Greville Janner 1928-2015: ‘Special man’ leaves chequered legacy

Greville Janner 1928-2015: ‘Special man’ leaves chequered legacy

Lord Janner
Lord Janner

Lord Greville Janner, the former Labour peer and Jewish activist, was laid to rest next to his wife at Willesden Jewish Cemetery on Monday at a ceremony attended by an estimated 200 people, including his three children and extended family.

File photo dated 29/10/03 of Queen Elizabeth II and Lord Janner of Braunstone, as the veteran Labour peer will not stand trial for historic sex abuse allegations because of the "severity" of his dementia. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Issue date: Thursday April 16, 2015. More than a dozen people came forward to claim Lord Janner, now 86, abused them during the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s, the CPS said. See PA story POLICE Janner. Photo credit should read: Kirsty Wigglesworth/PA Wire
Queen Elizabeth II and Lord Janner of Braunstone, Photo credit: Kirsty Wigglesworth/PA Wire

The United Synagogue’s Rabbi David Mason led prayers according to the Orthodox tradition at the synagogue cemetery prior to the burial. Former Chief Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks led concluding prayers.

Janner, who died peacefully on Saturday aged 87 after suffering dementia, was a member of Hampstead Garden United Synagogue. His latter years were marred by historic allegations of child abuse spanning three decades in his parliamentary constituency of Leicester West.

Daniel Janner QC, a barrister, read a eulogy for his father, describing him as a “very special man” of whom he was “proud”. Janner’s coffin was lined by two uniformed flagbearers from the Association of Jewish Ex-Servicemen and Women (Ajex), of which Janner was a member and former president.

He was buried next to his wife, Myra (née Sheink), to whom he was married for 41 years, from 1955 until her death in 1996, the year he stood down from the House of Commons.

Community representatives including the Board of Deputies President Jonathan Arkush were among the mourners. Jewish Leadership Council chair Sir Mick Davis led the tributes, saying his death represented the “end of an era” for British Jewry.

The Chief Rabbi’s office and the Israeli embassy stated that their thoughts and prayers were with his family. Natan Sharansky, president of the Jewish Agency and a veteran Soviet Jewish campaigner, described Janner as “a comrade-in-arms ready and determined to assist every Jew who needed his help”.

The Labour peer Lord Mendelsohn, President of the Commonwealth Jewish Council which Janner himself founded, said: “Greville’s contribution to Commonwealth Jewry will be long remembered”.

Lord Greville Janner adjusts his scullcap before a Jewish prayer outside the Hadassah Hospital in Jerusalem.
Lord Greville Janner whilst in Israel

Karen Pollock, chief executive of the Holocaust Educational Trust, said: “In 1988 Greville Janner had the foresight to see we as a nation needed to know about and remember the Holocaust, so he established the Holocaust Educational Trust. Our thoughts are with his family.”

The Janner family has consistently denied allegations of child abuse and described him as a man of “great integrity” and “entirely innocent of any wrongdoing” in statements to the media. The former barrister was charged with 22 sexual offences against nine alleged victims, all boys.

In April this year, he was expelled from the Labour Party. Janner may yet be subject to a posthumous “trial of facts”, although the decision rests with the high court. Janner was born in Cardiff on July 1928, the son of Labour MP Barnett Janner and Elsie Cohen.

His father was named in Hitler’s “Black Book”, a list of residents to be arrested on the planned German invasion of Britain in 1940, so a young Janner was evacuated to Canada during the war. He started his education at Bishop’s College School, Quebec and won a scholarship to elite boy’s school St Paul’s on his return to Britain.

4 janner
Janner months before his death

Janner joined the British Army on national service and became its youngest war crimes prosecutor aged 18, before taking up an exhibition studying Law at Trinity Hall, Cambridge.

Janner inherited the seat of Leicester West from his father in 1974. His influence was instrumental in passing the War Crimes Bill under Margaret Thatcher, while Janner helped identify numerous war criminals living quietly in Britain and chaired the All-Party War Crimes Group.

He is survived by three children: Marion Janner, a mental health campaigner, Rabbi Laura Janner-Klausner, the Senior Rabbi of Reform Judaism and Daniel Janner QC.

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