Many of you will have read the excellent reviews for Daniel Finkelstein’s book, ‘Hitler, Stalin, Mum and Dad’. Some of you may have already read it. But I suspect very few will have realised that the author’s ‘Dad’ played a key role in the tourist guiding profession.
In late 2000, in the final stages of our 5-year struggle to set up the Institute of Tourist Guiding, the English Tourism Council brought in Professor Ludwik Finkelstein as an independent Chairman of the Institute steering committee. Until then the committee had been chaired jointly by Tom Hooper and me. We were, of course, dismayed at being forced back to the drawing board, particularly with an outside Chairman who knew nothing about our profession. But we soon realised what a powerful ally he could be and, without doubt, he was enormously influential in ensuring that the proposal was finally approved by the government.
Tom and I worked closely with ‘Fink’ (as he was affectionately known), travelling with him throughout the country to discuss the Institute proposals with regional tourist boards, guiding associations and other stakeholders. Unlike many of the tourism officials of the time, he immediately saw the merit in our proposal and fully supported guides’ determination to take control of their profession. He gave us invaluable advice, particularly regarding the complex inter-relationship between the Institute’s various functions and the appropriate legal and organisational structures for carrying these out. With his fearsome intellect he helped make our case to the few tourist boards that were still uncertain. And his presence encouraged other academics and industry leaders to become involved.
In spite of his many illustrious achievements and honours, it was with considerable pride that he accepted the role of Companion of the new Institute and attended its launch by the then Minister for Tourism, Kim Howells, in the Palace of Westminster in April 2002.
Back to the book: do read it! It’s exceptionally well written and is a truly remarkable story of resilience in the face of unimaginable horrors. It reminds us forcefully that, whereas the Nazis faced judgement at Nuremberg, the Soviets never did – a fact that is particularly pertinent today. Above all, it is the story of two extraordinary women – the author’s grandmothers. Fink too was a giant. Tom and I remember him with great affection and I am left with a feeling of huge sadness that we knew him for such a short time - but also with immense gratitude for his help in establishing the Institute.
A final point of interest for Institute members: Fink’s father-in-law was Alfred Wiener, founder of the Wiener Holocaust Library in Russell Square, where there is currently an exhibition about the family and the founding of the Library 90 years ago. (Until 20 October.)
2 August 2023