“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”
In Memoriam Members and Friends
Hon. Richard Brodsky
Richard Brodsky, New York State Assembly lawmaker for Westchester has sadly passed away, April 8th in Greenburgh, New York. Born in 1946, Brodsky earnt a Bachelor of arts degree in Politics at Brandels University and a Juris law degree at Harvard University. He was a member of the New York State assembly from 1983 until his retirement in 2010. Brodsky was instrumental introducing the Environmental Protection Fund and the 2009 Public Authorities Reform Act, which bringing oversight and accountability to 700 authorities in the state.
During his illustrious career, Brodsky was involved in all aspects of constitutional convention, environment and telecommunications legislature that helped the lives of the people he represented. Senate Majority leader, Andrea Stewart-Cousins wrote on Twitter. “Richard was a fierce advocate for his constituents, and I was proud to stand with him as a member of the Westchester delegation to the State Legislature.”
Richard Brodsky was on the Board of Advisors of the Global Panel. Chairman of the Global Panel and President of the Prague Society, Professor Marc Ellenbogen writes about Mr Brodsky “I am pained and shocked to hear of Richard Brodsky’s death from the Corona virus. We met in 1988 when he was in the New York State Assembly. He was a feisty. tough and deeply thoughtful public advocate. During one of his many campaigns, we began sparring on numerous issues. This continued many times as we met in New York City over the next 30 years. I particularly remember a lunch with him and the grand actress Lauren Bacall at the majestic Shadowbrook Manor in Tarrytown, NY – where our intensive debate continued with Ms. Bacall joining in. Richard Brodsky brought honour and integrity to public office – a rarity in today’s arrogant, self-important and narcissistic political world.”
Sir Roger Scruton 1944 – 2020
Oxford, Hon. Barbara Day, Sir Roger Scruton, Hon. Jessica Douglas-Home
Sir Roger Scruton, former Member of The Prague Society and a great Friend, passed away.
“Dearly beloved, controversial and strong-willed, Sir Roger Scruton was a cornerstone of the creation of The Prague Society – born out of the fight against Communism. A close friend of Václav Havel, Pavel Bratinka and Barbara Day, he was a stalwart in the fight to pursue freedom and democracy for Central and Eastern Europe. Never deterred by risk of arrest from the StB, AVO or Stasi (Secret Police), Roger endeavoured in the fight to preserve the freedoms of future generations of both the Czech and Slovak people. A great spirit has passed. And already he is greatly missed.”
Prof. Marc S. Ellenbogen – on behalf of the Members, Friends and Patrons
“Roger Scruton first visited Czechoslovakia in 1979, halfway through ‘normalisation’. The first people he met were the groups of students banned from university education, whose desire for learning made such a great impression on him. He made many close friends and over the next decade devoted much of his time and energy in making sure the students got the best teaching, materials and support that was possible by underground means under a repressive regime.
I first met him in 1985, a few days after he had been expelled from Czechoslovakia, and we became close colleagues. He was a joy to work with – energetic, imaginative, humorous, tolerant, practical. He also trusted people and built their confidence. He was not afraid to imagine the impossible and made it happen. His attachment to the Czechs continued after
1989 and in November last year, although already seriously ill, he gladly made the enormous effort to come to Prague to receive the Senate’s Medal.”
Hon. Barbara Day
Ing. Antonín Dočkálek, CSc. 1939 – 2020
On Sunday 12th January 2020, Ing. Antonín Dočkálek, CSc. has died at the age of 81. He achieved a prestigious education despite being born in bad times. Most of his life he worked at the Research Institute for Communication Technology (VÚST). He was the holder of several medical electronics patents that helped him acquire an internship at UNC in North Carolina from 1968-1970 and in 1993-1994 a Fulbright Fellowship, as well as an internship at UNC at Chapel Hill as a researcher.
For his family and the wider world, Tony has been and will remain forever an example of an extremely intelligent and honest man, an exemplary and caring dad, and a good husband.
“Antonín Dočkálek, a very close friend of the Prague Society has passed away at the age of 81. Antonín was the head of the Centre for theoretical Studies here in Prague. For twenty year he dedicated his time to working in various fields. He was a strong patron of the Prague Society and good friend to all that knew him”.
