Jospeh Witriol’s Apologia Pro Autobiographia Sua

Thus the title of the introduction to Joseph Witriol’s autobiography, Also Lived – The Autobiography of a Failure. He wrote it, on and off, for about six years, from 1984 to 1990. Rather than retype the 60,000 words (which would take me six years or more), I have scanned the typescript (‘inkscript’ on a few pages) which, unfortunately, has many corrections, deletions and so on. In a few places the quality of the reproduction is very poor. In due course, I hope to upload old photos, letters and documents that are referred to in Also Lived.

In the self-justifyingly titled Apologia, he says that he wanted his children to know something of “the rock whence they were hewn” as well as needing to “get it (i.e. writing the autobiography) out of his system”.  Given that when he wrote it he was well into his seventies, was still teaching and translating, involved in synagogue life and had various domestic commitments, it is perhaps understandable that the manuscript repeats certain passages and has much less of the flair shown in many of his newspaper articles. As he himself wrote in a Journal entry dated 24 June 1985 – “…had a bash at my autobiography. Goes on and on, seems nothing but a list of names.”

Much of the family-centred material would only perhaps be of interest to someone who grew up in the same area, served in the same Army unit and so on.  But it is a detailed “ethnic social history” of aspects of Jewish and Zionist life in London as well as a record of his experiences as a Jew in Hamburg in 1934 when Hitler had been in power for a year. The same applies to his wartime service in London, North Africa (including Palestine) and Italy. And – more scary than any military encounter he (never) had – teaching in East London “sec. mod.” schools in the 1950s.

In any case, as I read his words, I feel he wanted them to be preserved for posterity (Equally a few passages have been redacted where I think that is what he would have wanted).  And finally, should the online record of this self-styled “also ran”  be discovered by others who can add anything about the people, places and events mentioned, any such information or comment would be much appreciated, either here or at