Saturday, 8 March 2008

RIP Leon Greenman

It's with great sadness I learned veteran anti-fascist, Leon Greenman, passed away yesterday at the age of 97.

As Hitler's blitzkrieg rolled over the Low Countries in 1940, Leon and his young family were trapped in Rotterdam. Despite being Jewish, their status as British citizens should have meant internment. But having lost their papers they were swallowed up by the Nazi death camp system when Leon was called up for forced labour in 1942. For the rest of the war, Leon was shunted from camp to camp, and was on the final march of prisoners from Auschwitz as the Nazis fleed before the advancing Red Army. He was at Buchenwald when the camp was liberated by the Americans a month before the war's end. Leon never knew the ultimate fate of his family - he saw them last when he was separated from them at Auschwitz. so it was extremely likely they perished in the gas chambers. When he was repatriated after the war, Leon dedicated much of his life to educating successive generations of young people about the holocaust, and vigorously campaigned against the fascists. And this is what he did to the very end.

I never had the opportunity to meet Leon, but I did hear him speak five years ago. Though the meeting itself was an insipid and farcical affair his contribution was captivating and deeply moving. His story of suffering at the hands of the Nazis and how, by then well into his 90s, he still had to put up with attacks and intimidation by fascists is something I will not forget in a hurry. As if to underline this, then local fash "independent" and later wannabe BNP councillor, Jenny Holdcroft, accused Leon of telling a pack of lies.

So long Leon! Your activism and commitment shines like a beacon to anti-fascists everywhere!

More obituaries here, here, and here.


Anonymous said...

I had never heard of Leon Greenman. Thanks for bringing such an incredible person to my attention!

The Londoners said...

I was privileged to know and work with Leon Greenman, a unique and amazing man, who died as he lived, with dignity and courage. The best tribute to Leon is to remember his message. Anyone who missed the opportunity to hear this great man speak can read his story (only the truth) in his book 'An Englishman in Auschwitz'. I shall remember Leon always.