Acclaimed journalist John Izbicki, who saw Kristallnacht as a child, dies aged 91

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Acclaimed journalist John Izbicki, who saw Kristallnacht as a child, dies aged 91

Born Horst Izbicki in Berlin, the long-time education correspondent of the Daily Telegraph was renowned throughout Fleet Street.

John Izbicki
John Izbicki

The long-time education correspondent of the Daily Telegraph, John Izbicki, who has died aged 91, was renowned throughout Fleet Street as an urbane and handsome journalist, always stylishly dressed and witty company.

But behind his gravelly voice was an unhappy secret, one which he considered his “present from Hitler”. Izbicki turned eight just before Kristallnacht in November 1938, and the shocking scenes he witnessed on that night caused him to scream so hard that he did permanent damage to his vocal chords.

He was born Horst Izbicki in Berlin and his parents owned a haberdashery shop. They were tipped off by a friendly neighbour who was, nevertheless, a member of the Nazi party, that an attack was likely on the shop, so they took the precaution of moving much of the stock out of the front window.

John at the Daily Telegraph.

A group of Hitler Youth forced the local butcher to give them his weights in order for them to break the Izbicki shop windows. While his parents were not physically injured, the experience caused Izbicki’s father to seek a way out of Germany as soon as possible.

Six hours before Chamberlain announced that the country was at war with Germany, on September 3 1939, the Izbicki family arrived at Harwich. An uncle in pre-state Palestine deposited £1,000 with a bank in London as a guarantee and the Jewish Refugee Committee provided funds.

Izbicki became the Telegraph’s education correspondent in 1969, but after the paper was bought by Conrad Black in the mid-80s, he relocated to Paris where he covered, among many things, the trial of the Nazi war criminal Klaus Barbie, infamous as “the Butcher of Lyon”.

His family told Jewish News: “John was a gentle soul with a twinkle in his eye and a winning smile. He inspired and entertained everyone he met. He will be sorely missed as a caring and loving husband, father, grandfather, cousin and dearly-loved friend to many. He passed away peacefully, surrounded by his family.”


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