Jacob Presser was born in Amsterdam , an Israeli family, in 1899 . In 1926 he obtained his doctorate in the University of this capital. For his Jewishness, this professor and historian had to jump into hiding during the Nazi occupation of the Netherlands . His first wife, his former student at the Lyceum in Amsterdam, was sent to the extermination camp of Sobibor (Poland), a victim of the “final solution” of Hitler . Presser gave her a poignant book of poems entitled Orpheus , which circulated clandestinely during the war and was reissued for the second time after the 1945 liberation. Before, in 1942, he had passed from hand to hand and in mimeographed form, his poem Exodus .
Jakob Presser died in 1970 at the age of 71.
His first work, The Eighty Years’ War (a history of the Dutch rebellion during Spanish rule), appeared in 1941, with the name of a non-Jewish friend of his, who ran the risk of being the author of the book; The work was soon banned by the Germans when it discovered certain political nuances.
After the liberation, Presser has published other historical works, one of them Napoleón, history and legend (1946), deserved the prize Wijnandts-Francken; In 1949 appeared America, from colony to world power , history of the United States.
Already in 1957 Presser offers to the public not versed in history a complete creative work that, at the same time, fulfills the function of book-witness. It is The Night of the Girondins , first published in Amsterdam after being selected as a gift at the Dutch Book Week of 1957. Soon this book-testimony was a sensational success, elected unanimously three months later for the Van der Hoogt Prize, awarded biannually by the Dutch Society of Literature for the best work of creation.
In 1958, The Night of the Girondins was translated into English and sold in the United States, where, as in Holland, it shocked its many readers.