My father, George Wedell, has died aged 92, following a stroke and pneumonia, in Manchester Royal Infirmary, just a stone’s throw from the flat in Nelson Street where he and my mother, Rosemarie, lived following their marriage in 1948. It brought a lifetime’s connection to Manchester and its university to a close.
As professor of adult education at Manchester University, 1964-75, he developed a practical and scholarly field of research within the disciplines of education and broadcasting. Groundbreaking research resulted in books, including Broadcasting and Public Policy (1968) and Broadcasting in the Third World (1977), that influenced higher education, social change, and broadcasting policy and regulation worldwide.
In 1973, he “chose to work for rather than at the European commission”, he said, heading up the division for employment and retraining. This commitment shaped the second half of his life. Returning to Manchester University in 1982 as professor of communications policy, he established the European Institute for the Media, funded by the European Cultural Foundation. Research focused on the role of media particularly during the democratisation of former communist countries in the 1990s. These achievements brought him several distinguished European awards.
He was born Eberhard Artur Otto Georg Wedell in Düsseldorf. His father, Hans Wedell, was a lawyer – and the son of Rabbi Abraham Wedell; his mother – was Gertrud Bonhoeffer – a cousin of the theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer, who was my father’s godfather. This dual heritage laid the foundations for George’s commitment to faith and social responsibility. In 1939, the Wedells found refuge in the UK while the Bonhoeffers joined the frontline of resistance that culminated in the assassination attempt of 20 July 1944 on Adolf Hitler, and their subsequent execution.
As a child refugee, often regarded as an enemy alien, my father faced integration into his host country with fortitude. Educated at Cranbrook school in Kent, he received a scholarship to the London School of Economics, where he studied economics and international relations. After their marriage, he and Rosemarie (nee Winckler), lived briefly in Manchester, where Rosemarie was employed as a youth worker. From 1950, George worked for eight years in the Ministry of Education in London and for six years as secretary of the newly created Independent Television Authority, before in 1964 my parents returned to Manchester, now with three sons and a daughter.
Over the last decade of his life he accepted the civic invitation to Düsseldorf’s annual commemoration of Reichspogromnacht (Kristallnacht), and in later years I accompanied him. Our journey together to the city of his birth was a way of acknowledging a trauma too difficult to speak about.
Rosemarie died in 2010. My father is survived by his children and four grandchildren, and his brother, Klaus.
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