A plaque honouring the secret London headquarters of a legendary group of Jewish anti-Fascists has been unveiled.
In 1946, the 43 Group was formed by 38 Jewish ex-servicemen and five women, to fight back against the resurgence of Oswald Mosley’s British fascists.
With the return of the so-called Blackshirts to the streets of the UK, spouting antisemitic and racist rhetoric in the aftermath of the Holocaust, the group was named after the 43 activists who turned up to start the movement at the Maccabi club building (now demolished) in Compayne Gardens, Hampstead.
The commemorative plaque, however, is fixed outside the main and secret headquarters of the group, at 4 Panton Street, not far from Trafalgar Square.
It was organised by AJEX (Association of Jewish Ex-Servicemen and Women) archivist Martin Sugarman and financed by Jerry Klinger of the UK branch of the Jewish American society for historic preservation.
Over five years, using spies inside the British Fascist Party to gather intelligence about their plans and rallies, the 43 group prepared violent ‘warm welcomes’ for them, in places like Ridley Road in Hackney.
Veteran Jewish soldiers would rush and force their way to the speaking platforms at the rallies, turning them over and causing enough chaos to stop the meetings taking place.
AJEX archivist Martin Sugarman told Jewish News: “When violence ensued, the police then broke up the fascist rallies as a disturbance of the peace. Many Jews were arrested at these events and went to court where they were freed or fined; fines were paid by philanthropists and lawyers representing the 43 Group, for free.”
No lists or archives of the 43 Group were kept, as some of their activities, such as breaking into fascist stores, warehouses and printing presses were technically illegal.
Sugarman has collected about 250 names from books, obituaries, and personal interviews with 43 Group survivors. Only one known member is still alive, but documentaries and films made about them are stored in various archives around the UK.
Many famous people like Vidal Sassoon were part of the 43 Group, and celebrities giving financial support included comedian Bud Flanagan and boxing promoter Jack Solomons. Members of the film industry taught disguise methods for secret raids on fascist properties whilst Jewish cab drivers provided free transport .
The 43 Group disbanded in 1950, but with a re-emergence of the British Nazi party in the early 60’s, a new group was formed. Known unofficially as the 62 group, (but never based at Panton Street), it was made up of war veterans and younger Jewish National Servicemen. Both the 43 and 62 groups were the forerunners of today’s CST organisation.
Sugarman told Jewish News: “The plaque reminds us that when anti-semitism, fascism and racism rear their ugly heads, we must all take action to stop it and ensure children learn about the horrors these hateful views can lead to – wars and massacres that engulf us all.”
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