Michael Howard was leader of the Conservative Party in Great Britain from 2003 until 2005. Previously he had served as a senior minister in the Thatcher/Major Tory government of the 1990s.
In July 2004, during a radio interview on the BBC, Howard claimed that his grandmother died at Auschwitz and that his aunt and uncle both survived, despite his aunt being sent to the gas chamber on 3 separate occasions. On one occasion the Nazis had apparently "ran out of gas"
Source material below from one of Britain's most reputable newspapers (The Independent) and the BBC Desert Island Discs - the radio show in which Howard made his claims.
The second article rambles on a bit about his life and career in politics so you just need to read the first couple of paragraphs for confirmation of what he said.
http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/po ... 66242.html
http://www.bbc.co.uk/pressoffice/pressr ... ward.shtml
A freelance reporter called Michael Crick did some digging into Howard's family history whilst working on a biography of Howard and the pieces of the puzzle just didn't add up for him. You can read about it here:
Now here's where it gets complicated. The above article was written by a politician who is a member of the right-wing British National Party and members of the BNP have previously been involved in Holocaust denial.
But please remember this story was written from a political angle, not a historical one so ignore the unnecessary and snide wisecracks from the author. But I think it's important to remember that just because the BNP are borderline neo-fascists doesn't make the story untrue. On it's own, for sure it would be an unreliable source but Howard eventually admitted later that some of the information he had provided during his interview was inaccurate and blamed his father.
Howard made these comments in an interview with The Daily Mail newspaper before the 2005 UK General Election. There was no website at the time so I don't have the full transcript of the article. But according to at least 2 sources it contained the following statements:
I have speculated on the reason, and I suppose that one possibility is that my grandfather might have entered Britain unlawfully. What my father did was wrong. I don't condone it, but I don't feel embarrassed because I have done nothing wrong myself.
(and later on in the article)
My grandmother and aunt were separated, as soon as they got off the train, by the SS guards. They were divided into two groups. Those who were young, able-bodied and capable of work were sent one way. Those too old, too frail or too young to be of use went the other way. At this point my aunt and grandmother were forcibly parted.
My aunt was taken to the gas chamber twice. On one occasion they ran out of gas and so she survived. On the other there was some malfunction. Then the third time they came to the barracks where she lived to take everyone in it to the chamber, but she was so thin – all she was given to eat were potato peelings – she managed to hide in the chimney. They didn't find her. She, alone among the group, miraculously survived.
Howard makes 3 statements which just don't add up. When you take them all together, it's like something out of a bad Hollywood movie:
1. Auschwitz-Birkenau ran out of gas.
2. On a second occasion, the gas chamber malfunctioned.
3. His aunt somehow eluded the SS guards and avoided death by hiding in the chimneys. And survived to tell the tale.
In one of the interviews (I don't know whether it was in the Daily Mail or the BBC radio show) Howard claimed that on the second occasion above, his aunt could even "hear the hissing of the gas"
In February 2005, Michael Howard gave a 3rd interview to another British national newspaper, The Daily Telegraph and here is the full transcript:
Now we turn our attention to Michael Crick. It would be convenient if he were a "two-bit" researcher, but in fact he is a highly respected journalist and investigate reporter who has also authored many books:Michael Howard: Grandfather might have been illegal immigrant
Mr Howard's father, Bernard Hecht, who came here in the 1930s, falsified details about his parents when he applied for British citizenship in 1947.
The Tory leader's grandmother died in Auschwitz but at the time his grandfather was living in London.
However his father, who anglicised the family name after settling in Britain, claimed they both died in his native Romania. In an interview with the Daily Mail newspaper, he [Michael Howard] said: "I have speculated on the reason and I suppose one possibility is that my grandfather might have entered Britain unlawfully."
The Conservative leader, whose new hardline policies on immigration have attracted criticism, says the reason his father gave incorrect information will remain a mystery.
The revelation follows his announcement of proposals that would see MPs set a limit on immigrants who would be selected through an Australian-style points system.
He said:"As for my grandfather, there might have been some irregularities about his status." Mr Howard decided to reveal the mystery after investigative journalist Michael Crick began looking into his family background.
This isn't a political forum and I'm sure 99% of you reading this aren't interested in the political angle that Howard's father was probably both a liar and an illegal immigrant.
My focus is on the historical significance of Michael Howard's claims. Is it really possible that all of this could have happened?
At the time of the interview in 2004, Michael Howard was already an experienced politician who had served as a senior government minister and from his comments in the 2nd Daily Mail interview, he freely admits that his father probably lied.
So why tell the story in the first place? It's one thing being told a lie by your father. It's quite another to know/suspect that it's a lie but attempt to pass it off as truth to the British people whilst running for Prime Minister a few months before a General Election.