Remembering Greville Janner on Holocaust Memorial Day

Francis Carr Begbie


The slogan for today’s Holocaust Memorial Day is “Don’t Stand By” — a reference to the widespread Jewish belief that many people in Britain and elsewhere turned a blind eye to Jewish suffering during World War II.

Just in case anyone misses the insinuation, the HMD website spells it out.

The Holocaust and subsequent genocides took place because the local populations allowed insidious persecution to take root. Whilst some actively supported or facilitated state policies of persecution, the vast majority stood by silently — at best, afraid to speak out; at worst, indifferent. Bystanders enabled the Holocaust, Nazi Persecution and subsequent genocides.

This attempt to spread responsibility for the events of 1939–1945 from the perpetrators to Britain and every other White country in Europe has long been an aim of Jewish ethnic activists, and now it seems they have been successful.

A good example is the Holocaust Explained website, intended as an education site for schools and funded by Jewish organisations as well as municipal authorities. It explains that the British have much to be ashamed of in their treatment of Jews before and during the war. So British schoolchildren who up until now have been told their people had a “good war” will now learn another story: Britain is culpable.

Atonement is healthy. A willingness to confront harsh truths about one’s past shortcomings is an admirable and necessary trait.

So it might be reasonable to ask if the Jewish community in Britain might not be prepared to do some soul-searching itself. Specifically it might ask itself how it was that it allowed its community to be led by a suspected child rapist who was widely believed to have been preying on vulnerable boys in care for decades.

During this time Greville Janner QC reached the highest pinnacle of Jewish communal life and, as President of the British Board of Deputies, he provided leadership for his entire community for six years.  He was the founder of the Holocaust Education Trust and as vice president of the World Jewish Congress. He was deeply involved in campaigning for financial restitution for holocaust victims. He sat on the Community Security Trust and the Jewish Leadership Council. He was the confident of Prime Ministers at home and other leaders abroad. For decades the Jewish community in Britain had no more prominent ambassador.

At the end of his career, he was given the ultimate accolade of elevation to the House of Lords and as Lord Janner of Braunstone, was no less active as a roving emissary for the Jews of Britain. It was hard to imagine a prominent dinner, reception or conference would have been complete without him.

Yet at the same time he was widely suspected of raping vulnerable boys in council care homes in Leicestershire. Three police inquiries into his behaviour were mysteriously derailed in 1991, 2002 and in 2007. Yet despite incriminating corroborated testimony, government lawyers refused to proceed with a prosecution.

After the allegations were voiced publicly in court in 1991, during the trial of Frank Beck, a Leicestershire care worker and child abuser, Greville Janner was cheered by supportive colleagues in the Commons when he angrily denounced the allegations against him.

But it was a different story last year. Eventually after widespread public pressure, the humiliated Director of Public Prosecutions was forced into a U-turn. She announced that criminal proceedings would begin.

Following this, Roger Bannister, the assistant chief constable of Leicestershire, said: “There is credible evidence that this man carried out some of the most serious sex crimes imaginable over three decades against children who were highly vulnerable and the majority of whom were in care.”

Sadly Lord Janner died in December before the charges against him could be tested.

A government inquiry led by Queen’s Counsel has confirmed there were serious shortcomings in the police investigations and law officers’ decisions.  There was evidence to charge Janner in 1991 and the decision not to charge him then was wrong. In 2002 police failed to supply allegations to the law officers and in 2007 there was again “a realistic prospect of conviction for offences of indecent assault and buggery” and a failure to arrest and interview him.  The shamefaced Director of Public Prosecutions Alison Saunders said:  “It is a matter of sincere regret that on three occasions, opportunities to put the allegations against Lord Janner before a jury were not taken.” Saunders reputation has never recovered from a decision last year not to go to court because Janner was suffering from senile dementia.

