Gitta Sereny
Gitta Sereny is an Austria
Austria , officially the Republic of Austria , is a landlocked country of roughly 8.4 million people in Central Europe. It is bordered by the Czech Republic and Germany to the north, Slovakia and Hungary to the east, Slovenia and Italy to the south, and Switzerland and Liechtenstein to the...

n-born biographer, historian
A historian is a person who studies and writes about the past and is regarded as an authority on it. Historians are concerned with the continuous, methodical narrative and research of past events as relating to the human race; as well as the study of all history in time. If the individual is...

 and investigative journalist whose writing focuses mainly on the Holocaust
The Holocaust
The Holocaust , also known as the Shoah , was the genocide of approximately six million European Jews and millions of others during World War II, a programme of systematic state-sponsored murder by Nazi...

 and child abuse
Child abuse
Child abuse is the physical, sexual, emotional mistreatment, or neglect of a child. In the United States, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Department of Children And Families define child maltreatment as any act or series of acts of commission or omission by a parent or...

. She is the stepdaughter of the economist
An economist is a professional in the social science discipline of economics. The individual may also study, develop, and apply theories and concepts from economics and write about economic policy...

 Ludwig von Mises
Ludwig von Mises
Ludwig Heinrich Edler von Mises was an Austrian economist, philosopher, and classical liberal who had a significant influence on the modern Libertarian movement and the "Austrian School" of economic thought.-Biography:-Early life:...


She married Don Honeyman in 1948 and moved to London where they raised their two children. Don Honeyman (who died 1st June 2011) was a photographer, who worked for, among others, Vogue
Vogue (magazine)
Vogue is a fashion and lifestyle magazine that is published monthly in 18 national and one regional edition by Condé Nast.-History:In 1892 Arthur Turnure founded Vogue as a weekly publication in the United States. When he died in 1909, Condé Montrose Nast picked up the magazine and slowly began...

, the Daily Telegraph and The Sunday Times
The Sunday Times
The Sunday Times is a British Sunday newspaper.The Sunday Times may also refer to:*The Sunday Times *The Sunday Times *The Sunday Times *The Sunday Times...

. The poster of Che Guevara
Che Guevara
Ernesto "Che" Guevara , commonly known as el Che or simply Che, was an Argentine Marxist revolutionary, physician, author, intellectual, guerrilla leader, diplomat and military theorist...

 on a red background (1968) is one of his most famous creations.


Sereny was born in Vienna
Vienna is the capital and largest city of the Republic of Austria and one of the nine states of Austria. Vienna is Austria's primary city, with a population of about 1.723 million , and is by far the largest city in Austria, as well as its cultural, economic, and political centre...

, Austria
Austria , officially the Republic of Austria , is a landlocked country of roughly 8.4 million people in Central Europe. It is bordered by the Czech Republic and Germany to the north, Slovakia and Hungary to the east, Slovenia and Italy to the south, and Switzerland and Liechtenstein to the...

 in 1921. Her father was a Hungarian Protestant aristocrat, Ferdinand Serény, and her mother was a former actress from Hamburg
-History:The first historic name for the city was, according to Claudius Ptolemy's reports, Treva.But the city takes its modern name, Hamburg, from the first permanent building on the site, a castle whose construction was ordered by the Emperor Charlemagne in AD 808...

, Margit Herzfeld, of German origin.

When she was thirteen, her train journey to a boarding school
Boarding school
A boarding school is a school where some or all pupils study and live during the school year with their fellow students and possibly teachers and/or administrators. The word 'boarding' is used in the sense of "bed and board," i.e., lodging and meals...

 in the United Kingdom
United Kingdom
The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern IrelandIn the United Kingdom and Dependencies, other languages have been officially recognised as legitimate autochthonous languages under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages...

 was delayed in Nuremberg
Nuremberg[p] is a city in the German state of Bavaria, in the administrative region of Middle Franconia. Situated on the Pegnitz river and the Rhine–Main–Danube Canal, it is located about north of Munich and is Franconia's largest city. The population is 505,664...

 where she attended one of the annual Nuremberg rallies
Nuremberg Rally
The Nuremberg Rally was the annual rally of the NSDAP in Germany, held from 1923 to 1938. Especially after Hitler's rise to power in 1933, they were large Nazi propaganda events...

