The 43 Group was an English anti-fascist group set up by Jewish ex-servicemen after World War II. They did this when, upon returning to London, they encountered British fascist organisations such as Jeffrey Hamm's "British League of Ex-Servicemen" and later Oswald Mosley's reformed fascist party, the Union Movement. The activities of these fascist groups included antisemitic speeches in public places, inciting racial hatred, and from the rank-and-file fascists, violent attacks on London Jews and Jewish property. Group members broke up far-right meetings, infiltrated fascist groups, and attacked the fascists in street fighting.
The title "43 Group" came from the number of people in the room of Maccabi House during the group's founding meeting. Those who convened the initial meeting included:
- Morris Beckman,served in the Merchant Navy during World War II. He lived through two torpedo attacks during the War;
- Gerald Flamberg, a middleweight boxing champion and member of 156 Battalion. Flamberg won the Military Medal at Arnhem during Operation Market Garden;
- Leonard Sherman, a martial arts expert and member of the Welsh Guards;
- Alec Carson, who flew Hawker Hurricanes in the Battle of Britain.
17-year-old Vidal Sassoon joined the group in 1947 and went on to fight in the Israeli Defence Forces during the 1948 Arab-Israeli War. Sassoon later founded an multinational hair business.
The initial membership was around 300 people. The group grew to include many hundreds of men and women, not all Jewish. Many among them were decorated for bravery, including the VC (Petty Officer Tommy Gould), DSO, DFC, DSM, and MM. The organisation was sometimes portrayed by its enemies as a front for either Jewish terrorists or communists, but in fact it was mostly composed of British ex-servicemen.
Relationship with other organisations
43 Group was viewed by established Jewish organisations, such as the Board of Deputies of British Jews, as a competitor. The Board of Deputies of British Jews also worried that the 43 Group's activities could damage the Jewish community's reputation, especially in light of the terrorist acts and guerrilla warfare carried out by militant Zionist groups such as the Irgun in British Mandate Palestine. However, 43 Group never sought to replace the more traditional groups who preferred debate and discussion, but who had failed to stop the BUF, partly due to the non-cooperation of the then British Home Secretary, James Chuter Ede. Rather, 43 Group sought to prevent the BUF mobilising and gathering support, remembering that the Nazi party had gained prominence in a similar fashion as the Brownshirts on the streets of post-WWI Germany.
The 43 Group was voluntarily disbanded on 5 April 1950, as its members considered that the immediate threat had passed.
Mosley's Fascist Union Movement remained active throughout the 1950s, but it was not until 1962, when the unrelated 62 Group was formed in the 43 Group's image, that British fascists again encountered any significant privately organised street-level resistance.
The overall effect of 43 Group is unclear. Morris Beckman argued that it was crucial in stopping a resurgence of fascism in post-war Britain. However, Nigel Copsey argues in Anti-Fascism in Britain that the fascists and anti-fascists might have only radicalised each other.
- Hillman, N. (2001). "Tell me chum, in case I got it wrong. What was it we were fighting during the war? The Re-emergence of British Fascism, 1945-58". Contemporary British History 15 (4): 1–34. doi:10.1080/713999428. Retrieved 2008-04-29.
- Adam Lent "British Social Movements Since 1945: Sex, Colour, Peace and Power" Macmillan p19, ISBN 0-333-72009-1
- The Times[dead link]
- "Flamberg, Gerald". Special Forces Roll of honour. Retrieved 30 August 2013.
- "Jews at the Battle of Arnhem". Jewish Virtual Library. Retrieved 30 August 2013.
- Anita Singh Vidal Sassoon: Anti-fascist warrior-hairdresser Daily Telegraph, 21/04/2008, Accessed 27 April 2008
- Pictorial History: Acquiring Arms and Personnel Aliyah Bet & Machal Virtual Museum, Accessed 27 April 2008
- Mark Gould Last reunion for war heroes who came home to fight the fascists, The Independent, 22nd February 2009, accessed 3rd March 2010
- "Tommy Gould VC". Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 30 August 2013.
- Andrew Roberts How King of Crimpers Vidal Sassoon cut Britain's fascist thugs down to size Daily Mail, 14th April 2008, Accessed 27 April 2008
- Todd M. Endelman "The Jews of Britain, 1656 to 2000" University of California Press, 2002, p233 ISBN 0-520-22719-0
- House of Commons[vague]
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- Voices on Antisemitism Interview with Vidal Sassoon from the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum
- London's Jewish community after the war
- The 43 Group by Morris Beckman
- Morris Beckman: My favourite books
- Review of Beckman's book
- Interview with Morris Beckman
- The Archive Hour - A Rage in Dalston - BBC Radio program
- Mark Gould "They stood up to hatred" Guardian.co.uk