Hommage à Herbert Maisl par Hugo Marom


I was born Hugo Meisl in Brno, Czech Republic, and since the Israel War of Independence in 1948 I live in Israel as Hugo Marom.

I am the last of a long line of Czech Jews “the Meisls” dating back to the 10th century from Prague.

I stand here and mourn together with all of you, the passing of the first Catholic Maisl, my cousin!!

How!!? Herbert’s father Oscar was an illegal immigrant in pre Nazi occupied France.

Through no fault of his own, but thanks to Herbert’s mother Aline de Meibohm, a French Catholic, who first married Oscar Maisl, Herbert’s father-to-be, fictitiously “by proxy”, to save him from the Nazis, an illegal Jewish immigrant in France, from being sent to a concentration camp. When the Nazis no longer accepted fictitious marriages of French Christians to Jews, Oscar and Aline consummated their marriage with the birth of Herbert on July 21 1942 in Agen.

I knew Herbert’s father long before I met Herbert, a 17 year old, who came to visit us in Tel-Aviv in 1959 from Beirut, where he’d spent his summer vacationing at his mother’s relatives.

The audacity to travel alone, in those years between Beirut and Tel-Aviv, was the first demonstration of Herbert’s unique character, a young cosmopolitan, a very proud Frenchman, who was most interested in the political ties between France and Israel, and the assistance of the French Air Force during the Suez campaign in 1956, when Israel became France’s largest customer for Ouragan, Myster 4, Super Myster and Nord 2005 aircraft, with Israel Aircraft Industries starting to produce under license the Fouga Magister for the Israel Air Force, and thus becoming the first all jet training country in the world.

As chief test pilot of Israel Aerospace Industries, I took this boy to meet ministry officials, directors of industry, visit “Yad Vashem” in Jerusalem, Via Dolorosa, Caper Naum on the sea of Galleli, the Negev desert and even flew him down to the Santa Katherina Monastery to see Mount Sinai.

It was clear to everyone, who met and spoke to this young Frenchman that he was deemed to become famous but noone imagined that by the age of 26 he would get his doctorate in law and become an assistant professor at Paris I University. By the age of 31, Herbert was appointed professor of law and economic sciences at the University of Orleans.

The rest of his most distinguished carrier, including membership in Premier Lionel Jospin’s cabinet, can be found in Google but nowhere does it mention Herbert’s most outstanding characteristic, his modesty.

In the 50 odd years since we met, spent vacations together, never a word of his accomplishments, the high positions he held nor the people he led, taught or worked with or for.

His dedication to his father, a brilliant hard working chartered accountant, with Molliere’s sense of humour, a Jewish immigrant who became more French than the French, was undoubtedly a shining example for Herbert, who always duty bound, found it hard to spend enough time with his family.

There is no question in my mind, that had it not been for the Catholic Church, his French mother Aline de Meibohm’s courage to marry Oscar, a Jewish refugee in an anti-semitic, Nazi controlled Europe, we would not be here today witnessing, the handing over of the centuries old Czech Meisl clan to the leadership of France’s Herbert and Muriel’s son Fabian Maisl, his wife Katouchka, sisters Olivia and Delphine, grand children Elliot, Felix and Oscar, in laws Oliver and Michael to follow in Herbert’s giant footsteps, a no easy task.

Like all of you who knew him, my family loved him and admired him for his accomplishments.

May his soul rest in peace.