. After writing about the rally for a class assignment she was given Mein Kampf
Mein Kampf
Mein Kampf is a book written by Nazi leader Adolf Hitler. It combines elements of autobiography with an exposition of Hitler's political ideology. Volume 1 of Mein Kampf was published in 1925 and Volume 2 in 1926...

to read by her teacher so she might be able to understand what she saw there. After the Nazi takeover of Austria
The Anschluss , also known as the ', was the occupation and annexation of Austria into Nazi Germany in 1938....

 in 1938, she moved to France
The French Republic , The French Republic , The French Republic , (commonly known as France , is a unitary semi-presidential republic in Western Europe with several overseas territories and islands located on other continents and in the Indian, Pacific, and Atlantic oceans. Metropolitan France...

 where she worked with refugee
A refugee is a person who outside her country of origin or habitual residence because she has suffered persecution on account of race, religion, nationality, political opinion, or because she is a member of a persecuted 'social group'. Such a person may be referred to as an 'asylum seeker' until...

 children during the German occupation until she was warned of her imminent arrest. She then fled to the United States
United States
The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...


After World War II
World War II
World War II, or the Second World War , was a global conflict lasting from 1939 to 1945, involving most of the world's nations—including all of the great powers—eventually forming two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis...

, she worked for the United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation Administration
United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation Administration
The United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation Administration was an international relief agency, largely dominated by the United States but representing 44 nations. Founded in 1943, it became part of the United Nations in 1945, was especially active in 1945 and 1946, and largely shut down...

 with refugees in Allied-occupied Germany. Among her tasks was reuniting children—who had been kidnapped by the Nazis
Kidnapping of Polish children by Nazi Germany
Kidnapping of Eastern European children by Nazi Germany , part of the Generalplan Ost , involved taking children from Eastern Europe and moving them to Nazi Germany for the purpose of Germanization, or conversion into Germans....

 to be raised as "Aryans
Aryan race
The Aryan race is a concept historically influential in Western culture in the period of the late 19th century and early 20th century. It derives from the idea that the original speakers of the Indo-European languages and their descendants up to the present day constitute a distinctive race or...

" -- with their biological families. This could be a traumatic experience because the children did not always remember their original family, but she also accompanied a train-load of such children back to Poland and saw the delight of the original family members at the restoration of the children.

She attended the Nuremberg Trials
Nuremberg Trials
The Nuremberg Trials were a series of military tribunals, held by the victorious Allied forces of World War II, most notable for the prosecution of prominent members of the political, military, and economic leadership of the defeated Nazi Germany....

 for four days in 1945 as an observer and it was here that she first saw Albert Speer
Albert Speer
Albert Speer, born Berthold Konrad Hermann Albert Speer, was a German architect who was, for a part of World War II, Minister of Armaments and War Production for the Third Reich. Speer was Adolf Hitler's chief architect before assuming ministerial office...

 about whom she would later write the book Albert Speer: His Battle with Truth. It was for this book that she was awarded the 1995 James Tait Black Memorial Prize
James Tait Black Memorial Prize
Founded in 1919, the James Tait Black Memorial Prizes are among the oldest and most prestigious book prizes awarded for literature written in the English language and are Britain's oldest literary awards...

. The book was also later adapted by David Edgar
David Edgar (playwright)
David Edgar is a British playwright and author who has had more than sixty of his plays published and performed on stage, radio and television around the world, making him one of the most prolific dramatists of the post-1960s generation in Great Britain.He was resident playwright at the Birmingham...

 as the play Albert Speer
Albert Speer (play)
Albert Speer was a 2000 play by the British playwright David Edgar on the life of the Nazi-era architect Albert Speer, based on based on the book Albert Speer: His Battle with Truth by Gitta Sereny. It premiered that year at the Lyttelton auditorium of the Royal National Theatre, with the title...

and directed by Trevor Nunn
Trevor Nunn
Sir Trevor Robert Nunn, CBE is an English theatre, film and television director. Nunn has been the Artistic Director for the Royal Shakespeare Company, the Royal National Theatre, and, currently, the Theatre Royal, Haymarket. He has directed musicals and dramas for the stage, as well as opera...

 at the National Theatre in 2000.

From the mid-sixties and throughout the 1970's she wrote extensively for The Daily Telegraph
The Daily Telegraph
The Daily Telegraph is a daily morning broadsheet newspaper distributed throughout the United Kingdom and internationally. The newspaper was founded by Arthur B...

Magazine under the editorship of John Anstey. These articles were often about young people, the social services, children and their relationships with their parents and society. This led to her covering the trial of eleven year old Mary Bell and would further lead to her first investigative book:

The Case of Mary Bell

The Case of Mary Bell was first published in 1972 following Mary Bell
Mary Bell
Mary Flora Bell was convicted in December 1968 of the manslaughter of two boys, Martin Brown and Brian Howe...

