Friday, October 9, 2015

UK: Story of how UK Jews fought a wave of post-war anti-Semitism to be subject of new TV series

Via The Independent:
What they will have uncovered is the uncompromising story of how a group of British Jews, hardened by experiences in the front line which saw them awarded battle honours including the Victoria Cross, felt morally obliged and politically compelled to break the law in the tatty, war-weary surroundings of late 1940s Britain to protect their families and community.

Having watched the Nazis rise from a small fringe party to become the authors of the Holocaust and after encountering official indifference (James Chuter Ede, the Home Secretary in Labour’s post-war reforming government, conspicuously failed to order a crackdown), here were individuals who took the view that fire had to be fought with fire. As Sassoon later put it from his Hollywood mansion: “After Auschwitz, there were no laws.”

Where Mosleyites turned up to bait and persecute Jewish tailors in Hackney or Dalston, they found themselves confronted by former Commandos and Royal Marines well versed in mortal combat.

Julius Konopinsky, one of the 43 Group’s founding members, had more reason than many to see the virtues of such an approach. Having arrived in Hackney from Poland in 1939, he learnt in 1945 that his nine maternal uncles and aunts had been murdered by the Nazis. A year later, another uncle, who had survived Auschwitz, came to live with him.

Now 85, Mr Konopinsky said: “Call them fascists, call them Nazis, they only seemed to understand one thing - to hurt you or to be hurt. And we believed in hurting them first before they hurt us. I still believe that.”
The result was a succession of pitched battles during fascist gatherings where the 43 Group and their opponents gave no quarter. Knuckledusters, knives, steel-toed boots and sharpened belt buckles were wielded on both sides with devastating effect. One former veteran said he was told: “We’re not here to kill. We’re here to maim.”

Asked once whether he had left anyone seriously injured, Mr Konopinsky would only say “Yes”.

But what set the 43 Group apart was not just its embrace of violence but also its extraordinary level of organisation.

By 1947 it had 1,000 members across Britain, including a group of non-Jews who penetrated fascist groups and delivered back intelligence on where meetings and marches were taking place.
The group set up quick-reaction “commando” cells of ex-servicemen who were transported to Mosleyite gatherings by friendly London black taxi drivers. The men then used a twin-pronged attack to carve their way to the platform of a meeting and assault the speaker, forcing police to intervene.

Its actions included stake outs of Jewish cemeteries to catch anti-semites engaged in the desecration of graves and raids on the homes of fascists who were warned to cease their activities or face grim consequences.

The group did not gain universal approval among Britain’s Jews. The Board of Deputies feared the militants would be conflated with the activities of extreme Zionists such as Irgun, which was at the time conducting a bloody campaign against British control of then Palestine.

Although some, including Sassoon, did subsequently join in the war to establish Israel there were in reality no links between the 43 Group and such militant Zionists; nor indeed was it linked, as some suspected, to Communist agitators.

Instead, with British fascism broken in the face of the ferocity of its onslaught, the group decided to disband in 1950. Mr Beckman said: “In 1946, there were only two countries in Europe that allowed fascist parties - us and Franco’s Spain. Why did the authorities allow Mosley to go unchecked? Somebody had to do it, so we did.”  more

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