Conversations with friends about their lives (David Pryce-Jones, Lord Young, Bahra Saleh)

May 27, 2020

Just for fun, in recent coronavirus lockdown days I have been conducting some informal zoom conversations with friends of mine. Three of them are below. -- Tom Gross


David Pryce-Jones (London, Wales, Florence)

Writer David Pryce-Jones discusses his childhood escape from the Nazis, his friendships with Isaac Bashevis Singer, Arthur Koestler, Stalin’s daughter Svetlana, John Gross and others; and Israel, Italy, and the New York Times. Discussion by zoom in Wales, while under coronavirus lockdown, on May 21, 2020.


Rt Hon Lord (David) Young of Graffham

Lord David Young talks about his life, his ten years in Downing Street working closely with Margaret Thatcher, his five years in Downing Street with David Cameron, and about Boris Johnson, Donald Trump, and modern multicultural Britain. Discussion by zoom in Graffham, Sussex, in England, while under coronavirus lockdown, on May 20, 2020.


Bahra Saleh (Kirkuk, Iraq)

Tom Gross talks with Bahra Saleh about her life and about Kurdistan. Discussion by zoom in Kirkuk, Iraq, while under coronavirus lockdown, on May 20, 2020.


Other conversations in this series:

World aclaimed pianist Evgeny Kissin (Prague)

Described by The Economist magazine as “the world’s most acclaimed classical pianist” Evgeny Kissin talks about being a child prodigy; his favorite concert halls and musicians; learning new repertoires and visiting Kafka’s grave during coronavirus lockdown; about Stalin’s murder of Yiddish writers, his own love for Yiddish, his support for Israel, and his political views about Russia and the West.

(Discussion by zoom, while under coronavirus lockdown in Prague, on May 24, 2020.)

* You can see shorter extracts from the conversation with Evgeny Kissin here: Conversations with friends: Evgeny Kissin on music, the Yiddish language, Israel and the Soviet Union


The last Nazi-hunter Efraim Zuroff (Jerusalem)

Efraim Zuroff speaks about why he became a Nazi hunter, his pursuit of war criminals all over the world over many decades, and his efforts to make countries such as Lithuania, Latvia and Croatia admit to their own nation’s very substantial collaboration with the Nazi genocide. As the last survivors die out where does Holocaust education and memory go from here?

Why did it take Steven Spielberg’s 1993 film Schindler’s List to make Holocaust education finally become incorporated into the British education system some years later? Why did western countries and the Vatican and Red Cross help Nazi criminals escape at the end of the war? Why were so many doctors Nazis?

We also discuss the trial of Bruno Dey (charged for his part in the murder of 5,230 people at Stutthof death camp) which is continuing now in Hamburg – it is 75 years late but the German judge insisted it continue despite the coronavirus restrictions.

(Discussion by zoom, while under coronavirus lockdown in Jerusalem, on June 8, 2020.)


John O’Sullivan (Budapest)

Born to modest parents near Liverpool (his father was a ship steward, his mother a shop girl) John O’Sullivan rose to become one of Margaret Thatcher’s most trusted aides and advisors in 10 Downing Street. In this zoom conversation, he discusses Thatcher’s personality and how she developed her views, and other leading figures he met. (On one occasion John had breakfast with Thatcher in London, then flew to Washington and had dinner with President Reagan that same evening.) He and Tom Gross also discuss Donald Trump’s presidency; the future of journalism; and his lifelong love for musical theatre.

(Discussion by zoom, while under coronavirus lockdown in Budapest, on May 29, 2020.)


Oscar-nominated filmmaker Hossein Amini (London)

Born in Tehran to a distinguished Iranian family (his grandfather was prime minister under the shah) Oscar-nominated screenwriter and film director Hossein Amini speaks with his friend Tom Gross about Iran before and after the Islamic revolution, his career as a filmmaker, his work with Martin Scorsese and Harvey Weinstein, his favorite films, and says that ‘it’s no accident that the MeToo movement started in tolerant Hollywood’. We also discuss racism in Britain.

(Discussion by zoom, while under coronavirus lockdown in London, on May 30, 2020.)


Orit Yasu (Shoham, near Tel Aviv)

Born to recently arrived Ethiopian-Israeli parents, Orit Yasu talks with Tom Gross about growing up in Kiryat Malachi, the rescue of Ethiopian Jews by the Mossad, her participation in the 1999 Columbine High School shooting memorial while on a school trip to Colorado, on how NYC is too crowded, her trip to see her parents village Ethiopia, and why many Ethiopian-Israelis vote Likud.

(Discussion by zoom, while under coronavirus lockdown, on May 31, 2020.)


Nidra Poller (Paris)

Writer Nidra Poller discusses hanging out with James Baldwin and other African-American writers and musicians in 1970s Paris, the origins of the name Nidra, how her Japanese partner introduced her to Israel, and the position of women in the modern world.

(Discussion by zoom, while under coronavirus lockdown in Paris, on May 19, 2020.)


Susan Loewenthal Lourenco (Berlin)

Educator Susan Lourenco talks about being the child of refugees from Berlin, her life in four different countries and how she reconciled herself with modern Germany.

(Discussion by zoom, while under coronavirus lockdown in Berlin, on May 12, 2020.)


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