From Auschwitz to Budapest: an extraordinary journey


Taking the train: final destination Budapest.

Tuesday 3rd November 2015

It’s been very last minute but I am on my way to a country I have never been to, to meet a man I have never met.

I am finally fulfilling a personal journey that started in the bitter cold of Auschwitz in 2007 and will end tomorrow in the Autumn sunshine of Budapest, on the banks of the River Danube. So why am I making this journey?

As part of my military career I attended a course which included a study of genocide. What better place to see its grim reality than at Auschwitz. So on a bitterly cold day, trudging through the snow covered ground, I found myself at the heart of the Nazi’s most notorious extermination camp. During the visit I was advised to buy a book called “I Was Dr Mengele’s Assistant”, written by Doctor Nyiszli who was recruited to perform the post mortems for the infamous Nazi torturer. On my way home from Poland I read the book in one sitting; it was so compelling.

Towards the end of the book, I read about a boy who had been hidden by his Father in a monastery in Hungary, to avoid being rounded up by the Nazis in 1944. The boy was the son of Doctor Görög who had been sent to Auschwitz with his wife and daughter (who were both killed on their first day at the camp). Dr Görög was recruited by Dr Nyiszli to ease his workload, such was the volume of post mortems.

Auschwitz, a place without birdsong.

At the end of the book, when Doctor  Görög was close to death, he pleaded with the author of the book to adopt his son after the war. Whilst Dr Nyiszli agreed to this request and wrote this in the book, he never did fulfil Dr Görög’s final wish.

The boy was called Sándor Görög and he was 12 years old.

With no further mention of Sándor, I was intrigued to know what had happened to him after the war. I searched for him online when I got home to the UK and I found a Sándor Görög, who was around the right age, and like his Father, he had become a successful scientist.

Next to this information there was also an email address. So I wrote to Sándor Görög to ask if he was the boy in the book.

One hour later I received a reply and he confirmed that it was him.
He then wrote to me at length about his family’s story and Hungarian Jews in general. Over the years we have exchanged many pictures of our family, especially at Christmas time.

And today I am flying to Budapest to meet him for the first time.

Advertisements

Where next after Tunisia?

We always knew that a threat existed against all things Western, but the massacre on the beach in Sousse was still a shock. So should we be surprised? 

Growing up in the Cold War era, our lives were dominated by the existential threat of communism and images of the Red Army’s tanks rolling towards the ‘west’ across the plains of Northern Germany. The Cold War was not only a highly defined threat that infiltrated everyone’s consciousness, it also shaped Government policy of the day. 

Now that threat has been resurrected for the current generation by ISIS; and it is a more tangible threat to our way of life than anything this country has experienced since the Roman invasion over 1000 years ago. So what has to happen for the population of Britain to accept that Government policy needs be developed to reflect this evolving situation?

When was the last time your business practiced its emergency lock down procedure? When did your children’s school rehearse its reaction to a mass shooting event. If this sounds far-fetched, or overly dramatic, then the growing trend (and success) of lone wolf attacks, aided by unregulated border controls in Europe and the availability of assault weapons flooding into the EU from North Africa and through its eastern borders, suggests that the UK will soon have to face a similar incident. 

The PM talks about being intolerant of intolerance; for a famously tolerant society this concept is difficult to accept for some. But accept it we must, because the next attack will not be in a London railway station, or at a popular beach resort, it will be at a village fete in Hertfordshire or Derbyshire. It will involve mass casualties, and it will strike at the heart of our culture and profoundly harm our sense of security.

So let’s not wait for that day. Let’s give the security services and other Government Agencies the tools to keep us safe. Let’s not pander to the liberals and professional campaigners who have never experienced the harsh world of 21st century terrorism. Let’s not bolt the stable door with the horse cantering into the distance. 

It is time to take the initiative in our fight against Islamic Extremism.

International Travel… to Scotland

image

So Glasgow, what a place. I came up today for two meetings and then hung out in George Square, my first time downtown Glasgow. And what a great first impression.

Mind you the day started badly. I never even thought to check the weather forecast and assumed it was as warm as at home. What a typical southerner. Of course it was cold and raining. In a rush I did two things…

Firstly, I bought an umbrella. It broke. I went back to WHSmith and changed it. Then I took some cash out of the Travelex machine. Well, I thought I did. Actually I punched in my PIN number, chose my amount, then took back my card. And walked off. What a muppet.

This evening back at the airport I tentatively asked whether I could return my unused umbrella to WHSmith and get a refund. I could! A miracle! So thanks WHSmith, you have won tonight’s customer service award. Then I asked about my cash and discovered that after 30 seconds the cash goes back in. So need to check with bank tomorrow whether someone took it or the machine reclaimed it.

Now on my plane and preparing to fly south. So I escaped Scotland intact and I only had one embarrassing language situation. Ordering a coffee I really struggled to understand the girl; “d’yee wan a smorl oo reehglaar?”.

My pause while I tried to decipher her question was a little embarrassing, but it got worse as I paused for longer and longer. Never mind using encryption, I think we could harness a strong Glaswegian accent instead to keep our secrets secret.

Travel broadens the mind apparently…

At least I’ve won one election…

Whilst pounding the roads and streets of Oakley, Stevington and Pavenham earlier this year while campaigning for the Borough Council election,  I decided to put my name forward for the elected position of Parent Governor at Bedford Modern School.

I duly wrote my short bio and election statement  which was then sent out to all parents, along with the details of the other 4 candidates. The poll closed this morning at 9am and by 2.30pm I received the news that I had won by 19 votes. It made a change to losing by 41!

So I have finally been successful this year and I am delighted. It is clear people voted for my ideas to improve BMS.

It is a tremendous privilege to serve on the governing body of the 250 year old school, assuming the Trustees confirm the appointment. It is more than compensation for my disappointment in the election this year.

The appointment commences in September.

So what’s next?

  

Well, possibly playing Cricket here at Pavenham next weekend in fact! 

I drove across to the ground to watch their match against Houghton this afternoon and ended giving my details in case they need someone next weekend. 

So I’ve dug out my kit from the garage and I’m sort of ready (although a nets session would help my confidence!).

Otherwise I’m focussing on areas of my life which were ignored throughout my campaign, namely my wife and kids. 

It’s great to have time at the weekends to watch sport, catch up on jobs at home and go on long cycle rides.

I wanted to win, but having got so close I am satisfied that the foundations have been laid should I want to stand again in four years’ time. 

But a lot can happen in four years…

So close…

Yet so far… 

I was appointed the Conservative Candidate for Oakley Ward in January 2015. From a standing start and in only 4 months, I managed to gain 39% share of the vote against a long standing borough councillor (29 years) and former Mayoress. I also managed to reduce her share of the vote from 84% in 2011 to 41% at the election. In anyone’s book that’s a pretty impressive achievement. 

If I can achieve that, what else can I do in politics?

So I am very proud of my positive and engaging campaign, knocking on doors and connecting with people directly. I am very disappointed for the 914 people who looked to me to deliver much needed change in the Ward and I am sorry I didn’t quite make it. Everyone has been very kind by sending messages of support and congratulations. Thank you for what you have said; it means a lot to me.

On the plus side I have met some amazing people along the way and I have made many new friends. I love the villages that I have been spending so much time in and I really do care about their future.

I will always remember those 41 votes in whatever I take on next. 

But first I need to re-connect with my amazing family and do some normal things at weekends! 

The results follow;