Prof. Marc S. Ellenbogen
“I was shocked to hear of the death of Toni Dockalek, who has been a wonderful friend over the years – the news came from his widow Jirina, who wrote that he died at home surrounded by his family. Toni was not an extrovert person, but always kind and helpful, and a great source of thoughtful information. I will miss him very much.”
Hon. Barbara Day
Tanya Heidelberg-Yopp 1963 – 2019
Tanya Heidelberg-Yopp was the Chief Counsel for MTV, interim chief executive officer of United Way for Southeastern Michigan, after having served as its chief operating officer. Heidelberg-Yopp earned a degree in telecommunications management from Syracuse University, a law degree from New York University School of Law and a degree in management development from Harvard Business School. She received the Syracuse University Chancellor Citation for Outstanding Young Alumni and the Thurgood Marshall College Fund Award of Excellence. Heidelberg-Yopp, 56, of Detroit died Nov. 13 of brain cancer.
Prague Society’s Chair Marc Ellenbogen remembers her from his days at Syracuse University: “Tanya Heidelberg and I had run-ins all the time during our Syracuse days because of the student government. And, of course, I had gone up to her and said her name is my hometown. As I was born in Heidelberg, the famous university town in Germany. And she didn’t get what I was trying to tell her. So we kept on raising our voices. And then, we just looked at each other and started laughing like idiots. And we became great friends. I respected her very much.”
Hon. Yasuhiro Nakasone 1918 – 2019
Hon. Yasuhiro Nakasone, passed away at the remarkable age of 101 years and 186 days. A previous Prime Minister of Japan and President of the Liberal Democratic Party from 1982 to 1987, he also served for more than 50 years in the House of Representatives. As Prime Minister of Japan he increased the global profile of Japan and fostered good relations with US President Ronald Regan and UK Premier Margaret Thatcher.
Hon. Yasuhiro Nakasone dedicated his life to the political landscape of Japan and worked hard to strengthen international relationships, in his words to become “a member of the free world led by Europe and the United States.”
Vladimír Laštůvka 1943 – 2018
Hon. Vladimír Laštůvka has passed away aged 75. Laštůvka was a dissident and signatory of Charta 77 who was unjustly imprisoned for three years by the Communist regime. He was a nuclear physicist whose jobs, during decades of persecution, included stoker and concrete mixer. As a politician he was a Member of the first Democratic Czechoslovak Parliament after Communism and served as Chair of the Foreign Affairs Committee of the Czech Parliament from 2000-2006. He was a close and longstanding friend of the Prague Society and the Global Panel Foundation.
Pavol Paška 1958 – 2018
We are shocked today to learn that our close friend Pavol Paška has died suddenly–six weeks after celebrating his 60th birthday.
Pavol Paška was two-time President of the Slovak National Assembly, co-founder of Smer (Direction) Social Democratic Party and member of the Prague Society and Global Panel Foundation.
We’d like to express our deep condolences to his wife, two sons and all who were close to him.
Helmut Kohl 1930 – 2017
A sad moment. A great European. Controversial and a patriot. Dr. Kohl was not my friend, but we interacted closely several times. We were linked by Ludwigshafen. And so time moves on.
– Marc S. Ellenbogen
Frank Heath 1927 – 2016
Engineer; frm. Vice-President, Westinghouse; Senior Vice-President, Carrier Corp.; WWII Code Breaker; Patron of Cadets and Students
Sir Nicolas Winton 1909 – 2015
Today, for the third time, I visited the Jewish Quarter (Josefov) in Prague. As always I walked out heavy-hearted and teary-eyed. Apart from its synagogues, and the 12-layered cemetery packed with about 12,000 tombstones, this is also the site of the memorial to the Jewish victims of the Holocaust from the Czech lands. 77,297 of their names are inscribed on the walls in the Pinkas Synagogue.
Of even greater significance to me personally, the memorial houses an exhibition of children’s’ paintings from Terezín concentration camp. Thousands of children were sent to Terezín concentration camp and many of them were murdered by the Nazis.
Later this evening I learned Sir Nicholas Winton, aged 106, had passed away. Sir Winton rescued 669 Jewish children from Nazi-occupied Czechoslovakia in 1939 – children that thereby were spared their likely fate of being deported to Nazi concentration camps. Sir Winton organized several trains to take them to the UK as well as accommodation and care for them in their new home.
