Jillian Becker

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Jillian Becker
Jillian Becker.jpg
Born (1932-06-02) June 2, 1932 (age 86)
Johannesburg, South Africa
Pen nameJillian Becker
Alma materUniversity of the Witwatersrand
Notable worksHitler's Children, The Keep, The PLO
Notable awardsPushcart Prize

Jillian Becker (born 2 June 1932, Johannesburg, South Africa)[1] is a novelist, prize-winning story-writer, critic, journalist and lecturer, best known internationally as a writer, researcher, and authority on the subject of terrorism (through broadcasts in and to many countries, translations of her work into foreign languages, and serialization of one of her books in foreign newspapers.)[according to whom?]


Her father, Dr Bernard Friedman, was a South African surgeon and politician who co-founded the anti-apartheid Progressive Party. Becker says in book jacket biographies that she was "undereducated" at Roedean School in Johannesburg. She graduated from the University of the Witwatersrand where she made a lifelong platonic friendship with the scientist, Lewis Wolpert. She left her first husband, Michael Geber, in South Africa to live in Italy with her second husband, Gerry Becker, later moving to Mountfort Crescent off Barnsbury Square, in London. She has been a British citizen since 1960.[1][2]

She had two marriages which ended in divorce, succeeded by a long relationship with Bernhard Adamczewski who filled the triple role of co-director of IST (see below), computer manager and explosives expert, having become qualified in the use of explosives when he had worked in the South African gold mines in the 1950s. The marriages produced three daughters and six grandchildren.

Becker is on the council of the Freedom Association.[3] She has appeared in numerous television broadcasts and been interviewed many times on radio: for instance she appeared with Yehudi Menuhin, Richard Clutterbuck and others in After Dark (an Open World production) in December 1989. She lives in California.[4]

She is the manager and editor of The Atheist Conservative blog.[5]

A lecture series titled The Jillian Becker Annual Lecture was launched under the auspices of The Freedom Association in 2018. The invited lecturers are required to speak on the general theme of the importance of individual freedom and/or of the nation-state. The inaugural lecture was given on March 24, 2018, at Bournemouth, UK, by Dr.Anthony Daniels, also known as Theodore Dalrymple. The title of his lecture was “Threats to Freedom”.

Published works[edit]

Her early work (see below) is mostly fiction which was banned in her native South Africa, under the apartheid regime.

Her most recent book is an account of the death of her friend, the poet Sylvia Plath, who stayed with Becker for the last weekend of her life. Dissatisfied with the biographers' treatments and after seeing the film script to Sylvia (and declining the opportunity to have anything to do with the film), Becker decided to write her own account of Plath's death: Giving Up: the last days of Sylvia Plath. Becker was also a friend and near neighbour of Douglas Cleverdon, whose wife, Nest, gave Becker spare clothes for Plath's children during the period just after the suicide was discovered.

Her most famous book, Hitler’s Children: The Story of the Baader-Meinhof Terrorist Gang, is about the German Red Army Faction. The book was chosen as Newsweek (Europe) book of the year 1977[citation needed] and serialised in newspapers in London, Oslo and Tokyo.

The PLO: The Rise and Fall of the Palestine Liberation Organization was commissioned by Weidenfeld & Nicolson and published in 1984. Becker spent months in Lebanon during the war in which Israel drove the PLO out of that country. She claimed to have retrieved secret documents from ruins of bombed PLO office buildings and having interviewed Lebanese of all denominations who had experienced PLO oppression, as well as supporters, members and leaders of the PLO.[6]

Other works include novels and short stories (see below) and numerous contributions to periodicals, such as Simone Weil: A Saint for our Time? She has written for The Times, The Sunday Times, The Daily Telegraph, The Sunday Telegraph, The Times Literary Supplement, Encounter, and Standpoint; and in the US, The Wall Street Journal, Commentary, and The New Criterion. She has contributed to scholarly articles on terrorism in the Encyclopædia Britannica.

