Obituary: Louis Bondy

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The Independent Online
Louis Bondy, antiquarian bookseller and local politician: born Berlin 19 June 1910; died 10 June 1993.

LOUIS BONDY was an antiquarian bookseller and for many years a London councillor.

He was born in Berlin in 1910, into a cultured Jewish family. Encouraged by his father, the editor af a literary magazine, he studied architecture in Berlin and Geneva. He later regretted never having completed his studies.

In 1932, he was drawn back to his father's profession, and was offered a post in the Deutsche Allgemeine Zeitung with a desk in Paris. Here he found an exciting new life reporting on art galleries, theatre and opera houses, only to have it abruptly ended with Adolf Hitler's accession to power in 1933. He became a photojournalist in Spain, fleeing to London in 1937, shortly after the outbreak of the Civil War. He joined the Jewish Central Information Office - later to become the Wiener Library - and worked there during much of the war years, becoming its Acting Director. After the war he covered the Nuremberg Trials as an observer in 1945, and wrote a searing account of the Nazi regime, The Racketeers of Hatred. After the war he settled down as a bookseller in Bloomsbury, and became an authority on miniature books.

Bondy was elected to the London County Council in 1958, and the Greater London Council in 1964 - representing Islington - and became a distinguished chairman of the Historic Buildings Board. His parallel passion was education: he was governor of many schools, chair of the Islington Adult Education Institute's governing body and a long-serving governor of the Polytechnic of Central London. He eventually became the Chairman of the Inner London Education Authority in 1979-80.

In his latter years Bondy was pressed to write his memoirs. He declined; his modesty would not allow it. In the early Eighties he told some of his close friends that he intended to write a detective story entitled 'Murder at County Hall' - the victim to be one of County Hall's doyennes, Ina Chaplin. He said to me, 'You're going to be the principal suspect]'

Bondy was a gentle, thoughtful person, with an old-fashioned mid-European courtesy. A lifelong member of the Labour Party, his socialist convictions kept him on the Left of the party supporting John Lawrence during the boisterous Red Flag days of St Pancras ('Not a penny on the rent, not a penny on the rates') and other left-wing causes: CND, anti-Fascism, comprehensive education. He was unhappy with the direction of the party in the latter years, remaining to the end a courteous, unreconstructed socialist of the old school.

(Photograph omitted)