Fighting racism, standing up against hate: #Leon110

As we approach the 110th anniversary of Leon Greenman’s birth, we are delighted to announce a UCL Centre for Holocaust Education Beacon Schools, alumni, partners and friends’ initiative for young people.

Dear Beacon School Lead Teachers and alumni, partners and friends – we are living in unprecedented times and schools, teachers, young people, parents and families are all responding to fast-changing circumstances, shifting priorities at home and at school/work owing to COVID-19. But these are also challenging and difficult times: socially and politically we see division. ‘Them and us’ thinking threatens our communities, our cohesion and our values, instances of antisemitism, and rising hate crime worry many – and our school communities are often at the forefront in the fight to respond, whether through the curriculum, by promoting British values and SMSC, safeguarding and citizenship schools strive to ensure our young people have safe spaces to discuss complex issues and empowering them to safeguard their futures. We know that young people care about these issues. In recent times we have seen a range of protest movements, advocacy and campaigning for causes that students have been inspired and empowered by, finding their voices and innovative avenues to address injustice and inequality to fight for causes that matter … we hope this initiative speaks to those contemporary and very real and relevant concerns, by returning to the past and to a British Jewish man’s experience and considering its legacy and relevance today.

Leon Greenman – as you know – was born 18 December 1910 and thus this year marks the 110th anniversary of his birth. He was closely associated with the IOE and his story is interwoven in many of the Centre’s resources and materials. Through an ‘Authentic encounter’ with an ordinary object – a handmade toy – we introduced Leon’s family, Else and Barney to you and thereby your students, providing young people a way into exploring the Holocaust. In ‘Surviving survival’ we shared Leon’s post-war life to enable teachers and young people to reflect upon the Holocaust’s lasting impact and the relationship of that difficult history to contemporary issues. What the legacy suite of materials, focusing upon Leon, reveal is something more of his experience and life, raising uncomfortable, challenging and difficult questions for us today about just what surviving survival means – but in Leon we also see a man facing down racism, standing up against antisemitism and hate long after the Holocaust. In this context Leon was a trailblazer in terms of speaking out about his experiences and standing with and up for the voiceless, the vulnerable, those facing hate, discrimination or marginalisation and injustice – through this anniversary project, we hope to remember and honour Leon and your Beacon School work – a competition and accompany projects that will look to the past (Leon and his life) to help us consider our present and possible futures for our communities and beyond.

So, to support this anniversary we are launching a Year 8-9 poetry response competition. The documents below provide a downloadable information pack, student template and narrative, links and all the logistical, deadline and entry details you will need for your students and school to participate.  We very much hope our Beacon Schools, Quality Mark schools, partners and friends will join us and lead the way, as we both educate about and commemorate this moment in time.

Nicola Wetherall and Ruth Anne Lenga


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