Camp horrors gave sculptor ‘a version of writer’s block’

WHEN I first approached Maurice Blik about the possibility of an interview, he said he was loath to talk about his early years.

And, as a Holocaust survivor, you can understand why.

Born in Amsterdam in 1939, Maurice was interned as a child at Bergen-Belsen, alongside his sister and pregnant mother.

He lost his father, who was sent to Auschwitz, younger sister and a grandmother in the Holocaust.

When he was just six, he was taken from his birthplace to Cheltenham.

Now living in Essex with his second wife Debra, the 81-year-old father-of-two, recalled: “My mother was actually born in this country, and went to the Netherlands when she was about 10 or 11.

“When we came to the UK, we finished up living initially in Cheltenham with my aunt for six months before moving to north west London.

“It was a culture shock — Cheltenham is a very genteel town, and my aunt was very fastidious and cleaned everything in sight.

“She would put the food on a plate and the plate on the table, but my sister and I would actually pounce on it as soon as it appeared — not the best table manners in the world.

“And it took a while, obviously, to adjust and it was all a very, very strange experience after a couple of years of what we’d been through.”

Maurice, who is now one of the world’s leading sculptors, admits that he only knew four words of English when he came here — which is surprising, given the strong London accent he now has.

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