Robert Maxwell - born Ján Ludvik Hoch in Solotvino then part of Czechoslovakia now Ukrain - was raised into a poor Yiddish-speaking Jewish family of in total nine children. In 1939 the area was reclaimed by Hungary. Most of his family were killed after Hungary was occupied by Germany in 1944 but he escaped before that event and arrived in England via France in 1940 as a refugee. In 1941 he joined the Pioneer Corps, transferring to the North Staffordshire Regiment in 1943. He fought across Europe from the Normandy landings to the capture of Berlin. His intelligence and gift for languages earned him a commission in the last year of the war with the Queen’s Royal Regiment. During this period he adopted the name ‘Robert Maxwell’ which was offiicially changed in July 1948 (LG 38352/4046).
After the war he worked as a newspaper censor for the British Military Command in Berlin during the Allied Occupation. Later he used various
contacts to make a start in the publishing business, becoming by the 1960s immensely wealthy, whilst still publicly supporting the Socialist principles of his youth.
In 1964 he was elected Labour MP for Buckingham, holding the seat until his defeat in 1970. In July 1984, he acquired Mirror Group Newspapers. The acquisition gave him control of a huge publishing and media empire.
By 1991 his business interests were heavily in debt. On 5 November 1991 he disappeared and was presumed to have fallen overboard accidentally from his luxury yacht, the Lady Ghislaine, which was cruising off the Canary Islands; his body was subsequently recovered from the Atlantic Ocean.
On 10 November his funeral took place on the Mount of Olives, Jerusalem.
During his life he also received the following medals and/or awards:
- Bulgaria, Order of Stara Planina, First Class neck badge, in silver
- Finland, Order of the White Rose, Second Class hallmarked 1987
- Poland, Order of Merit of the People’s Republic, Second Class
- Swedish Order of the Polar Star
- State of Israel 25th Anniversary Gold Medal, 1973
- State of Israel 40th Anniversary ‘Gold’ Medal, 1988
- 700th Anniversary of the Sedmset Let Staronove Synagogue, - Czechoslovakia, 1990, bronze medal
- International Men and Women for Peace Movement, in gold and enamels
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