Press release from the BBC, dated 3rd July, 2004
[Highlights below in red added by Radio Islam]
Michael Howard speaks frankly to Radio 4 about his family's ordeal at Auschwitz
Leader of the Conservative Party Michael Howard has spoken to the BBC about the suffering his family endured at Auschwitz during the Second World War.
Talking to Sue Lawley on BBC Radio 4's Desert Island Discs (Sunday 4 July, 11.15am) Mr Howard revealed his grandmother died at Auschwitz whilst his aunt and uncle both survived concentration camps.
His aunt later came to live with Mr Howard's family in Wales where she stayed until she died.
"She had an astonishing story to tell," he tells Sue Lawley.
"Whilst at Auschwitz, she had actually been in a gas chamber three times and for various reasons once they actually ran out of gas had got out to tell the tale."
Asked how he found this, he replied "pretty harrowing".
Mr Howard then went on to discuss whether such events had served to strengthen his family's Jewishness.
He said: "I don't think it did. I grew up in an orthodox Jewish home and so there was a great deal of Jewish consciousness in the home but the Holocaust affected people in different ways.
"In some cases, it made people want to forget that they were Jewish and in other cases, it strengthened it. In my aunt's case, I don't think it had either of those effects but it did ruin her life, unsurprisingly."
Mr Howard also spoke to Sue Lawley about his response to the infamous "something of the night" comment made about him by Ann Widdecombe.
When quizzed on whether he was hurt by the remark, he remained upbeat and philosophical.
"You go into politics with your eyes open. You know it's a rough and tough business. You have to take these things on the chin," he says.
Asked whether he had forgiven her, he was precise in his reply: "Oh yes, we've had several perfectly friendly conversations since then."
However such events have not hindered him in becoming leader of the Tory party although, as he told Sue Lawley, this wasn't an outcome he could have predicted.
"I was astonished. It was not something I ever thought would happen. If we'd been sitting here a year ago and you'd told me that I'd be sitting here today as leader of the Conservative Party I'd have said that you were prone to fantasies," he says.
In fact, Mr Howard may have taken an altogether different career path if he had followed his love of music.
As a young boy he was a member of a skiffle group who were, he told the programme, "Lonnie Donegan clones".
Other musical opportunities came his way when he spent a year in the United States as a young man: "I had a friend who had a friend, who ran a radio station in Nashville who said they would love to have someone with an English accent do a stint as a DJ.
"And I must admit that the prospect of being a DJ in Nashville did have its attractions but I knew that I wanted to come back."
The full interview can be heard on Radio 4 on Sunday 4 July at 11.15am, repeated on Friday 9 July at 9.00am.
Michael Howard's song choices include Bryan Adams' Everything I Do, I Do It For You and Gerry and the Pacemakers' You'll Never Walk Alone.