Odessa: Genius and Death in a City of Dreams
Until World War II, Odessa was one of Europe's great multicultural cities, a place of optimism and light. For nearly a century its colorful street life inspired poets and writers like Alexander Pushkin, Mark Twain and Isaac Babel. It was also a major center of Jewish culture, and by 1941 Odessa had 200,000 Jews living within its bounds—over a third of its population. But by the end of the war there were only 48 Jews left. Many had perished in a gruesome—but still largely unknown—episode of the Holocaust.
On this episode of Locus Focus we talk with historian Charles King, author of Odessa: Genius and Death in a City of Dreams. His new book explores the greatest port on the Black Sea, examining the enduring mystery at the heart of Odessa’s story: how a city once known for its freewheeling and cosmopolitan culture ended up nearly destroying itself during the Second World War.
Charles King lives in Washington, DC, where he is a professor of international affairs and government at Georgetown University. He is the author of four books on Eastern Europe and a frequent commentator on events in the region for television, radio, and the press.