EXCLUSIVE – Kirby Sommers shares a chapter from her latest book ‘Ghislaine Maxwell: An Unauthorized Biography’ with readers of ‘The Steeple Times’
Chapter Two. Killer Maxwell
By the time Ghislaine Maxwell was born on December 25, 1961 Robert Maxwell had been a spy since the second World War. His cover as a publishing mogul and owner of Maxwell Communications Corporate (MCC) was how he was viewed by the world. Under this corporate umbrella he placed other holdings: Pergamon Press, Macmillan McGraw Hill, Mirror Group, Berlitz International and an assortment of others as the opportunity arose.
Victor Ostrovsky, a former Mossad officer, would later say that Mossad was funding its operations in Europe from the money they stole from Maxwell’s newspaper pension fund. It was under the Mossad’s control, Ostrovsky, claims as soon as Maxwell accepted money from the Mossad to purchase the Mirror Newspaper Group.
Born on June 10, 1923 into a poor Jewish family in the village of Solotvino – in what was then Czechoslovakia, Robert Maxwell was one of seven children. His parents were Mechel Hoch and Hannah Slomowitz and they lived in a two-room wooden shack with an earthen-floor. Their firstborn was Brana, followed by Abrahaim Lein (later known as Robert Maxwell), followed by Chaim, Shenie, Sylvia, Zissel and Cipra. Two of the children died in infancy of pneumonia for which there was no medicine at the time. For the remaining children it meant a little more food and more room in the one bed they shared.
In 1919 the Hoch family name was replaced with Ludvik as Europe realigned after World War One. When it was time to register his birth his parents were advised that it was important for him to have an undisputed Czech name. And so they added Jan before Abraham and changed Hoch to Ludvik. For years he known as Jan Abraham Ludvik.
His mother, who he loved dearly and spoke fondly of throughout his life, was a political activist and a believer in Zionism – a movement to re-establish a Jewish nation in Palestine. She is the reason he claimed to be a staunch Zionist although he didn’t openly declare this until later in life. He took the same path in denying his Jewish roots as the other ambitious Jewish men of his generation who married non-Jewish women so they could blend in and be accepted into society. In Robert Maxwell’s case he selected, Elisabeth “Betty” Meynard, a French Protestant virgin with an upper-class upbringing.
Maxwell’s mother taught him to read and by the time he was ten he could write better than his father. It was not the norm for women to be educated in those days. One of his nephews remembered that she “picked up every piece of newspaper in the street to discover what was going on.” Another relative recalls she was “an exception in the village because she read books. She was almost an intellectual”. And yet another remembered her as “an exemplary cook of kosher food”.
It was from his adoring mother that Maxwell claimed to have inherited his insatiable ambition.. It was from her, he insisted, that he learned the importance of mastering different languages. He would become fluent in nine.
Her words of advice to her beloved son in a world not accommodating to Jews was, “Try not to look so Jewish.” And so he dropped Abraham from his name and became simply Jan Ludvick. Anti-Semitism was everywhere with Hitler filling the airwaves with demands for “lebensraum”. It was the idea that land expansion was essential to the survival of the German people. By 1938 Sudentenland which was the German speaking part of Czechoslovakia was in Nazi control. Under the Munich agreement of September 30, 1938 agreed upon by Germany, the French Third Republic and Italy it allowed “cession to Germany of the Sudeten Germany territory” of Czechoslovakia and the country of Maxwell’s birth became part of Adolf Hitler’s Nazi occupied Germany.
His mother had instilled in him that “to behave and act like an Englishman is to be successful.” These were the words he never forgot and the advice that helped him rise to the top of British society. He would deny his Jewish heritage until almost the end of his life.
At the age of 16 he left home to join the resistance against the Nazis. It was 1940 when he joined the Czechoslovak army in Marseille. When France fell he traveled to Britain where he joined the British Army.
The ambitious young man had grown tall with movie star good looks. His jet-back hair, olive complexion and commanding demeanor captivated both men and women alike. Always trying to improve himself he persuaded a local woman to help him better his English and was an adept student in between his duties.
She taught him the difference between vowels and consonants and taught him the proper etiquette required of an English gentleman. That if seated a man always stood up when a woman entered the room, that milk is always poured first and that tea is never slurped. She taught him how to play whist and dominoes – the popular forms of social entertainment in England at the time. She even taught him how to dance and the art of small talk which he appears not to have mastered.
He was hungry for learning and picked up any scrap of newspaper on the street reading them voraciously which is a habit he acquired from his mother. To hone his sense of humor he listened to radio comedy shows. ‘It’s that Man Again’ (ITMA) was his favorite. ITMA was considered to have contributed to maintaining the morale of the British people during the war. It had a cheerful take on the day to day lives of the characters. The central role belonged to a fast-talking man around which the other characters orbited. He was someone, undoubtedly, Maxwell began to emulate. Being the center of everyone’s attention was where he felt he belonged. Perhaps it reminded him of the attention his mother bestowed upon him and the feeling of safety. He would be okay, he would succeed – he knew this because his mother always reminded him he could do anything.
