Eric Hugo StrachBMJ 2012; 344 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.e1419 (Published 07 March 2012) Cite this as: BMJ 2012;344:e1419
- Angela Strach
My father, Eric Hugo Strach, viewed his life in two halves—the life he left behind and his “new” life. He was born in Brno, Czechoslovakia, into a close knit Jewish family who were religious but not orthodox. His father owned an umbrella shop. His sister Ilse was 18 months older than Eric.
The first major hurdle he overcame was a serious bowel intussusception at the age of 6 months when he nearly died. He always regarded himself as lucky to be alive having survived this and indeed, he made the best of all the hurdles life threw at him and remained a committed optimist through thick and thin. He had many more hurdles to deal with before he reached his new life.
Eric studied medicine at Prague University and graduated in 1938, after which he spent the summer in France with friends. The Nante family were to become Eric’s saviours, and they have continued to be close family friends to this day. As the situation in Europe deteriorated, Eric’s parents dissuaded him from returning to Czechoslovakia. The Nantes were prepared to lodge him and feed him, as he had no work permit. Eric was able to repay their hospitality by driving their car for them after their chauffeur had been called up. During this time he tried desperately to arrange a visa for his sister and her children but failed. He always said he thought he could have done more to save them.
He finally got work as a resident medical officer at a sanatorium in Dreux. After it was bombed in 1940, he drove the Nante family to Pornic in Brittany to relative safety and then answered his call-up to the Czech army at Agde, in the South of France.
From here, he set sail as a private with …