When we were street fight­ers


Ra­dio 4, April 19

IT IS a shame that the ma­jor­ity of Bri­tish Jewry did not have the chance to hear this ra­dio show about the lit­tle-known 43 Groupers who fought Oswald Mosley’s Bri­tish Union of Fas­cists fol­low­ing the Sec­ond World War — as it was broad­cast on Seder night.

But if you man­aged to catch A Rage in Dal­ston on BBCi, you would have heard about the clashes be­tween the Jewish ex-ser­vice­men and -women and the far-right move­ment, on the streets of East Lon­don.

Even a young Vi­dal Sas­soon, who was a private dur­ing the war, got in­volved in the scuf­fles, which he likened to “pitch bat­tles”. It was amaz­ing that no­body got killed.

“I’ll never for­get. I walked in and I had a hell of a bruise,” he says. “It had been a dif­fi­cult night, and a client said to me, ‘Good God, Vi­dal, what hap­pened to your face?’ and I said, ‘Oh noth­ing, madam, I slipped on a hair­pin.’”

In the pro­gramme, his­to­rian Alan Dein in­ter­views a num­ber of the fear­less mem­bers of the 43 Group who, com­mit­ted to di­rect ac­tion, stood up to the Fas­cists af­ter the war. They were so-named as this was the num­ber of ex-ser­vice­men who turned up to the found­ing meet­ing at the Mac­cabi House in South Hamp­stead in the spring of 1946.

Armed “with knives and ra­zor blades” but no guns or bombs, they tracked down Fas­cist meet­ings to quash them, and were not afraid to break the law.

They could not be­lieve that there were still peo­ple in­tent on ex­ter­mi­nat­ing the Jews — as if the Holo­caust had never hap­pened.

Martin Black, a Jewish for­mer RAF ser­vice­man, says: “We couldn’t be­lieve it, th­ese bas­tards were on the streets again giv­ing the Fas­cist salute.”

Stan­ley Marks, who was de­mobbed from the Royal En­gi­neers, agrees.

“They were do­ing the same, as if noth­ing had hap­pened. Our whole lives were dom­i­nated by what had hap­pened to the Jews in Europe.”

As is of­ten irk­some with ra­dio doc- umen­tary, it is con­fus­ing at times to know who is talk­ing. But with dis­turb­ing footage of Mosley spout­ing an­tisemitic pro­pa­ganda dur­ing one of his pub­lic meet­ings, and first-hand ev­i­dence of the heroic strug­gle, it made for thrilling lis­ten­ing.

Sir Oswald Mosley, leader of the Bri­tish Union of Fas­cists, waits to

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