Subsequently he displayed extraordinary modesty regarding his heroic effort. He never discussed the matter with anyone. Even his wife only found out by chance – almost 50 years later.
“His death at the age of 106 came on the same day 76 years ago when the train carrying the largest number of children – 241 – departed from Prague”, writes the BBC.
May his soul rest in peace and his story be remembered for in the darkest of times Sir Winton showed true courage and resolve and exemplified humanity.
Anusha Borovičková Lewis, The Prague Society
Yuri M. Schmidth 1937 – 2013
Russian human rights lawyer Yuri Markovich Schmidth died on Saturday, Jan. 12 in St. Petersburg. He was 75. Schmidt had been representing critics of the Russian government and others accused of political crimes since the late 1980s. At his death he was leading the team of lawyers defending former oil tycoon Michail Chodorkowski. Before that he had won many landmark cases in a court system strongly influenced by politics.
One of his greatest victories was obtainingÂ Aleksandr K. Nikitin’s release from prison. Nikitin had previously been charged with high treason and espionage for reports detailing radioactive pollution by Russia’s navy. His survivors include his wife, Elena, and two sons, Vadim and Mark. Schmidt was the Global Panel’s guest in Prague in summer 2010.
Geraldine Mucha 1917 – 2012
With the death of Geraldine Mucha on Friday 12 October 2012, one of our links to the old world of Prague has passed. Geraldine was the daughter-in-law of Alfons Mucha and a successful composer in her own right â€“ last month a concert of her music was held in honour of her 95thÂ birthday. Geraldine attended many Prague Society events and on occasion hosted small discussion groups in her apartment on Hradcany. We extend our sincere condolences to her son John Mucha, her daughter-in-law Sarah, and her grandchildren.
John Marks 1934 – 2012
John Marks was born in Marylebone, London, on June 18 1934, the son of a lorry driver, and educated at Kingsbury County Grammar School, from where he won an open scholarship to Sidney Sussex, Cambridge, to read Natural Sciences — he was the first member of his family to go to university. After graduating he worked as a research scientist at the Atomic Weapons Research Establishment at Aldermaston (1955-57), then took a Certificate in Education at Cambridge . For two years Marks taught Maths and Physics at his old school before taking a PhD in Nuclear Physics at Middlesex Hospital Medical School. From 1964 to 1966 he lectured in Mathematics and Physics at Regional University, Orebro, Sweden.
He then accepted a post at the Polytechnic of North London , which was developing a reputation for political activism and student disruption. It was the beginning of Marks’s dissatisfaction with the direction British education was taking, and in 1975 he published a book, with Keith Jacka and Caroline Cox, Rape of Reason — the Corruption of the Polytechnic of North London.
Dr John Marks helped to establish the education reform act of 1981 in the UK – it set the standards for the education systems in the United Kingdom today. A Founding member of the Prague Society and patron of the Czech and Polish anti-Communist underground – he spent his life fighting for those suffering from oppression and persecution.
With his close collaborator Caroline Cox (now Baroness Cox), he was co-Director of the Educational Research Trust, established in 1980 to improve standards in schools. He was also a member of the Schools Examination and Assessment Council (1990-93) and the National Curriculum Council (1992-93). For many years he taught at the Open University, and he was Professor of Education at Buckingham University.
He was appointed OBE in 1994.
“I met Dr. John Marks and Baroness Cox of Queensbury thru Dr. Barbara Day in the early 90’s. Both Marks and Cox were anit-Communist dissident supporters — like Dr. Day and the Prague Society. John and I had long chats about the future of Europe. They took place from Washington to London, from Berlin to Prague, from Seoul to Sydney. Some of our most stupendous disputantas took place in the Oxford & Cambridge Club in London. Baroness Cox would often join us. His book “Fried Snowballs” was a well-respected work against Communist dictatorial lies. John was as down-to-earth as we was modest. A brilliant mind. A human soul. John was a great spirit who always fought for equality, Christian values and humanity.” – Marc Ellenbogen
Jack Layton 1950 – 2011
Victoria, British Columbia, Aug 23, 2011 The Leader of Canadas Official Opposition
I had met Layton when he was still a member of the Toronto City Council in the early 90s. He was thoughtful, rudite, engaging, intellectual and humanitarian, an activist consumed by environmental public policy.
