Jewish leader and British peer Lord Greville Janner dies at 87

Former Labour lawmaker served in the British army investigating Nazi war crimes before entering politics and taking a role in several different Jewish community organizations.

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December 19, 2015 21:58
3 minute read.
Lord Greville Janner

Lord Greville Janner. (photo credit: REUTERS)

 
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Former Labor MP and British Jewish leader Lord Greville Janner died on Saturday at age 87.

He will be “deeply missed,” his family said in a statement, and asked that they be granted privacy.

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The son of Sir Barnett Janner, a former head of England’s Zionist Federation, Janner served in the British army investigating Nazi war crimes, before entering politics and taking active roles in several Jewish community organizations. He served as president of the Board of Deputies of British Jews during the late 1970s and early 1980s and held roles at the Jewish Leadership Council and the World Jewish Congress, where he was a vice president. In 1998, he co-founded the Holocaust Educational Trust with former home secretary Baron Merlyn-Rees.

After retiring from his legislative career in 1997, he entered the peerage as Baron Janner of Braunstone and joined the House of Lords.

“The passing of Greville Janner marks the end of an era for the Jewish community, our thoughts and prayers are with the Janner family at this most difficult time,” Jewish Leadership Council chairman Sir Mick Davis said in a statement issued on Saturday evening.

“Following the passing of Lord Janner after a long illness, our thoughts and prayers go out to the whole Janner family,” the Board of Deputies said in a statement.

Karen Pollock MBE, chief executive of the Holocaust Educational Trust, praised Janner for his “foresight to know we as a nation needed to know about and remember the Holocaust,” saying “Our thoughts are with his family at this difficult time.”

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“Greville Janner worked tirelessly to defend the rights of the Jewish people, in particular the victims of the Holocaust.

He fought anti-Semitism with great vigor, and he was also at the forefront of building bridges with other faiths,” the World Jewish Congress said in a statement.

Despite his accomplishments, Janner’s career was not without controversy.

Earlier this month a London court ruled that the octogenarian, who was suffering from dementia, was too ill to face trial on charges of serious child sex crimes. He had been accused of 22 offenses in the 1960s, ’70s and ’80s; he denied all charges.

His lawyers had long argued that Janner, who suffered from Alzheimer’s disease since 2009, was not fit to stand trial, prompting a judge to order him to appear at a hearing earlier this year after he refused to attend.

A “trial of the facts” was slated to take place in April 2016, at which a jury would have heard evidence regarding the alleged abuse, but would not have been able to convict him.

Such allegations have dogged the politician since the early ’90s, with multiple investigations.

Last year a senior law enforcement official told The Times of London that an inquiry into the matter had been blocked by “senior police.”

However, Terry Newman, Janner’s former parliamentary aide, spoke highly of him to The Jerusalem Post. “Lord Janner was a fighter for the Jewish people from his birth to his death.

“He grew up in a house that instilled in him the values of Zionism and dedication to the Jewish people. [As a British soldier] at the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp, when faced with the horrors [of the Holocaust], he realized that he would never allow this to happen again. He became a tireless campaigner for the Jewish people and the State of Israel, but also for all minorities looking to live in a multicultural society. There was nowhere in the world he would not travel to put the case for the Jewish people and the State of Israel. He will be remembered for many generations to come.”

Reuters contributed to this report.

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