It is with an unbearable sadness that I am writing to you today. After thirty-four months of agonizingly slow but steady recovery from an hypoxia brain injury, and thirty hours of a virulent sepsis infection, the final query to Martin’s own personal history was answered last night. The funeral will be at Eretz HaChaim Cemetery in Beit Shemesh, Israel on the 12th. The Shiva will be at our home in London from Sunday evening the 8th. I do not have the timings for the funeral yet but the cemetery should have it. The Shiva times will be through our shul website: highgateshul.com. Your concern and kind words, visits and friendship, prayers and love have sustained us particularly during the last nearly three years. Baruch Dayen Emet – Blessed is the True Judge.
My relationship with Martin goes back forty-seven years to the the day my letter, asking Randolph Churchill’s assistance with research, arrived at Randolph’s house, and Martin opened it. (Decades on, he still remembered.) We met seventeen years later when I invited him to speak to our Churchill tour party, one of countless collaborations and shared interest in keeping Churchill’s “memory green and record accurate.” How much I learned from him is incalculable.
Obituaries are always too late, so it was comforting to many who admired him that we were able to express our regard in the Churchill journal Finest Hour last autumn. (My contribution thereto follows this post.) Lady Gilbert was able to read each article to him, and said she could tell he understood and was moved. Thank God we were in time.
I thought, as I heard this news, of Prime Minister Harold Wilson’s remembrance of Churchill in 1965, and will take the liberty of paraphrasing him….
Martin Gilbert, and the legend Sir Martin had become long before his death and which now lives on, are the possession not of Britain, or of Israel, but of the world; not of our time only, but of the ages. For now the noise of hooves thundering across the veldt, the clamour of the hustings in a score of contests, the shots in Sidney Street, the angry guns of Gallipoli and Flanders, Coronel and the Falkland Islands, the urgent warnings or the Nazi threat, the whine of the sirens, the dawn bombardment of the Normandy beaches, the story of the Jews and Israel, the horror of the Holocaust, the tales of Auschwitz and the Allies, of The Righteous few who saved some, of the Soviet refuseniks—their stories are over, their record written. There is a stillness, and in that stillness echoes and memories.
Each one of us recalls some little incident—many of us, as in my own case, a kind action, graced with the courtesy of a past generation and going far beyond the normal calls of comradeship. Each of us has his own memory, for in the tumultuous diapason of the world’s tributes, all of us here at least know the epitaph he would have chosen for himself: “He was a noble historian, a kind and decent man.”
Condolences to Lady Gilbert will be forwarded. For Part 2, click here.