Join The Wiener Holocaust Library on 16 February for this online event to mark the publication of Vicky Unwin’s memoir about her father.
Vicky Unwin had always known her father – an erstwhile intelligence officer and respected United Nations diplomat – was Czech, but it was not until a stranger turned up on her doorstep that she discovered he was also Jewish.
So began a quest to discover the truth about his past – one that perhaps would help answer the niggling doubts she had always had about her ‘perfect’ dad. Finally persuading him to allow her to open a closely-guarded cache of family books and papers, Vicky discovered the identity of her grandfather: the tormented author and diplomat Hermann Ungar, hugely controversial both in life and in death, who was a protégé and posible lover of Thomas Mann, and a friend of Berthold Brecht and Stefan Zweig. How much of her father’s child was Vicky – and how much of his father’s child was he?
As Vicky worked to uncover deeply-buried family secrets, she would find herself slowly unpicking the lingering power of ‘survivor guilt’ on the generations that followed the Holocaust, and would learn, via a deathbed confession, of the existence of a previously unknown sister.
Together, the sisters attempt to come to terms with what had made their father into the deeply flawed, complex, yet charismatic man he had always been, journeying together through grief and heartache towards forgiveness.
You can order the book here.
Author Vicky Unwin will be in conversation with Sarah Helm
Vicky Unwin has had a long career in both book and newspaper publishing, centred round her African roots, and is currently the chair of Wasafiri Magazine and a Caine Prize Council member. Her first book, Love and War in the WRNS, a collection of her mother’s letters home during the Second World War, was published by History Press in June 2015. She has always been fascinated by family secrets and began researching the story behind The Boy from Boskovice shortly before her father’s death in 2012. Vicky writes extensively about living with cancer at healthylivingwithcancer.co, and is a Trustee of Transform Drug Policy Foundation campaigning for the decriminalisation of drugs after losing her daughter to a ketamine overdose in 2011.
Sarah Helm is a former Middle East correspondent and diplomatic editor of the Independent. She is the author of If This is a Woman, Inside Ravensbrück, Hitler’s Concentration Camp for Women. Her first book, A Life in Secrets, detailing the life of the secret agent Vera Atkins, was published in 2005. Her play Loyalty about the relationship between George Bush and Tony Blair was performed and published in July 2019.
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