Michael Gorb: In Memoriam

My long time friend Nigel, once warned another of my friends, Pavitra, not to argue with me as ‘he remembers everything.‘ I am not sure if that is a blessing or a curse, but at least one other friend asked me to write a memoir of his time in high school, as I remembered far more of his life at that time than he did.

Bearing this memory in mind, I note that as we grow up, we need sometimes heroic figure to provide some sort of role model to us. In my suburban street in Cardiff, Wales, when I was growing up around the age of 8 in the mid 1950s, Michael Gorb was some sort of hero figure to me. He was a very intelligent, athletic late teenager, who had metaphormized into a dashing British Army officer when he was conscripted/drafted in his early 20s. When I later attended the same high school as he had, he was still vividly remembered by my English Literature teacher for his intellectual brilliance and for being one of the few students who could write really humorous essays. We were warned it was unlikely we would be so funny. Then tragically, Michael having attended Imperial College London, having been an Army Officer, was killed while climbing in the Alps and I lost a hero.

Some years ago, thinking back to that time, it suddenly occurred to me that I should Google my lost hero Michael Gorb, and find out if he left any trace that mapped into the cyber world of the 21st century. Sure enough I found a reference to him:

I encountered many Jewish students when I attended London University however — I would like to commemorate here the name of my flat mate at Imperial College, Mike Gorb, who died tragically in a mountaineering accident.

Ah, some trace of him. But unfortunately, this is from the court room opening statement of David Irving, in his 1996 attempt to sue Deborah Lipstadt and Penguin Books for libel for calling him a holocaust denier. And his reference to Michael Gorb was along the lines of: ‘I can’t be an anti-semite because one of my flat mates at University was Jewish’. Irving lost the case which destroyed his reputation as an historian and bankrupted him.

I don’t think I want this to be the way Michael Gorb is remembered as a stage prop of a holocaust denier. So let me end:

Michael Gorb was someone I looked up to, who inspired me to try to be both an intellectual and very physically active, who wrote brilliantly, and who would have no doubt led a brilliant career had a climbing accident not cut it short. And there is no need for the further accident of David Irving mentioning him….

In memoriam Michael Gorb.

Footnote: If anyone reading this piece knows any more about this Michael Gorb, his time at Imperial College or with the British Army, please post a comment. Thank you.

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About creativeconflictwisdom

I spent 32 years in a Fortune Five company working on conflict: organizational, labor relations and senior management. I have consulted in a dozen different business sectors and the US Military. I work with a local environmental non profit. I have written a book on the neuroscience of conflict, and its implications for conflict handling called Creative Conflict Wisdom (forthcoming).
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