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The Boy from Boskovice: A Father's Secret Life

By Vicky Unwin

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What makes a good man bad? Nature or nurture? A story of secrets, lies, loss and abuse…

Publication date: January 2021
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About the book

This is the story of my father Tomas Ungar, from the small Czech town of Boskovice, a Holocaust survivor who became the more-British-than-the-British Tom Unwin, erstwhile intelligence officer, United Nations diplomat and champion of the downtrodden.

But his whole life was a lie of one sort or another and, sifting through a suitcase-full of dusty documents, I gradually came to the hardest conclusion of all: it was possible to be part of the great Jewish exodus and still leave a trail of destruction in his wake.

Was it a case of nature vs nurture? Did my father inherit his cruel character from his father, Hermann Ungar, the Czech writer and diplomat, friend of Thomas Mann and Stefan Zweig?

I tease out how a victim can become a perpetrator; why my charming and charismatic dad was in fact a wife-beating, narcissistic misogynist, who hid his Jewish roots and abandoned and kept secret his illegitimate daughter until his death-bed confession.

Tomas Ungar/Tom Unwin is an amoral everyman figure emerging rootless from a corner of Europe at the darkest hour – a reminder that it is not always history which shapes the man, but the man that shapes himself.

His story resonates across the decades and contributes fascinating insights into the debate on the influence of genes.

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