Jack was passionate about everything.
He should have been the Prime Minister of Canada. But it was not to be.
On January 23, 2006, the morning of the then Canadian federal elections, before I got my own Atlantic Eye column, UPI published one of my last columns as an Outside View Commentator. In the column titled, Jack Layton Who?, I predicted that NDP leader Jack Layton would be the big election spoiler.
He was not.
On that day in 2006, Stephen Harper would win his first term as Canadian Prime Minister.
Five and a half years later, on May 2nd 2011, Jack Layton, a Professor, former left-wing city councilor and deputy mayor of Toronto, would send a tsunami through Canadian politics by moving his party, the New Democratic Party, from 29 to 102 seats in only two federal election cycles and bring them to be the Official Opposition Her Majestys Loyal Opposition as it is officially known in Canada.
This would be like the Tea Party movement of the United States albeit a movement of the right bumping the Democratic or Republicans into third place as a political force in federal elections.
Layton had been open about his prostate cancer, but had mostly hidden the later effects from the Canadian electorate.
Then in late July, a gaunt Layton appeared at a press conference in Toronto to announce that some form of cancer was consuming him He refused to say what form it took. And, as in the election, he skirted details about what was killing him.
He said, I have a new, non-prostate cancer that will require further treatment, Layton said. So, on the advice of my doctors, I am going to focus on treatment and recovery. But added, … Im going to fight this cancer now, so I can be back to fight for families when Parliament resumes.
What marked Jack Layton was his genuine desire to make Canadian politics consensual and nonacrimonious. It wasnt just his desire. He practiced it.
It wasnt just that the NDP campaign of May 2011 saw Layton be the least contrarian, the least offensive and the least divisive of all the Canadian prime ministerial candidates. His brief time as the Official Leader of the Opposition saw him seek consensus amongst all Canadian political parties.
Layton did nearly bring down the Canadian government in December 2008, by signing an unprecedented opposition agreement with the Liberal Party and Bloc Quebecois. But Prime Minister Stephen Harper dissolved parliament reventing it from meeting thus preventing his minority government from being toppled.
Of course Layton was in fact a contrarian, but he seemed to do it with words of hope and acts of optimism.
He was known for his affable smile and seemingly endless energy. While, his opponents accused him of grand-standing, he was in fact quite comfortable being around normal people. He derived energy from simply being with the Canadian common man. He would sing on stage, he would poke fun of himself and politics. He seemed so genuine, that even his critics began to come around to the fact that Layton was simply a genuine kind of a guy.
Only three other Canadian Opposition Leaders have died in office. Prime Minister Harper took the unprecedented step of making Laytons funeral an official state funeral. It will be held in Toronto. In an open letter to the Canadian people published on August 20th, just a few days before his death Layton wrote in part:
Unfortunately my treatment has not worked out as I hoped. So I am giving this letter to my partner Olivia to share with you in the circumstance in which I cannot continue.
To other Canadians who are on journeys to defeat cancer and to live their lives, I say this: please dont be discouraged that my own journey hasn’t gone as well as I had hoped. You must not lose your own hope. treatments and therapies have never been better in the face of this disease. You have every reason to be optimistic, determined, and focused on the future. My only other advice is to cherish every moment with those you love at every stage of your journey, as I have done this summer.
To young Canadians: All my life I have worked to make things better. Hope and optimism have defined my political career, and I continue to be hopeful and optimistic about Canada. Young people have been a great source of inspiration for me…
Yet, it was his closing words which defined the man.
My friends, love is better than anger. Hope is better than fear. Optimism is better than despair.
Jack Layton inspired many Canadians.
He also inspired me.
(International Syndicated Columnist Marc S. Ellenbogen is chairman of the Berlin, Copenhagen and Sydney-based Global Panel Foundation and president of the Prague Society. From 2004 to 2010 he was a member of the National Advisory Board of the U.S. Democratic Party)
Krzysztof Skubiszewski 1926 – 2010
THE HAGUE, Netherlands, Feb. 9 (UPI) — The Soviet Union’s Vladimir Lomeiko. The Czech Republic’s Vojtech Cepl. The United States of America’s Norbert Auerbach.
