December 11, 2023


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A Dancing ‘Listener’ Who Spied on Nazi Generals | William Echikson

It was previous midnight. The tunes blared. In the center on the buzzing dance floor, Eric Mark and his wife Miriam swayed and swung to the defeat of the jitterbug. Eric was by now 90-several years aged.

When Eric still left us this month at the age of 98, he remaining a legacy that testified to the horrors and pleasure of Jewish everyday living in excess of the previous century. Born in Magdeburg, Germany, he remembered evidently the hyperinflation of the 1920s, his parents’ panic at Hitler’s increase to energy, the forced closure of the family company, and his parents’ battle to acquire adequate foodstuff soon after the Jewish financial institution accounts ended up blocked. Expelled from his grammar faculty as a Jew, Eric’s parents Otto and Erna despatched him absent in 1935 as a 12-yr outdated to London to get an training.

He saw his mothers and fathers just at the time a lot more, throughout the 1936 summer season holiday seasons. Eric’s more youthful brother Werner (Vernon) came to England in 1938. Eric’s moms and dads could not get out. In 1943 with his aunt Adele, the Nazis sent them to Treblinka and gassed them on arrival.

After Environment War II erupted, the British interned Eric, age 18, an “enemy alien” on the Isle of Male, one particular of 30,000 German refugees powering barbed wire. In September 1940 he was released to be part of the British army’s Pioneer Corps.

Finally, British intelligence recruited him for his indigenous German and he became a person of a hundred “secret listeners,” German-speaking émigrés, who labored for MI9. Based mostly at 3 requisitioned country estates: Trent Park, in north London, and Latimer Household and Wilton Park in Buckinghamshire. they worked in 12-hour shifts, each working day of the year, eavesdropping on the conversations of imprisoned German generals. Eric is the past of the listeners to go away.

In 1949, Eric fulfilled his spouse Miriam at a Purim celebration and grew to become, in the words and phrases of his son David, “more English than the English.” He beloved cricket. He adored marmalade. He joined an newbie theater group and adopted British humor.

Immediately after signing up for Shell in London, he transferred to the Hague and lived in the Netherlands for 17 many years. For the duration of his small business travels for the oil corporation, he would befuddle resort receptionists with his solutions to their queries about his occupation. When he was an acrobat. A different time, he shown playboy. And yet another time, extra precisely, he said a spy. “He went through the total alphabet,” his son David recalled at the funeral. In the course of a single journey to New Zealand in 1961, he introduced the newfangled rock-in-roll motivated go to to the nation. “He dedicated his daily life to make individuals chortle and smile,” David claimed.

When the British isles joined the Typical Market in 1973, Eric joined the European Commission. He shortly obtained fluent French on prime of his English, Dutch and German. He worked as a transport economist and directed a Typical Transportation Policy unit. In this role, he improved road protection, imposing pace limitations and versatile motorway crash limitations during Europe. His achievements contain regulations necessitating compulsory seat belts, the mutual recognition of driving licenses, and helping control the engineering perform for the Channel Tunnel.

In 1987, Eric retired to his adopted homeland Belgium. Right until the categorized information had been unveiled involving 1999 and 2004, the tale of the “listeners” remained top secret. After they had been created public, a riveting e-book, The Walls Have Ears,” released last year, described his ordeals.

Eric frequented our liberal International Jewish Neighborhood synagogue to discuss at our Talmud Torah. He advised about the persecution he faced as a Jew in Nazi Germany. Our youngsters have been thrilled to satisfy a authentic spy. He recounted his war stories, which both of those horrified and delighted them. The generals boasted about annihilating Jews. “They would “saying issues like ‘I knocked off about 1,500’,” he recollects. The generals talked over the top secret V-1 and V2 weapons method, top to the 1943 RAF mission to destroy the German key weapons establishment at Peenemünde on the Baltic coast. At the age of 96, the Household of Lords organized a reception in his honor.

Each Yom Kippur, Eric and Miriam read through out the names of the deceased at Yizkor. Even as the list grew to become more time about the several years, the two of them retained studying. This yr, Eric slowed down and Miriam study the names by herself. Miriam, 89, stays in the clinic, recuperating from Covid-19. Eric leaves a few kids, David, Anne, and Sandra, and 4 grandchildren. He also leaves a extensive and remarkable legacy.

William Echikson is the director of the Brussels place of work of the European Union of Progressive Judaism. Ahead of joining the EUPJ, Mr. Echikson labored with the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum to deliver the State of Deception exhibit on Nazi Propaganda to Europe. He also worked for six and a half a long time at Google jogging corporate communications for Europe, Middle East and Africa. He launched the company’s Europe weblog and led its endeavours all over knowledge heart government affairs and World-wide-web freedom Challenges.&#13
Mr. Echikson began his occupation as a overseas correspondent in Europe for a sequence of US publications together with the Christian Science Keep track of. Wall Avenue Journal, Fortune and BusinessWeek. From 2001 right up until 2007, he served as Brussels Bureau Chief for Dow Jones. &#13
Mr. Echikson also has prepared, directed and manufactured for tv documentaries for BBC and America’s Community Broadcasting Assistance. He is the creator of four guides, which includes operates on the collapse of communism in Central Europe and the historical past of the Bordeaux wine location.&#13
An American and Belgian citizen, Mr. Echikson graduated from Yale University with a Magna Cum Laude diploma in history.