Institute for the Study of Terrorism[edit]

In the 1980s, Becker served in a multi-party working group to advise the British Parliament on measures to combat international terrorism. She was also consulted by the embassies of several countries affected by indigenous terrorist organisations, some of which were supported by foreign nation states. In many of these cases, terrorist activity was an aspect of proxy wars, or what Becker called "the hot spots of the Cold War".[7]

In 1985, with Lord Chalfont, a former minister in the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, she founded the "Institute for the Study of Terrorism" (IST) of which she was executive director from 1985 to 1990. With Chalfont on the presiding council were Baroness Cox, who was then deputy speaker of the House of Lords, and Lord Orr-Ewing. The Institute's International Advisory Council included experts in many Western countries on terrorism, security, weaponry, and geo-politics. In the Institute itself Becker worked with a small staff of researchers and translators. Bernhard Adamczewski was her co-director at IST.[7]

IST kept in close touch with the Bomb Disposal Unit of the Metropolitan Police and the Airport Police Authorities. On some occasions IST received information, for instance about the smuggling across international borders of explosive material, before it had been conveyed by official channels, and was able to alert the relevant authorities. Institute personnel undertook to test airport security by smuggling imitation bombs in luggage through international airports, and found it deficient.[citation needed]

The chief purpose of the Institute was to gather intelligence about terrorist organisations and their membership, and keep the British Parliament and the media informed about them, countering the propaganda and exposing pretexts and lies put out by the violent organisations themselves. IST commissioned expert studies of terrorist groups and distributed them to members of both Houses of Parliament, to newspapers, individual journalists, radio and television news channels, foreign embassies, Customs and Excise, police forces, military experts, and university departments. It also held seminars addressed by experts in relevant subjects from many countries in Europe, the Americas, Africa, and the Middle and Far East.

IST cooperated with the Institute for the European Defence and Strategic Studies (IEDSS) in the organisation of an international conference on defence at Windsor in 1986. Also, with the Faculty of Laws of the University of London, the Institute held an international conference in 1988 at Ditchley Park, the venue of many Anglo-American top-level conferences. The three-day event was opened by the Home Secretary, Douglas Hurd. One of the most important addresses was given by John Hermon, Chief of the Royal Ulster Constabulary.

Jillian Becker was an invited speaker at the June 1984 "conference on Terrorism" organized by Binyamin Netanyahu’s Jonathan Institute in Washington, D.C., opened by Secretary of State George Schultz, and including UN Ambassador Jeane Kirkpatrick, Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, Midge Decter, Edwin Meese, Jack Kemp, Lord Chalfont, historian Bernard Lewis, and columnists George Will and Charles Krauthammer.

IST was a registered charity, supported mainly by charitable donations but also partly self-supporting by providing expert consultancy and supplying reports to private companies, such as those needing risk assessments when expanding into foreign countries.[citation needed]

In 1990 the Institute was forced to close as many donors stopped their contributions, convinced that with the collapse of the Soviet Union and its Communist satellites in Eastern Europe, there would be no more internationally sponsored terrorism. Becker warned that terrorism, far from being over, would become an even greater menace in the coming years, but she failed to persuade donors of her point of view and so lost their support.

The archive of the Institute was bought by the University of Leicester, and was one of the collections with which the Scarman Centre, a research facility for the Department of Criminology, was founded.


Selected fiction[edit]

  • THE KEEP Chatto & Windus, London 1967 Penguin 1971 ISBN 0-14-003204-5; ISBN 978-0-14-003204-8 reissued as A PENGUIN MODERN CLASSIC 2008 ISBN 978-0-14-318561-1
  • A CRY IN THE DAYTIME (inter alia, South African Writing Today edited by Lionel Abrahams and Nadine Gordimer Penguin 1967 ISBN 978-1-199-12324-4 ISBN 1199123242)
  • THE STENCH (inter alia, On the Edge of the World edited by A.D.Donker 1974 ISBN 0-949937-76-2 ISBN 978-0949937766) Re-published in the USA earned a Pushcart Prize award.
  • THE KEEP Penguin SA, Modern Classics 2008 ISBN 978-0-14-318561-1
  • THE UNION, Chatto & Windus London 1971 ISBN 0-7011-1625-0
  • THE VIRGINS Gollancz London 1976 David Philip Cape Town 1986 ISBN 978-0-86486-050-7 (0864860501)
  • L: A NOVEL HISTORY Ferrington London 2005 ISBN 1-898490-46-5
  • A TOUR IN A FOREIGN LIFE eBookPartnership USA 2014 ISBN 978-1-78301-452-1


  • HITLER’S CHILDREN:THE STORY OF THE BAADER-MEINHOF TERRORIST GANG commissioned by the New York publisher Lippincott. Translated into other languages including Japanese. ISBN 978-0-397-01153-7

Lippincott New York 1977 Michael Joseph London 1977 2nd. Edition Panther (Granada) London 1978 7 Other editions: Germany, France, Spain, Norway, Denmark, The Netherlands, Japan 3rd. Edition Pickwick Books London 1989


