Eric Mark was a “secret listener.”
Eric Mark was a “secret listener.” Along with other German-speaking émigrés, he worked for British intelligence during WWII, eavesdropping on the conversations of imprisoned German generals. This month, Eric passed away at the age of 98, the last of the listeners to leave us, and leaving a legacy that testified to the horrors and happiness of Jewish life over the past century.
Born in Magdeburg, Germany, Eric remembered clearly the hyper-inflation of the 1920s, his parents’ anxiety at Hitler’s rise to power, the forced closure of the family business, and his parents’ struggle to buy enough food after Jewish bank accounts were blocked.
Evicted from his grammar school as a Jew, Eric’s parents sent him away in 1935 to obtain an education. He saw his parents just once more, during the 1936 summer holidays. In 1943, the Nazis sent them to Treblinka and gassed them on arrival.
When the UK joined the Common Market in 1973, Eric joined the European Commission. He soon acquired fluent French on top of his English, Dutch and German. He worked as a transport economist and directed a Common Transport Policy unit. In this role, he improved road safety, imposing speed limits and flexible motorway crash barriers throughout Europe. His achievements include regulations requiring compulsory seat belts, the mutual recognition of driving licenses, and helping manage the engineering for the Channel Tunnel.
In 1987, Eric retired to his adopted homeland Belgium. Until the classified files were released between 1999 and 2004, the story of the “listeners” was classified. Eric didn’t speak about it. Once they were made public, a riveting book, “The Walls Have Ears,” published last year, told about his experiences.
Each Yom Kippur at the Brussels International Jewish Centre, Eric read out the names of the deceased at Yizkor. This year, Eric slowed down and his wife Miriam read the names by herself. Miriam, 89, remains in the hospital, recuperating from COVID-19. Eric leaves three children, David, Anne, and Sandra, and four grandchildren. He also leaves a long and remarkable legacy.
Photo: Eric Mark on a recent trip to Germany with his synagogue to commemorate the Kindertransport.