Tony Judt, a highly praised and controversial historian who was a Pulitzer finalist in 2006 for his epic history of Europe, Postwar, died yesterday at his home in New York City. Judt, a native of London who in recent years was a professor of European studies at New York University, was 62. He had suffered from Lou Gehrig's Disease for years. Judt was a passionate Zionist in his younger years, but he eventually soured on his adopted country of Israel, once labeling it "belligerently intolerant."
Much of his work was about memory itself, how easily we misunderstand and discard the past. In a 2008 essay that served as the introduction to Reappraisals, published the same year, Judt worried that the West had advanced too quickly from the previous century's horrors, justifying the Iraq war and casually accepting the torture of prisoners. "Far from escaping the 20th century, we need, I think, to go back and look a bit more carefully. We need to learn again—or perhaps for the first time—how war brutalizes and degrades winners and losers alike."