Now, at 83, Poland’s stately Krzysztof Skubiszewski.
One by one, the grand old men — of another time, of another place — are being called to their maker. They paved the way for democracy from communism. They saw the future — and believed. I was but a bit player of that time. They were my mentors. Yet again, my heart feels a heavy burden. And yet again, one of them departs almost before my very eyes.
I had hoped to see Professor Skubiszewski on the weekend in the Netherlands. I was meeting with Mustafa Kamal Kazi, the noted Pakistani diplomat, former undersecretary of defense and ambassador to the Netherlands, Iraq and Russia. I had introduced Kazi to Skubiszewski and former Dutch Foreign Minister Hans van den Broek.
Skubiszewski was the first democratic foreign minister of Poland after the fall of communism. I had left a message Friday. He was out of the office.
Skubiszewski had been a key player in Solidarnosc — Solidarity, the Polish anti-Communist labor union movement. He and former Prime Minister Tadeusz Mazowiecki represented the academic wing of the movement. Lech Walesa represented the labor wing. The wings constantly fought, sometimes bitterly. As a result, Mazowiecki lost his rightful place in the first post-Communist Polish presidential election runoff in 1990.
Appointed to the post of foreign minister in 1989 in the Mazowiecki government, Skubiszewski served as foreign minister in the successive cabinets of Jan Bielecki, Jan Olszewski and Hanna Suchocka. He negotiated the disputed borders with Germany, a herculean task. Over the course of his academic career, Skubiszewski published numerous books and articles on international law and received honorary degrees from many European institutions.
In 2001 The Prague Society and Global Panel Foundation seized the moment to invite 27 former foreign ministers who had been in office at the fall of communism — along with Honorary Chair and Noble Laureate F.W. de Klerk, who heroically ended Apartheid 20 years ago and links it to the Cold War’s end — for three days of brainstorming at the Czech Foreign Ministry. The published retrospective contained materials previously not publicly released — the thoughts of men and women from 32 countries, what they had felt would happen, their doubts and fears. Only one of the former foreign ministers was a woman, Barbara McDougall of Canada. She would become the Global Panel Foundation’s chair for North America. Hans van den Broek was also there. It remains one of the best brainstorming sessions we have ever had.
In the years after the 2001 Prague meeting, I would regularly meet Skubiszewski in The Hague. He was the president of the Iran-U.S. Claims Tribunal, established in 1981. It was one of the measures taken to resolve the crisis between Iran and the United States resulting from the November 1979 takeover of the U.S. Embassy in Tehran. A failed rescue attempt helped President Jimmy Carter lose the 1980 elections to Ronald Reagan. The Regan administration subsequently froze Iranian assets in the United States. With great hesitation President Reagan agreed to the Tribunal. Algeria would serve as the intermediary.
The work of the claims tribunal was long and arduous. The Tribunal closed to new claims by private individuals in 1982 — at the time nearly 4,700 private U.S. claims. In the 28 years of its existence it ordered payments by Iran to U.S. nationals totaling some $2.5 billion, all the while sorting through masses and masses of requests for compensation, working with governments that despised each other, keeping the peace, and preventing little-boy games and sophomoric stalling attempts by the opposing sides. Being an unbiased arbiter, that was Skubiszewski’s job. It was hard work.
Once Skubiszewski remarked, “They don’t need a law professor and foreign minister for this job, they need a nanny.” He looked at me and sighed. Through it all he would always keep a polite gentlemanly smile on his face.
Skubiszewski was, like me, an Oxford man. He was a man of great depth. He was a man of few words. When he spoke, everyone listened. He was old school. I rarely used his first name. Once, he said, “Marc, my name is Krzysztof.” I smiled proudly but demurred with few exceptions. He would almost always call me Professor Ellenbogen. I was truly honored.
Born in Poznan, Skubiszewski had — like many of his generation — survived WWII in hiding. He had lost family, and he knew and quite despised the horrors of war. As a show of respect, I rarely called him by his first name. Peering from his academic spectacles, Skubiszewski could say more with a simple glance than most anyone could say with a single word.
