Publisher George Weidenfeld dies in London aged 96

LONDON -- Publisher and philanthropist George Weidenfeld, who devoted himself to improving understanding between faiths and peoples, died Wednesday in London.

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He was 96.

A statement from his office said Weidenfeld died in his sleep after a brief illness.

Weidenfeld was a member of the House of Lords who had recently launched an initiative to help save Christians facing persecution at the hands of Islamic State extremists in the Middle East.

He had been born in Austria and fled his native country at the start of World War II to avoid Nazi persecution of Jews.

Weidenfeld said his work on behalf of persecuted Christians was an effort to thank British Quakers for helping him when he first arrived in Britain. He had a lengthy career in publishing and also wrote newspaper columns and books.

German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier on Wednesday praised Weidenfeld's commitment to better understanding between the major religious faiths.

"As a bridge-builder he devoted all of his energy toward issues that are still as topical as ever: the dialogue between the faiths to Europe's relationship with Israel to European integration. He fought for values and ideals even when he faced resistance," Steinmeier said in a statement.

He praised Weidenfeld's "versatility, wit and intelligence."

Weidenfeld was the co-founder of the publishing house Weidenfeld & Nicolson. The firm gained notoriety in 1959 for publishing the British edition of Vladimir Nabokov's "Lolita," despite the threat of prosecution for obscenity. No legal action was taken, and the book's strong sales put the publishers on a secure financial footing.

Weidenfeld is survived by his wife, a daughter, grandchildren and great-grandchildren.


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