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Last Word
Listen to the latest editionFriday   16:00-16:30
Sunday 20:30-21:00 (rpt)

Radio 4's weekly obituaries programme
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This week
Friday 14th March 2008
(Rpt) Sunday 16th March
Matthew Bannister
John Wilson tells the life stories of people who have died recently: Leon Greenman, Professor Norman Morris, Dan Shomron and David Stogdon.
Leon Greenman OBE
Auschwitz survivor and anti-Nazi campaigner who has died aged 97
Leon Greenman is the only Englishman known to have survived the German concentration camp at Auschwitz. After the war he committed himself to telling his story as widely as possible, so that future generations would never forget the holocaust.

He was born in the East End of London to a Dutch-Jewish family which had relatives in Rotterdam. Leon spent part of his childhood there and part in Whitechapel. In 1935 he married a Dutch woman called Else Van Dam who wanted to continue living in Rotterdam to look after her grandmother. Leon commuted between Holland and London working in his father-in-law’s book business. But in 1938, fearing that war was approaching, he decided to bring Else home to Britain. On the night that he arrived to collect her the couple heard the British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain on the radio saying that he had secured “peace for our time” after a meeting with Adolf Hitler. Reassured by this broadcast, Leon and his wife decided to stay in Holland.

On March 10th 1940, their son Barney was born. Two months later Germany invaded the Netherlands and the British embassy staff fled. Leon still believed that as an Englishman he would be protected from Hitler’s race laws. He gave the family’s passports and some money to non Jewish friends for safe keeping, but the friends feared reprisals from the Germans and destroyed the documents. So when the authorities came knocking, there was nothing Leon could do to save his family from their fate.

Matthew Bannister talks to Ruth-Anne Lenga who worked with Leon Greenman at the Jewish museum in North London.

Leon Greenman was born December 18th 1910. He died March 7th 2008.
Professor Norman Morris
Gynaecologist and obstetrician who has died aged aged 88

In 1960, the medical journal The Lancet published the most important papers from its two hundred year history, it included the text of a lecture given by Professor Norman Morris.

Morris was the Professor of obstetrics and gynaecology at Charing Cross Hospital Medical School and his lecture – under the innocuous sounding title “Human Relations in Obstetric Practice” – greatly annoyed many of his fellow practitioners. Professor Morris argued that doctors were failing to understand the emotional pressures on women going through childbirth and set out to change forever the experience of giving birth in a British hospital. In doing so he inspired a generation of obstetricians and gynaecologists. He even presented and contributed to various educational films made by the BBC on sex education in primary schools and all aspects of pregnancy and birth.

Norman Morris was born in Luton where his father worked in local government and his mother was a teacher. He trained as a doctor at St Mary’s Hospital Medical School in London. He was married for sixty two years to Lucy - a doctor’s daughter - and all four of his children are doctors.

Matthew Bannister talks to the gynaecologist Michael Pawson who trained under Professor Morris and to British natural childbirth activist and author Sheila Kitzinger.

Norman Morris was born February 26th 1920. He died February 29th 2008. 
Dan Shomron
Military commander who has died aged 70

The daring raid by Israeli commandos which liberated more than a hundred hostages at Entebbe airport in 1976 has spawned a number of Hollywood movies. The man who planned and led that operation was General Dan Shomron who went on to be Chief of Staff of the Israeli Defence Force during the first Palestinian Intifada of the late 1980s and the Iraqi scud missile attacks on Israel during the first Gulf War.

Dan Shomron was born on a kibbutz in the Jordan Valley and he saw action as a paratrooper in the 1956 Suez war and the Six Day war of 1967. He also commanded a brigade in the 1973 Yom Kippur War.

On June 27th 1976, when an Air France flight from Tel Aviv to Paris with 248 passengers on board was hijacked, General Shomron was in charge of Israel’s paratroopers and infantry. The plane was diverted to the Ugandan city of Entebbe where the non-Jewish hostages were freed. Over one hundred remaining prisoners were held at gunpoint in the terminal building which was surrounded by soldiers of the pro-Palestinian government of Idi Amin. It appeared that Israel could do nothing to free the hostages, thousands of miles away. But General Shomron took a different view and he developed a plan for consideration by the Israeli cabinet.

Matthew Bannister talks to Amir Oren who is a writer on military affairs for the Israeli newspaper Haaretz and to Paul Adams who is the BBC News 24 Chief Diplomatic Correspondent, and formerly the BBC’s Middle East correspondent.

Dan Shomron was born August 5th 1937. He died February 26th 2008.
David Stogdon
Lifeboat designer who has died aged 89

David Stogdon was one of Britain’s great lifeboat designers. He pioneered the development of the world’s most successful rescue boats – the rigid inflatables or RIBs. David Stogdon was born on New Year’s day 1919 at Harrow School where both his father and grandfather were housemasters. His maritime career started early. As a seven year old he persuaded his mother to buy him a small rowing boat from the boating lake at Frinton on Sea in Essex. As his parents slept in their deckchairs, he rowed out into the North Sea until he could only just see the church spires on the Essex coast before turning to row back.

After serving in the Royal Navy during the war, David Stogdon joined the RNLI where he worked until his retirement in 1981.

Matthew Bannister talks to Michael Vlasto, Operations Director of the RNLI and BBC reporter Tony Mallion went to see one of Stogdon’s Valentine class lifeboats at the independent lifeboat station at Caister on the Norfolk Coast where he met David Stogdon's friend John Cannell.

Edgar David Stogdon was born January 1st 1919. He died February 1st 2008.
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