Harry Warschauer

 

Harry Warschauer Few, if any, can have "lived the news", both in private life and their profession, as did Harry Warschauer, who has died at the age of 76. As one of the Sunday People’s ace investigative reporters for 25 years, his penetrations of the underworld won him everything from a personal commendation from the Metropolitan Police commissioner, for the biggest drug bust of the day, to a share of a team award from television’s What The Papers Say for his contributions to the jailing of two Scotland Yard commanders and 14 other detectives for corrupt links with Soho porn barons.

Harry’s unique life began in Germany. Despite the fact that his father had won the Iron Cross fighting for the Kaiser in the First World War, a brown shirt ‘accidentally’ killed him in a motorcycle incident. The family fled to Czechoslovakia, but in 1939 the storm troopers marched into Prague. As war and the Holocaust loomed, Harry, aged 15, was living on one meal a day from a Jewish welfare fund.

A group of British sympathisers came to the rescue, persuading the Nazis to allow 600 Jewish children to leave for England in the notorious ‘kinder transports’ – trains loaded with children forced to leave their parents behind. Harry was one such orphan of the storm.

In England, alone and unable to speak the language, he was trained as a carpenter by well-meaning helpers. In despair, he attempted suicide, but was saved by a kindly English family. As soon as he was old enough he joined the Jewish brigade of the wartime British Army. By then his mother was a prisoner in a concentration camp.

After the war, Harry decided to become a journalist. With no experience or references, he cadged work on pin-up mags – picking up contacts in the modelling world and in Soho, which he was later to put to good use. He moved on to engineering periodicals and finally learned enough about the game to freelance in Fleet Street. Joining the People in 1960, he rapidly became an undercover investigator. With his black beard, horn-rimmed glasses and broken English when required (he actually spoke several European languages), he could pass as anything from a Hungarian professor to a German nightclub owner.

He had close shaves with criminals who would have cut his throat if they had sussed him, but he never refused an assignment. Like all investigators he took his share of flak from the great and the good. One of his front-page spreads was the first exposŽ of a British paedophile ring. Harry and a freelance penetrated the organisation and named-and-shamed its leading members under the splash headline "the most evil men in Britain".

The final irony of Harry’s career came when Robert Maxwell took over Mirror Group, which included the People. During a libel action against Private Eye, Maxwell wept in court as he gave evidence of how his own family had suffered at the hands of the Nazis. In 1985, Maxwell announced mass sackings at Mirror Group and many long-serving journalists were at the top of the hit list. One of them was the former kid from the kinder transport, Harry Warschauer.

Laurie Manifold

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