's trial; in it Sereny interviewed her family, friends and the professionals involved in looking after Mary during her trial. This book was edited by Diana Athill
Diana Athill
Diana Athill OBE is a British literary editor, novelist and memoirist who worked with some of the most important writers of the 20th century.-Life and writings:...

 who would also edit Sereny's Into That Darkness.

Into That Darkness

This book (also following an initial article for the Telegraph magazine) was an examination of the guilt of Franz Stangl
Franz Stangl
Franz Paul Stangl was an Austrian-born SS commandant of the Sobibor and Treblinka extermination camps during the Operation Reinhard phase of the Holocaust. He was arrested in Brazil in 1967, extradited and tried in West Germany for the mass murder of 900,000 people, and in 1970 was found guilty...

, the commandant of the Treblinka and Sobibor
Sobibór is a village in the administrative district of Gmina Włodawa, within Włodawa County, Lublin Voivodeship, in eastern Poland. It lies close to the Bug River, which forms the border with Belarus and Ukraine. Sobibór is approximately south-east of Włodawa and east of the regional capital...

 extermination camps. She spent 60 hours interviewing him in prison for the article and when she had finished he finally admitted his guilt; he died of a heart attack 18 hours later.

Cries Unheard

In 1998, she was embroiled in a controversy in the British press when her second book on Mary Bell, Cries Unheard was published and she announced that she was sharing the publishing fee, from MacMillan Publishers, with Mary Bell for collaborating on the book. Sereny was initially criticized in the British press and by the British government, though the book quickly became, and remains, a standard text for professionals working with problem children.

The German Trauma (UK)/The Healing Wound (US): Experiences and Reflections, Germany, 1938-2001

"The nineteen chapters in this book, all intimately concerned with Germany before, during and since the end of the Third Rech, describe more or less sequentially what I saw and learned from 1938 to 1999, thus almost over a lifetime."

David Irving libel case

British historian and Holocaust denier
Holocaust denial
Holocaust denial is the act of denying the genocide of Jews in World War II, usually referred to as the Holocaust. The key claims of Holocaust denial are: the German Nazi government had no official policy or intention of exterminating Jews, Nazi authorities did not use extermination camps and gas...

 David Irving
David Irving
David John Cawdell Irving is an English writer,best known for his denial of the Holocaust, who specialises in the military and political history of World War II, with a focus on Nazi Germany...

 initiated a libel case against Sereny and the Guardian Media Group
Guardian Media Group
Guardian Media Group plc is a company of the United Kingdom owning various mass media operations including The Guardian and The Observer. The Group is owned by the Scott Trust. It was founded as the Manchester Guardian Ltd in 1907 when C. P. Scott bought the Manchester Guardian from the estate of...

 for two reviews in The Observer
The Observer
The Observer is a British newspaper, published on Sundays. In the same place on the political spectrum as its daily sister paper The Guardian, which acquired it in 1993, it takes a liberal or social democratic line on most issues. It is the world's oldest Sunday newspaper.-Origins:The first issue,...

where she asserted he deliberately falsified the historical record in an attempt to rehabilitate the Nazis. Irving maintains a personal animosity for Sereny, whom he calls "that shriveled Nazi hunter
Nazi hunter
A Nazi-hunter is a private individual who tracks down and gathers information on alleged former Nazis, SS members and Nazi collaborators involved in the Holocaust, typically for use at trial on charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity...

", for successfully refuting his claims since the publication of his book Hitler's War. When, in 1977, Sereny cross-checked the source he cited for his assertion that Hitler knew nothing about the Final Solution
Final Solution
The Final Solution was Nazi Germany's plan and execution of the systematic genocide of European Jews during World War II, resulting in the most deadly phase of the Holocaust...

, and therefore could not have ordered it, she found he had excised a caveat which would have contradicted his claim. "I know many of the same people as he does who were of Hitler's circle," Sereny said. "That is scary for him. He says we jostle at the same trough. The difference is that he loves that trough, and I don't... There is, I think, [for him] despair in all of this." Although the case did not go to court, the cost to The Observer for preparing their legal defense amounted to £800,000.


In the 2004 New Years Honours List, Sereny was awarded a CBE
Order of the British Empire
The Most Excellent Order of the British Empire is an order of chivalry established on 4 June 1917 by George V of the United Kingdom. The Order comprises five classes in civil and military divisions...

for services to journalism, which she received at a special ceremony at the Foreign Office.

External links

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