Remembering Those We Lost This Year

December 31, 2015

As the year closes, let us remember a few notables who left this life in 2015.

Martin Gilbert, as a young Oxford scholar in 1962, was asked byRandolph Churchill to help research the biography of his father,Winston S. Churchill. Following Randolph’s death in 1968, Gilbert took up the task of writing the biography’s final six volumes, covering the period from 1914 until the great man’s death in 1965. These books—authoritative, elegant and gripping—illuminate the life and times of one of the 20th century’s most consequential figures.

Gilbert was not only the world’s pre-eminent Churchill scholar, but also one of the great modern historians. He turned out more than 80 books, including volumes on World Wars I and II, D-Day and the Holocaust. He was fond of the inscription on a memorial to a 19th-century Anglican bishop: “He tried to write true history.” True history is what Gilbert, a kind man with a warm smile and generous manner, wrote. And like Winston Churchill, he loved America. He was buried in February in the Beit Shemesh cemetery near Jerusalem.

He was followed in July by 98-year-old Robert Conquest, a senior research fellow at the Hoover Institution at Stanford. This British-born scholar revealed the horror of 20th-century totalitarianism, specifically Soviet Communism. Many Western intellectuals were drawn by its utopian promises. But after Conquest’s book “The Great Terror,” which showed its brutal reality, they could not do so without deceiving themselves.

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