In her memoir, Invisible Walls, Hella Pick has described a multifaceted life that began in Vienna and brought her as a Kindertransport child to Britain at the age of 10. As a refugee uprooted from the country of her birth, she was educated in Britain, became a journalist who travelled the world, has written three books, including a biography of the Nazi hunter, Simon Wiesenthal, and worked with Lord Weidenfeld during the last 15 years of his life. She has a CBE and several honours from Germany and Austria. She has an honorary degree from Sussex University. But her book is not intended as a catalogue of achievement. It is also a vehicle for examining the impact of being uprooted as a child and a lifelong battle to overcome insecurity and make sense of multiple identities. Brought up without contact with Jewish communities, it took a long time for Hella to acknowledge her Jewish identity, and involve herself in the fight against Antisemitism. With her refugee’s origin the question of what it is to be a Jew in Brexit Britain occupies her deeply. Her aim at this meeting of the Edinburgh Jewish Literary Society will be to stimulate discussion on the issues she has raised in her book.
Hella Pick was born in Vienna in 1929. In March 1939 Hella arrived in the UK as a refugee on the Kindertransport; her mother was able to join her three months later. Hella went to school in London and in theLake District, and became a British citizen in 1948. Following a degree at the London School of Economics she became the UN correspondent of The Guardian newspaper in 1960, guided by its then chief US correspondent Alistair Cooke. She spent three decades at The Guardian, ending up as Diplomatic Editor. During her very distinguished career as a journalist, Hella Pick covered many of the leading events of the post-war period and met its leading participants. Pick was awarded a CBE in 2000 for her work as a journalist and writer. She is currently the Arts and Culture Programme Director at the Institute for Strategic Dialogue, an independent think-tank based in London. She has dual British and Austrian citizenship, and regularly visits Austria, which she describes as her ‘home away from home’.