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Joe Kagan: Just Another Bump in the Road

An intriguing insight into the extraordinary life of Lord Kagan, Jewish escapee from the Nazis, clothier to the Royals, and close friend of Harold Wilson and KGB spy Vaygauskas.

Current affairs 1980 38 mins

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This is a fascinating documentary on the remarkable life of the Jewish textile entrepreneur Joe Kagan, made just after his conviction of theft and false accounting in 1980. Kagan achieved his wealth from his waterproof Gannex coats, as famously worn by Harold Wilson, whom he befriended. The documentary has interviews with many of those close to him, recounting his time under Nazi rule in Lithuania, his amazing story of escape, and his rise to the House of Lords.

Joe Kagan was the most notorious of the many Jews from Eastern Europe who made their fortune in the West Yorkshire textile industry. He pleaded guilty to the charges made against him, in order to save his son and wife from being charged, although he maintained that the whole case was “set up” as part of a campaign to discredit Wilson (although Wilson had resigned as Prime Minister 4 years earlier). The documentary went out on the 12th December, while Kagan was sentenced on the 15th, receiving 10 months in jail and a hefty fine. Although the Queen removed his knighthood, he retained his peerage, and so on his release he could continue to attend the House of Lords as Lord Kagan, where he spoke on prison reform.