Tributes paid to journalist and author Michael Freedland who dies aged 83
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Tributes paid to journalist and author Michael Freedland who dies aged 83

Holocaust survivor Sir Ben Helfgott pays respects to writer for his 'remarkable ability to bring a subject to life'

Michael Freedland
Michael Freedland

Tributes have been paid to veteran journalist and author Michael Freedland, father of Guardian columnist Jonathan, after he passed away this week aged 83.

His lifelong career working at titles such as The Economist, The Sunday Telegraph, The Spectator and The Guardian, also included a broadcasting spell at BBC London in the 1980s, presenting on BBC Radio Two, and even lecturing on cruise ships.

As an accomplished biographer, he wrote about American stars such as Al Johnson, Elvis Presley, Judy Garland and Bob Hope, entertainers from “a magic generation” he so admired.

Earlier this year he published his first work touching on the Holocaust, writing about enigmatic survivor Sir Ben Helfgott, and his Jewish identity was keenly felt and aired, from the early 1970s, when he launched his radio show ‘You Don’t Have to be Jewish,’ which ran for almost a quarter of a century.

Sir Ben Helfgott paid tribute, telling Jewish News: “Michael Freedland was a wonderful journalist and personality, as well as a dear friend.  His remarkable ability to bring a subject to life and engage and entertain an audience will be sorely missed in the Jewish community and far beyond”

His subjects never escaped scrutiny, for which he made no apology. “I am a great believer in telling it like it is,” he said in a 2010 interview. “I am very certain of the need for warts and all.  How else can you tell a full rounded story?”

In 2013 he wrote movingly about life without his wife Sara, who died in 2012, and with whom he shared 52 years. He described how his family was central to him, including his daughter Fiona, and spoke of his “incredible pride in my grandchildren,” adding: “Other grandfathers teach their offspring. I learn from mine.”

On social media tributes were paid from a range of well-known names including Holocaust Memorial Day Trust chief executive Olivia Marks-Woldman, Professor Geoffrey Alderman, journalist Simon Hinde and former Guardian editor Alan Rusbridger.

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