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Jillian Becker

Jillian Becker
Born 2 June 1932
Johannesburg, South Africa
Pen name Jillian Becker
Nationality British
Citizenship British
Education BA
Alma mater University of the Witwatersrand
Notable works Hitler's Children, The Keep, The PLO
Notable awards Pushcart Prize

Jillian Becker (born June 2, 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.[2]


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 (South Africa). She graduated from the University of the Witwatersrand. She has been a British citizen since 1960. She has 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. 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.[3]

Published works

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 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. Following closely in the wake of the Israeli armed forces, she retrieved secret documents from the ruins of bombed PLO office buildings, and interviewed Lebanese of all denominations who had experienced PLO oppression, as well as supporters, members and leaders of the PLO.[4]

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 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

In the 1980s, when Margaret Thatcher was prime minister, 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".

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. Her partner (both in IST and in her private life—see above), Bernhard Adamczewski was her co-director at IST.

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.

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.

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.

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


  • 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.

As editor

  • THE SOVIET UNION AND TERRORISM by Roberta Goren Unwin Hyman London 1984 [7]

Specialist publications

  • 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

  • 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 [8]
  • 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

Other references and reviews

  • What Terrorists Want: Understanding the Enemy, Containing the Threat by Louise Richardson (Hardcover - 5 Sep 2006) Excerpt - page 46: " ... revolutionary groups completely reject the past in her seminal book Hitler's Children Jillian Becker describes the members of the Baader Meinhof Gang the precursor to the RAF"
  • The War That Never Was: Fall of the Soviet Empire, 1985-91 by David Pryce-Jones (Paperback - 20 Sep 2001) Excerpt - page 46: " ... packaging, not suburbs but only `labour storage facilities' (in a phrase of Jillian Becker's), no charities or clubs, no homes for stray animals, no ... "
  • Can a State be 'Terrorist'? Paul Wilkinson International Affairs (Royal Institute of International Affairs 1944-), Vol. 57, No. 3 (Summer, 1981), pp. 467–472 "Jillian Becker in her masterly study of the Baader Meinhof Gang..." doi:10.2307/2619580
  • Political Studies Volume 26 Issue 4 Page 516 - December 1978 Jillian Becker is a distinguished novelist who brings great literary ...Hitler's Children
  • Jillian Becker - "South Africa Now", 11 May 1980 Jillian Becker is a distinguished novelist, anti-apartheid exponent, and author of Hitler's Children, a study of the terrorist group the Baader Meinhof Red Army Fraction
  • Proceedings of the Swinton Circle: Mrs. Jillian Becker, the highly acclaimed author and expert on counter-terrorism, who gave a masterful overview of the current threats posed to the West by both "hard" and "soft" Islamic Jihad...
  • The Death and Life of Sylvia Plath by Ronald Hayman (Paperback - 24 Jul 2003) Excerpt - page 5: "Jillian Becker uses the word `raving' for some of Sylvia's conversation, and this tallies with the evidence of the critic A. Alvarez, who uses the term `borderline psychotic ... "

External links


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