Abigail is currently writing a history of international Jewish liberal activism for Princeton University Press, entitled Children of 1848: Liberalism and the Jews from the Revolutions to Human Rights. She is also leading a major collaborative research project on Jewish country houses, in partnership with the National Trust.

Tony Kushner

Beyond a Jewish yoke: the egg importers of Hull. A family story

The east European Jewish immigrants who settled in Britain from the 1870s to 1914 are remembered for their work in the clothing trade, and for furniture and shoe making and shop keeping. A less known but often successful occupation was their role in importing eggs from the Baltic and, more remarkably, Egypt. This talk will explain why this trade developed and why it is that I am not the great grandson of a multi-millionaire egg baron, but one that wasn’t quite so successful

Tony Kushner is Professor in the Parkes Institute for the Study of Jewish/non-Jewish Relations and History Department at the University of Southampton. He has written widely on the British Jewish experience, especially social history and comparative migration. His most recent books are The Battle of Britishness: Migrant Journeys since 1685 (Manchester University Press, 2012) and Journeys from the Abyss: The Holocaust and Forced Migration from the 1880s to the Present (Liverpool University Press, 2017). He is currently working on a study of a Jewish triple murderer and, with Dr Aimee Bunting, Co-Presents to the Holocaust. He is co-editor of the journal Patterns of Prejudice and deputy editor of Jewish Culture and History.

Tony Zendle

Kosher Foxtrot

Core to the ‘Golden Age of Dance Bands’ in Britain during the last century were the bandleaders.
Many came from the East End of London or North Manchester……and they were Jewish! They were there at the beginning of the Golden Age, and there at its decline. They hobnobbed with royalty, were regulars on the BBC and sold millions of records. They were the popstars of their era.
They played at the finest restaurants and cafes in Britain, or with the hundreds of thousands of ordinary people at dance halls, works canteens, village halls around the land.
When it was all over many struggled to come to terms with the changes, but some adapted and one or two became even more famous.
Discover their story, and how, if at all, their Judaism showed in what they did.

Born in the small shtetl of Manchester, Tony has a background as an educator and communicator, and is a trivia maven collecting the arcane and obscure, especially if Jewish. In recent years he has become aware that a great deal of Jewish History is being forgotten or ignored.


Tony has been working hard to rescue it from oblivion.  To this end he has written a number of books, including “Kosher Foxtrot”, “Jews and the Sea” and  “The Definitive Guide to Jewish Miscellany and Trivia”, and regularly gives talks to large and small groups. He is a member of the Jewish Historical Society of England  and was called by the Jewish Chronicle “a mine of information”

Gershom Gorenberg

War of Shadows

As World War II raged in North Africa, General Irwin Rommel was guided by an uncanny sense of his enemies’ plans and weaknesses. In the summer of 1942, he led his Axis army swiftly and terrifyingly toward Alexandria, with the goal of overrunning the entire Middle East. Each step was informed by detailed updates on British positions. The Nazis, somehow, had a source for the Allies’ greatest secrets.

Yet the Axis powers were not the only ones with intelligence. Brilliant Allied cryptographers worked relentlessly at Bletchley Park, breaking down the extraordinarily complex Nazi code Enigma. From decoded German messages, they discovered that the enemy had a wealth of inside information. On the brink of disaster, a fevered and high-stakes search for the source began.

War of Shadows is the cinematic story of the race for information in the North African theatre of World War II, set against intrigues that spanned the Middle East. Years in the making, this book is a feat of historical research and storytelling, and a rethinking of the popular narrative of the war. It portrays the conflict not as an inevitable clash of heroes and villains but a spiralling series of failures, accidents, and desperate triumphs that decided the fate of the Middle East and quite possibly the outcome of the war.

Gershom Gorenberg is an American-born Israeli journalist and blogger specialising in the Middle East and the interaction of religion and politics

To buy the book click here

Wendy Lower

The Ravine: A Family, A Photograph, A Holocaust Massacre Revealed

In 2009, the acclaimed author of Hitler’s Furies was shown a photograph just brought to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. The documentation of the Holocaust is vast, but there are few known images of a Jewish family at the actual moment of murder, in this case by German officials and Ukrainian collaborators. A Ukrainian shooter’s rifle is inches from a woman’s head, obscured in a cloud of smoke. The woman is bending forward, holding the hand of a barefoot boy. And—only one of the shocking revelations of Wendy Lower’s ten-year investigation of this image—the shins of another child, slipping from the woman’s lap. 
     Wendy Lower’s detective work—in Ukraine, Germany, Slovakia, Israel, and the United States—recovers astonishing layers of detail concerning the open-air massacres in Ukraine. Her search for the identities of the victims, of the killers—and, remarkably, of the photographer who openly took the picture, as a secret act of resistance—are dramatically uncovered. Finally, in the hands of this scholar, a single image unlocks a new understanding of the place of the family unit in the history and aftermath of Nazi genocide
Wendy Lower is the John K. Roth Professor of History and Director of the Mgrublian Center for Human Rights at Claremont McKenna College. Lower chairs the Academic Committee of the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum and served as Acting Director of the Jack, Joseph and Morton Mandel Center for Advanced Holocaust Studies of the USHMM (2016-2018).  She is the author of Nazi Empire-Building and the Holocaust in Ukraine (2005), The Diary of Samuel Golfard and the Holocaust in Galicia (2011); and co- editor (with Ray Brandon) of Shoah in Ukraine: History, Testimony, Memorialization (2008). Her book, Hitler’s Furies: German Women in the Nazi Killing Fields (2013) was a finalist for the National Book Award and has been translated into 24 languages. Her latest book, The Ravine: A Family, A Photograph, A Holocaust Massacre Revealed, was published in February 2021 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.

Meriel Schindler

The Lost Café Schindler

When Meriel Schindler’s father Kurt died in 2017, she felt compelled to resolve her mixed feelings about him, and to solve the mysteries he had left behind.
Kurt Schindler was an impossible man. His daughter Meriel spent her adult life trying to keep him at bay. Kurt had made extravagant claims about their family history. Were they really related to Franz Kafka and Oscar Schindler, of Schindler’s List fame? Or Hitler’s Jewish doctor – Dr Bloch? Where exactly was Kurt on Kristallnacht, the night that Nazis beat his father half to death and ransacked the family home?
Starting with a tower of photos and papers found in Kurt’s isolated cottage, Meriel embarked on an epic journey of discovery that took her to Austria, Italy and the USA. She reconnected family members scattered by feuding and war. She pieced together a unique story taking in two centuries, two world wars and a family business: the famous Café Schindler. Launched in 1922 as an antidote to the horrors of the First World War, this grand café became the whirling social centre of Innsbruck. And then the Nazis arrived…
Meticulously researched and highly moving, The Lost Café Schindler uses the story of the Café Schindler and the threads that spool out from it to weave together memoir, family history and the untold story of the Jews of the Austro-Hungarian Empire.


To purchase  The Lost Café Schindler  click here


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