Maxwell went on to fight in the Normandy invasion and across Europe becoming a decorated war hero.
In 1944 most of his family was killed at Auschwitz after Hungary was occupied by Nazi Germany. He would not learn about their fate until the war was over. For the rest of his life he mourned this tragic loss and would, upon marrying, attempt to recreate the family lost to Hitler’s Third Reich.
To improve himself he began to imitate the speech and mannerisms of the wealthy. Some of the many aliases he began using had an air of aristocracy to them although they often led to rather childish origins. For example. Robert Maxwell used the alias Leslie Du Maurier. A name he obtained from Du Maurier cigarettes which he became aware of during his time in France.
One of Maxwell’s early affairs was with a nurse whose parents were wealthy and part of the refined world of the English upper class. It was wartime Europe and they turned a blind eye to their suspicion that he was sleeping with their daughter. Their relationship lasted for two years. It was during this time that Maxwell soaked up their manner, language and behavior. He copied them as if he were a portrait painter. Except that he was the canvas and they were the paint. He would later tell close associates that he “acquired the polish he lacked” in their home listening to their stories while bedding their daughter. Although he was self-congratulatory his polish was not deep, many spoke of how quickly it evaporated after initially meeting him.
The nurse who had been his first love would describe him in later years as “enchanting, fascinating and infuriating”. She claimed he was either exuberant or in the depths of melancholy. It was through her that he was introduced into the world of England’s upper class. Emboldened by this relationship and his new contacts he sent a letter to the Sixth Battalion which made its way up to the regiment’s commanding officer. Impressed with his language skills and war experience they found a place for him in the regiment’s 17th Infantry Brigade’s intelligence unit.
Records show he was a good sniper and an excellent interrogator. When he questioned German prisoners he referred to himself as Leslie Jones.
Just before his 21st birthday he was once again promoted. His commanding officer suggested that neither alias du Maurier or Jones were “suitable” for an officer and a gentleman in the North Shaffs. A more appropriate one would connote a Scottish ancestry. His ego has become as large as the whole of England, and so he selected Maxwell, after the well-bred aristocratic Maxwell family of Caelaverock Castle. From this moment on he would be known to the world as Robert Maxwell.
Robert Maxwell had risen through the military ranks from a young 16-year-old who’d lied claiming he was 19 to achieving the rank of sergeant and in 1945 becoming captain. In the same year, his heroism won him the Military Cross. And while Maxwell showed no fear on the battlefield even risking his life to carry a fellow soldier over his shoulder to safety, he also became known as a ruthless killer.
He was quickly dubbed ‘Killer Maxwell’ for the pleasure he appeared to take in killing captured Germans. This abandonment of reason and civility would come back to haunt him in later years. Before his death in 1991 Robert Maxwell was under investigation for alleged war crimes. Maxwell boasted that in April 1945 while serving in the British Army in the capacity of captain during the war he had shot dead the mayor of a German town.
Controversy, success and failure would be his lifelong companions.
Robert Maxwell never forgot the poverty from where he rose and in later years he shared stores that in his early years he fought hard to conceal. He revealed that he shared shoes with his siblings, “We took turns to wear a pair to school in the morning and another of us walked home in them. We carried newspaper to stuff them to adjust the foot size.” And to his own family in later years he would tell them, “We were very poor. We didn’t have the things that other people had. They had shoes and food and we didn’t. At the end of the war. I discovered the fate of my parents and my sisters and brothers, relatives and neighbors. I don’t know what went through their minds as they realized they had been tricked into a gas chamber.”
In September of 1944 he met his future wife, Elisabeth Maynard, in the newly liberated Paris. He was given the address of the offices of the Paris Welcome Committee in the Place de la Madeleine. The 23-year-old French Protestant petite woman was working as an interpreter when summoned by her boss. It led to her first meeting with Robert Maxwell. She would tell their children that it was love at first sight, that she swooned and Maxwell, believing she was hungry, took her to lunch.
The couple married on March 15, 1945. They would have nine children: Michael, Philip, Anne, fraternal twins Christine and Isabel, Karine, Ian, Kevin and Ghislaine. Karine died at age three of leukemia and their firstborn, Michael, was in an accident at the age of 15. He was in a coma for seven years and died without regaining consciousness three days after Ghislaine Maxwell’s birth.
Three-year-old Ghislaine feeling ignored by her grieving parents complained to her mother, “Mummy, I exist.”
2021 Copyright Kirby Sommers.
Pictured top: The cover of ‘Ghislaine Maxwell: An Unauthorized Biography’ (left) and Robert Maxwell (right).
Author, sex abuse survivor and advocate Kirby Sommers revealed the previously unknown name of the 9-year-old child (pictured below) sat on the lap of Jeffrey Epstein on his private jet to ‘The Steeple Times’ in February. To pre-order her latest book ‘Ghislaine Maxwell: An Unauthorized Biography’ click here. Release date: April 2021.