Despite his busy schedule, he would always set aside two hours for my visit. We would meet in his office at the Tribunal building among his countless books strewn about in a professorial manner. I felt like I was in an Oxford and Syracuse Law tutorial. He was marvelous to watch; every motion seemed out of “The Paper Chase.” He was brilliant. I could not help but focus on every word he said.
Often we would finish our meetings with a shot. “Today is the exception,” he would say with a twinkle in his eyes.
“Marc, we have again solved the world’s problems.”
Of course we hadn’t.
But with Professor Skubiszewski, somehow you always felt like you could.
(UPI International Columnist Marc S. Ellenbogen is chairman of the Berlin, Copenhagen and Sydney-based Global Panel Foundation and president of the Prague Society. He has advised political personalities and is a founding trustee of the Democratic Expat Leadership Council.)
Vojtěch Cepl: The Father of the Czech Constitution 1938 – 2009
Vojtěch Cepl was a Czech lawyer and university lecturer. Cepl is widely recognised as one of the authors of the current constitution of the Czech Republic. For the Prague Society’s chair Marc Ellenbogen, Mr. Cepl was a “great mentor”.
Professor Marc Ellenbogen remembers an event in 1994 with Mr. Cepl: “We had gone down to Slovakia – to organize against autocrat Meciar. And Barbara Day had forgotten her passport. And of course – Slovakia was now an independent country. And we had hidden money in the van to dole out to various democratic groups. So, I was going insane at Barbara for her stupidity – the last thing we needed was the police going through the van. And Pavel Bratinka’s daughter Lucie – who worked for us turned to Cepl to ask him to calm me down. To which he deadpanned, “He doesn’t need a Constitutional Court Justice advising him, he needs a Psychiatrist”. I couldn’t stop laughing. And we left Barbara back at the border.”
Mr. Cepl graduated from the Faculty of Law of Charles University in 1961, receiving his doctorate in 1966. He worked at the same faculty after graduating. On 15 July 1993 he was appointed judge of the Constitutional Court of the Czech Republic. After the end of his term of office he lectured again at the Faculty of Law of Charles University. In 2008, he became Lawyer of the Year in the field of civil and human rights, including constitutional law. He was a liberal, perhaps even libertarian, but with a passion for applying the rule of law.
He died of leukemia in Prague on November 21, 2009.
Vladimir Lomeiko 1935 – 2009
Vladimir Borissovich Lomeiko was born on November 27, 1935 and has sadly passed away on August 15, 2009 in the Russian capital of Moscow. Lomeiko was a Russian diplomat and later a Belarusian national. Vladimir Lomeiko was the foreign policy spokesman of the then Soviet Foreign Minister Edward Shevardnadze, Gromyko the foreign ministry and Gorbachev.
Vladimir Lomeiko was head of Press Department of the Soviet Ministry of Foreign Affairs from 1984-1986 – He was well known for “taking the road less-taken.” In post Soviet Union times Lomeiko assumed the position of the Russian Ambassador to UNESCO, as well as that of Special Advisor to the Director General of UNESCO. Vladimir Lomieko was a ‘master of the spoken word’ recalls Marc Ellenbogen.
Norbet Auerbach 1922 – 2009
PRAGUE, Czech Republic, Dec. 23 (UPI) — They were expropriated for being Jewish by the Germans. They were expropriated for being German by the Communist Czechs. They were proud to return as pioneers as the Cold War ended.
Born into a successful motion-picture family, Norbert Auerbach was one of the earliest members of the Prague Society. He was one of the finest expat Czechs — a lion of his country. He was one of the first leaders of the U.S. business community in post-Communist Czechoslovakia. At 87, God has taken him home.
Auerbach came back to Prague after 1989 to reclaim his family’s properties. “They will not take them from us again,” he said. He was already semi-retired and in his late 60s upon his return.
Norbert worked his way up from the mail room, becoming president of United Artists and later of United International Pictures — of James Bond fame. He counted the likes of Sumner Redstone, Sean Connery and Roger Moore as his friends. “Come over for a tea,” he once said to me some years ago. There in his sitting room was Bruce Willis. And for Norbert, that was normal and nothing special.