However his illness did not stop the 87-year-old founder of the Holocaust Education Trust from taking part in parliamentary debates, travelling to Israel for conferences and collecting a hundred thousand pounds in expenses. He was also compos mentis enough to sign over his property deeds to his children thereby putting them out of range of any damages litigation.

The victims were devastated at the cancellation of a “trial of the facts“, due to take place in April. In this procedure a jury would have been asked to decide — without reaching a decision about whether Janner  was guilty — if 22 alleged incidents of abuse from the 1960s to the 1980s had taken place.

Since Janner’s death there has been a steady stream of revelations about this respected figure. A waspish Guardian obituary confirmed that despite 27 years as an MP, he never rose to senior ministerial status because of the rumours that swirled about him. For years threats of legal action saw off the rumours, a danger that has passed now.

And there was a suggestion of financial impropriety. Tory members forced him off one sensitive committee because of one of his many lucrative extra-parliamentary interests, advising well-paid industrial executives of precisely the sort of matters the committee was investigating. Janner sat on the board of the Ladbrokes betting chain run by “controversial” businessman and Jewish community leader Cyril Stein.

Janner’s reputation is now gone.  Even the kindergarten school in Galilee that was named after him has removed the plaque bearing his name.   But the questions remain.

It is a shame that there will be no opportunity to hear from Janner’s close friends in the Jewish community. For instance it might have been interesting to hear from the former Director of Public Prosecutions in 1991, a Jewish lawyer called Allan Green, exactly what happened to derail that first inquiry.  Green has chosen not to comment.  And then there are the other associates such as Community Security Trust chairman — and ex-jailbird — Gerald Ronson. Lord Stanley Kalmes for whose peerage Janner lobbied, was a former treasurer of the Conservative Party. Had they heard any of lurid rumours about Janner that were so widespread since at least the eighties?

Curious is it not, that there is wide debate about another public figure involved in a similar politically sensitive scandal. The DJ Jimmy Savile was also up to his neck in rumours for a long time, and today “who knew what” about Savile is seen as a legitimate question. So why is no-one in the media asking the same about Janner?

Loyalty is an admirable quality, as his family and community have demonstrated.  His daughter Rabbi Laura Janner has hinted darkly at anti-Semitism being the real motive for the allegations. Since the story re-emerged last year she seemed to cope by sending as many Syrian refugees to Britain as possible.

It has taken a Jewish dissident writer to do what no one in Fleet Street dare do, and point out that when Janner was carrying out his — alleged — rapes, sometimes — allegedly in the marital bed —  he was also the leader of the Jewish community in Britain. Gilad Atzmon believes that the leadership of the Jewish community should issue a public apology.

At the least, all these prominent Jewish organisations ought to issue an apology or at least admit to gross misjudgement in letting a person who was a suspected paedophile remain a leader of prominent Jewish institutions for almost five decades. Would the English church enjoy such impunity? Would the British Muslim community get away with any of its leaders being associated with buggery and paedophilia? I’ll let you ponder this one.

We have become inured to watching the Jewish state get away with racist policies, murder, ethnic cleansing, WMD and so on. But here in Britain, it is astonishing, yet far from being surprising,  that the head of the Jewish community managed to escape trial for decades over substantive charges of sexual assault, paedophilia and buggery.

If Jewish power is the capacity to silence the discussion of Jewish power, in the case of Lord Janner, it also managed to delete the fact that Britain’s suspected arch sex offender was also the leader of the Jewish community.

It is indeed hard to see how any of this happening to a prominent member of the Catholic Church or Church of England for instance without the connection being loudly pointed out.

On January 27 Britain commemorates Holocaust Memorial Day. At thousands of events children, parents and teachers will hear the words of Eli Wiesel who has written for the Holocaust Memorial Trust about those bystanders who failed to help:

I swore never to be silent whenever and wherever human beings endure suffering and humiliation. We must always take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented.

How sad that that the Jewish community is not prepared to listen and speak up for the victims of its leading light, Greville Janner.

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