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Oct 2012 Journal

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A journalist remembers

Among the relatively few refugees from Hitler to have achieved prominence as a journalist in Britain is John Izbicki, who for 18 years, from 1969, covered education for the Daily Telegraph with notable intelligence and flair. Now Izbicki has written a characteristically readable and entertaining autobiography: Life Between the Lines (London: Umbria Press, 2012, 359 pp., £12.95). Speaking as a regular reader of Izbicki’s, I was surprised to learn that he was born Horst Izbicki in 1930, the son of Jewish parents from Berlin who arrived in Britain by boat on the night of 2-3 September 1939. (How he came to change his first name to John on the advice of an Oxford policeman is just one of many amusing reminiscences from an eventful life.)

Izbicki’s life represents something of a triumph of talent and self-belief over the handicaps confronting the son of impoverished refugees who spoke only broken English. To his parents’ pride, he graduated from Nottingham University, then became an officer in the army during his National Service. Having embarked on a career in journalism, he joined the Daily Telegraph in 1964, becoming its education correspondent in 1969. In the 1970s and 1980s, at least until Conrad Black took over the paper and installed Max Hastings as editor, he wrote the well informed and perceptive pieces that won him many a devoted reader as well as the confidence of successive Secretaries of State for Education, not least Margaret Thatcher.

I found Izbicki’s depiction of the worlds of journalism, education and politics quite fascinating. He also gives an unusually frank account of his personal life; readers are never allowed to forget the mark left on his family by the Holocaust, and few will remain unmoved by his account of his first wife’s early death. Altogether, a memoir to be savoured.

Anthony Grenville

previous article:European Jewry on the eve of destruction
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