The Story of Major Leonard Berney 1920 – 2016
Born to Jewish parents in London in 1920, Leonard Berney joined the army immediately after school and was appointed an officer aged 18. Several years later he was one of the first of the Allied troops through the gates of the disease-ridden, overcrowded Bergen-Belsen Concentration Camp where he came face-to-face with its many horrors. He remained there for 14 weeks, helping save as many lives as possible, and becoming the Commander of the Belsen Displaced Persons Camp. After the war, Leonard became a successful businessman running the UK’s largest clothing factory and later, his own haute couture dress company.
The talk, given by Leonard’s son John Wood, includes a detailed personal account of the liberation of the camp with video testimony by both Leonard and Belsen survivors, as well as many historical and personal photographs. It emphasises the importance of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights which was drawn up in response to the Holocaust, and it gives hope that future atrocities can be prevented through human rights education.
Initially, Leonard never spoke about Belsen but on the 30th anniversary of the liberation he told John the whole story. On discovering, some years later, the existence of Holocaust denial he was outraged and started to speak publicly about his Belsen experience. In 2015, to mark the 70th anniversary of the liberation, Leonard published Liberating Belsen Concentration Camp – A Personal Account https://www.amazon.co.uk/Liberating-Belsen…/dp/1511541709
When Leonard passed away in 2016 aged 95, his obituary appeared in several national newspapers.
Presented by John Wood
John Wood is the son of Belsen liberator, Lt-Col Leonard Berney, one of the first of the Allied troops to enter the camp on 15th April 1945. To mark the 70th anniversary in 2015, John helped his father publish his personal account of the liberation. He is committed to keeping his father’s story alive to further Leonard’s hope that it will help prevent future atrocities, and also to fight back against Holocaust denial, which Leonard found particularly distasteful.
John worked in the hotel business after gaining a degree from the University of Surrey in 1985 and then moved into the computer industry selling Lloyds of London underwriter software, and later, powerful computers used to create high-end special effects in movies. More recently, John ran his own social media management firm and now produces documentaries.