A World War II Veteran for his beloved America, Auerbach was stationed in France. “I love woman, especially French woman. But they also made me poor,” he once jested. He was married four times, and still managed to keep a small fortune — much of which he used to help young filmmakers at the start of their careers. Most of his life Auerbach jaunted between LA, New York, Paris, Cannes and Vienna. He was, like me, a modern day nomad.
Pictures of the good and famous hung on his office wall. His favorite was one with Sofia Loren, but he had to admit once that it was a close call between that and the one with him and Catherine Deneuve. Despite all these trappings, Norbert was most comfortable in his Navy baseball cap. He was unassumingly down to earth.
But, oh, if you crossed his path — or were unpunctual — the wrath of god came your way. “You are late. You are always late. You will die late,” the hyper-punctual Auerbach would say to me. Just a wee bit miffed, he would get up to leave. “Call me when you can be on time.” I would simply sit gob smacked. Of course he was right.
“The film industry is not for the faint of heart,” he said to me over dinner two years ago. He was still wining and dining the best. He was still being a role model for young filmmakers. He had a special place for Pisek Film Academy — set up by a close colleague of Milos Forman.
Norbert did not like my way of living. “You travel too much. You do too many things. You are like a bouncing bee. You need to settle down,” he would say to me, and then add, “No chance you will ever slow down and be in one place. Just promise me you will stop smoking.” I would smile, demur and take a puff of my cigarette.
I most liked Norbert’s toughness. He would have been a great command sergeant major. He was a great teacher and father figure. He often called me aside to browbeat me — ever so politely and eloquently — about some issue in my column he disagreed with, or to talk about U.S. politics. “You are joining the wrong political party, Marc. In fact, stay out of politics all together,” he was fond of saying. Only to add, “What am I saying. You could never leave politics, or journalism, or academia. Marc, just get me a drink.”
Norbert loved life. Well into his 80s, he was still fit as a fiddle. It was only in the last years that he sensed his body waning. He began to withdraw from the hustle and bustle that marked his life. He especially missed being on the golf course. But even while his body abandoned him, Norbert Auerbach’s mind was a live wire, calculating and never to be underestimated — waiting for next target, victim or as often, a benefactor of his enormous generosity.
Auerbach didn’t like the Communists much — any wonder? But he felt, like Mr. Justice Cepl and Ambassador Vladimir Lomeiko (read “Cold War milestones,” Dec. 7, 2009), who have also recently passed, that it was necessary to find a balance in the new democracies — even if it meant some of the Communists went unpunished and stayed in leadership positions. It is one of the ongoing debates that marked Auerbach’s and my discourse over nearly 20 years.
Barbara Day (“The Velvet Philosophers”), the grand dame of the anti-Communist underground, reminded me some days ago that I had turned to her two months ago and said I thought Norbert was dying. He had been ignoring my phone calls. “Call him again,” she said. I did.
“I want to see you, Norbert Auerbach. I want to see you today,” I said to him over the phone one month ago quite distraught and near tears.
“My dear Marc, I know you know,” said Auerbach. “But I won’t see you.”
“You must remember me as I lived, not as I died.”
A lion in winter is gone. But his deep caring soul lives on.
Lord Richard Holme of Cheltenham 1936 – 2008
Prague Society member Lord Richard Holme of Cheltenham has sadly passed away on the 4th of May 2008 at the age of 71. Lord Richard Holme was born May 27 1936. He was educated at both Oxford University and Harvard University. During his lifetime, he was the president of the Liberal Democrat Party and lord of Cheltenham, since 1981, and was instrumental in the merger of the SDP into the liberal democrat party in 1988. Richard was a key adviser to Paddy Ashdown and David Steele where he had garnered a formidable reputation in the house of commons as being a strong negotiator and political fixer. Holme’s own success came from of his ability to acquire formidable contacts through his time spent as a businessman. In 1976, Holme founded the Campaign for Electoral Reform with which he ran for nine years. He accumulated offices in various different areas – executive member of the Campaign for Oxford; Chancellor of Greenwich University; a trustee of the Citizenship Foundation; chairman of the English College in Prague; a director of Brasseys and an executive director of RTZ, and in 2000 Holme was sworn into the Privy Council. He chaired Globescan, LEAD International, the Lords’ Select Committee on the Constitution from 2000 and the Hansard Society from 2001.