How Holocaust Journey Came to Be From Esther Gilbert

375 words/1 ½ minute read

Martin claimed he got the job because his employer realised he lived on the bus route to UCL.  It was getting late in the summer and the professor who was meant to teach the MA students Holocaust history at University College, London that autumn had gone MIA.  So Martin, not missing in action but in fact on the 24 bus route, was deployed.

No doubt his students learned a lot from the course.  But that was not enough for them – they wanted to see the places they had studied.  Martin called in his friend Ben Helfgott (, who had survived the Holocaust as a child, to accompany them.  The group spent two weeks that summer of 1996 travelling through Germany, the Czech and Slovak Republics, and Poland.  The surprise was not that Martin kept a meticulous diary of that journey:  that was his style.  The surprise was that a book came out the following year as Holocaust Journey, Travelling in Search of the Past.

In Martin’s inimitable way, we can follow the group through each of their days, the times at each juncture, and not only what they found at each place but we have Martin’s readings from those who had witnessed or recorded the events that had taken place there.  History and Geography come together punctuated by the timings from one place to the next.  Countless people have written to me to say they have followed the book through Europe, retracing Martin’s steps, with his words to hand.  History has not changed; the geography is also basically the same.

The 1997 edition was available in hardbound and paperback, and in 2015 as an ebook.  Now his publishers, Orion, have brought out a new edition for UK readers (and ships anywhere).  Rob Rinder, grandson of a survivor who was liberated with Ben Helfgott and came with Ben to Britain, has written a powerful Foreword.  He speaks for the next generations who have found their own connection to this history.

The ranks of survivors and eyewitnesses are thinning.  Memory recedes into the past.  But this book brings alive the events and the people who were there – in the places where “there” was.  How good now to have it available again, in easy reach.

Holocaust Journey is now the sixth of Sir Martin’s titles to have found a new life as a new edition since his death.  The Boys and Holocaust Journey only had one edition each and now are back in print after many years.  I had the honour of “rejiggling” and updating the Story of Israel, and the three atlases, First World War, The Holocaust and Jewish History.  Martin’s work lives on.  With you.  In you.  In all of us.  Buy a book.  For yourself and someone special.

From Esther Gilbert

Read:  Holocaust Journey

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