Weidenfeld & Nicolson London 1984 ISBN 0-297-78299-1 ISBN 978-0297782995 St. Martin’s Press New York 1984




Ferrington London 2002 ISBN 1-898490-31-7 ISBN 978-1898490319 St. Martin’s Press New York 2003

  • "No ordinary woman – Dr Thelma Gutsche: a memoir." Contrast 15.3(1985)
  • Simone Weil: A Saint for Our Time? Magazine article by Jillian Becker; New Criterion, Vol. 20, March 2002.
  • Nadine Gordimer's Politics. Article in Commentary February 1992[8]
  • Nadine Gordimer' : Comrade Madam obituary in Standpoint September 2014[9]

As editor[edit]

  • THE SOVIET UNION AND TERRORISM by Roberta Goren, with an Introduction by Robert Conquest, Unwin Hyman, London, 1984[10]

Specialist publications[edit]

  • THE SOVIET CONNECTION: STATE SPONSORSHIP OF TERRORISM Institute for European Defence & Strategic Studies, occasional paper No 13: 'The Soviet Connection': 'State Sponsorship of Terrorism' by Jillian Becker. London 1985 ISBN 0-907967-60-4 ISBN 978-0907967606
  • NEO-NAZISM: A THREAT TO EUROPE? Alliance for IEDSS London 1993 ISBN 0-907967-47-7 ISBN 978-0907967477
  • ANOTHER FINAL BATTLE ON THE STAGE OF HISTORY Libertarian Alliance London 1988 ISBN 1-85637-400-9 ISBN 978-1856374002

Biographical and literary entries in reference works[edit]

  • Encyclopaedia Judaica (under: South African Literature)
  • Proceedings of the Swinton Circle
  • Smith, Rowland, Leisure, Law, and Loathing: Matrons, Mistresses, Mothers in the Fiction of Nadine Gordimer and Jillian Becker, 28 World Literature Written in English 41 (Spring 1988).
  • Rebecca West Papers review HItler's Children [11]
  • Chapman, Michael. Southern African Literatures (1996) Longman Higher Education; ISBN 0-582-05307-2:

A characteristic of literary magazines in the 1950s, one that did not change much during the 1960s was the fact that these journals mainly published works by white writers. Contrast presented stories and poems by many of the most important white writers of this period. Among the contributors of fiction were Anthony Delius, Nadine Gordimer, Jenny Hobbs, Laurence Lerner, Ruth Miller, Alan Paton, and the editor, Jack Cope, himself. Cope, Gordimer, and Hobbs also wrote stories for the volumes edited by the PEN Club, which featured Lionel Abrahams, Perseus Adams, Stephen Gray, Geoffrey Haresnape, and Lewis Sowden as well. Finally, the best known writers who published short fiction in The Purple Renoster were Jillian Becker, Myrna Blumberg, Yvonne Burgess, and Barney Simon.

  • Contemporary Authors published by Thompson Gale


  1. ^ a b "Sylvia Plath: Jillian Becker on the poet's last days". BBC News. 10 February 2010. Retrieved 9 March 2015.
  2. ^ "New Penguin Modern Classic: The Keep by Jillian Becker". Penguin Books South Africa. September 29, 2008.
  3. ^ The Freedom Association - Council and Supporters Archived 17 May 2013 at WebCite
  4. ^ "Jillian Becker | Authors | Macmillan". Us.macmillan.com. Retrieved 2015-06-20.
  5. ^ "1. About us". The Atheist Conservative. 2009-05-06. Retrieved 2017-11-17.
  6. ^ "The PLO: The Rise and Fall of the Palestine Liberation Organization". Authorhouse.
  7. ^ a b "Becker, Jillian (Ruth) 1932-". Highbeam. Retrieved January 18, 2016.
  8. ^ Podhoretz, John (2013-01-15). "Egypt's U.S.-Subsidized Politics of Hate". Commentarymagazine.com. Retrieved 2015-06-20.[permanent dead link]
  9. ^ Jillian Becker. "Nadine Gordimer: 'Comrade Madam' | Standpoint". Standpointmag.co.uk. Retrieved 2015-06-20.
  10. ^ Seth Mandel (2013-02-22). "Anti-Semitism in France and the Ghost of Emile Combes". Commentarymagazine.com. Retrieved 2015-06-20.[permanent dead link]
  11. ^ "Rebecca West papers". Lib.utulsa.edu. Retrieved 2015-06-20.

External links[edit]