Journalist was known for her unflinching studies of Nazis and child criminals, including Albert Speer and Mary Bell.
By Barry Neild
Gitta Sereny, the veteran journalist whose unflinching studies of some of modern history’s most reviled figures attempted to make sense of their crimes, has died. She was 91.
Sereny attracted praise and criticism for her profiles of senior Nazis and child murderers but was universally acknowledged as among the most tenacious interrogators of her generation.
“She was an enormously spirited person, extraordinarily brave and very, very determined,” said Stuart Proffitt, her publisher at Penguin Press.
“She wasn’t afraid to ask questions that took her to places other people didn’t want to go, and wasn’t afraid either if the answers were unfashionable or shocking. In the two main areas of her interest – Nazi Germany and the lives of children in extreme situations – she was able to go further than almost everyone else in her psychological penetration.”
Sereny’s in-depth explorations included studies of the Nazi architect Albert Speer and the boys convicted for the murder of James Bulger. Her relationships with her subjects, built up over scores of hours of interviews, often proved controversial. She was criticised for her decision to pay the child killer Mary Bell for her co-operation in producing a book about her crimes, and faced accusations of being a Nazi sympathiser after publication of her work on Speer.
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