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When the Heritage Lottery Fund refused the initial application made in the name of Huddersfield University, Dr Gear enlisted the support of the Hadley Trust, which made a £50,000 donation to ensure that there could be a full survey and investigation with metal detectors of land in and around Wrotham Park, which the celebrated military archaeologist Dr Glenn Foard believes might have been the site of the battlefield.

Dr Gillian Gear invested with the Order of the British Empire at the Tower of London in Nov 2014. L to R: Sir David Brewer, Lord Lieutenant of Greater London; Michael Gear (husband); Tim Gear (son); Gillian Gear; Chris Gear (son); General Lord Dannatt, Constable of the Tower Dr Gear was leading the Battle of Barnet of Project and had put her name to a renewed application to the Heritage Lottery Fund.

As the Barnet Society’s representative on the project team, I know from personal experience how infectious her enthusiasm could be.

Whenever we went to meetings, she usually had one of the latest possible finds in her handbag, perhaps an early cannon ball or piece of lead shot that had been brought into the museum.

Dr Gear did all she could to encourage local historians and also children to visit the museum and get involved in its work. Carla Herrmann, one of the museum’s many volunteers, described Dr Gear’s skill in engaging all comers:

“Wednesday afternoons at the museum were like the inside of a beehive, all centred and buzzing around the queen bee who tirelessly, cheerfully and effortlessly dealt with everyone, volunteers and public alike. She was the museum personified.”

Dr Gear secured an MA in social and industrial history at Middlesex University and completed her PhD in the history of education at London University.

Her published works include The Diary of Benjamin Woodcock , Master of the Barnet Union Workhouse , Sixty Years of Local History , Community Life in Hertfordshire and East Barnet Village .

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I am so sorry to hear this terribly sad news: I worked with Gillian in an attempt some years ago to save the old Barnet Workhouse, and had immense respect for her knowledge, and tenacity. Barnet Museum is indeed a monument to her wonderful career and indefatigable commitment to local history. My condolences to her family and colleagues.

A longtime friend of my mum Doreen Willcocks and a wonderful asset to Barnet and the museum. who will by missed by many

A lovely tribute, very sad news. Mary Rean Neville Gray Xxx

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Indeed, closer inspection reveals that allegations of Mennonite hardship are often complaints that Nazism did not live up to its potential. If only the Eastern Front had held; if only religious reform had been more thorough; if only welfare programs were more generous—then Mennonite life would have been easier. Even the Holocaust and other persecutions are said to have “occasioned much disappointment among Mennonites.” This may be true. But note how the author chooses to emphasize the “disappointment” of Aryans, not the actual enslavement and slaughter of Jews. Despite the fading of his own initial “euphoria” for Germany, he could remain “deeply grateful.”

Mennonite authors and editors should think carefully before writing or printing pieces about the Third Reich. This is an important topic and requires our attention. But we must approach it in ways that do not recapitulate racism. Even those of us with good intentions need to be wary. In April, the cover story of a major denominational magazine laudably covered Mennonites and the Holocaust; yet in her introduction, the editor blithely compared Mennonites murdering Jews to Jews murdering Jesus—arguably the single most injurious trope of Christian anti-Semitism. Proofreaders apparently saw no problem with invoking “the crowd that yelled ‘Crucify him!’”

A few rules of thumb might be helpful. If you are discussing Nazism or the Holocaust, consider how someone from a different background might react—particularly if you are defending actions by your own group. Second, be aware of contextual differences: refocusing from the Holocaust to Soviet atrocities erases the specificity of Jewish genocide. Finally, when evaluating suffering, do not discriminate. While Mennonites have faced many difficulties, they never suffered alone. Nor were they always victims. Anabaptists, of all people, must surely grasp that violence can permeate even the most peaceable of cultures, a process we should understand but never justify.

Ben Goossen is a historian at Harvard University. He is the author of Chosen Nation: Mennonites and Germany in a Global Era , published in 2017 by Princeton University Press.

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The beauty of old and rare books is that through studying some of them we can learn not just about the ideas of the writer, but also the life of their reader. We are fortunate in the Menno Simons Historical Library to have some rare books that give us an insight into the work of Dutch Mennonites in the eighteenth century. These books were given as prizes to children who did well in their catechism classes. The prize encouraged children to learn scripture and the books that were given taught them about the faith of the Mennonite church. Topics ranged from martyr books to histories of the Bible and Mennonite doctrine. We have at least eight examples of prize books in our collection, and I will highlight a few here.

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