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February 26, 2021

Lt Col Leonard Berney (1933-37) – Liberating Bergen-Belsen

Leonard Berney was born in 1920 in London, where his parents managed two West End dress shops. After leaving St Paul’s, he joined the Territorial Army as a 2nd lieutenant. In 1939 he and his Anti-Aircraft Regiment were mobilised for military service and he took part in countering the Blitz and the V1 flying bomb attacks.

In August 1944 Leonard was in Normandy as the Staff Officer, Anti-Aircraft Defence, of XIII Corps of the British 21st Army. He was one of the first British Army officers to enter the concentration camp at Bergen-Belsen in April 1945 and he gave evidence at the war crimes trial of Kramer and 43 other SS guards.

In 2015 he published Liberating Belsen Concentration Camp, a harrowing account of his experiences.

Following his time at Bergen-Belsen, Leonard was appointed Military Governor of Schleswig-Holstein. He was demobbed at the end of 1946 in the rank of Lieutenant-Colonel.

After a successful business career, in retirement Leonard was regularly asked to deliver lectures on the liberation of Bergen-Belsen, and to take part in documentaries on the Holocaust. He spent the last six years of his life living and travelling the globe on board the luxury residential ship, The World.  He died in 2016 aged 96.

Berney’s son, John Wood, gave a Zoom talk hosted by Finchley Reform Synagogue on Holocaust Memorial Day entitled, “The Liberation of Belsen – My Father’s Story”. An edited version of the talk can be viewed on YouTube.

Leonard Berney also produced this video, describing his experiences.

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