HOW DID your mother see you off to school when you were a kid? In my case, it was with a loving wave followed five seconds later by a scream that I'd forgotten my sandwiches. Trevor Grundy's recollections are somewhat less mundane. Each morning as he set off with his cap and satchel, his mother would stand on the doorstep giving him a full-on Nazi salute and mouthing the letters PJ, short for "Perish Judah", or "May The Jews Perish". When he returned home in the evening, having spent the day tormenting his Jewish classmates, his father, would warmly congratulate him for being "a right little Jew-baiter". A conventional upbringing it most certainly wasn't.
Memoir of A Fascist Childhood is, first and foremost, a personal history. The son of fanatical Oswald Mosley supporters, Grundy was brought up in an atmosphere of entrenched racism and anti-Semitism, and himself became a leading light in Mosley's Union Movement of the 1950s. His story covers the period from his earliest childhood through to his eventual disavowal of fascism in the early 1960s and subsequent departure for Africa to work as a journalist.
But Grundy's memoir also serves as a fascinating social commentary on post-war Britain, as well as providing a keen insight into what makes a card-carrying fascist tick. Here lies the book's real strength. Grundy takes us deep into the psyche of an obsessive racial bigot, laying bare the processes that create such a person, and examining the delusion and confusion that cause them to remain thus. It is one of the most candid accounts of blinkered intolerance you're ever likely to come across, and as such I'd strongly recommend it to anyone misguided enough to share Grundy's childhood views. Or at least I would if I thought they'd bother to read it. Trevor Grundy was conceived on the night of Oswald Mosley's last pre- war rally at Earl's Court. Two months after he was born, in May 1940, his father was imprisoned with Mosley, the authorities taking a dim view of his pro-German, anti-war leanings. To soften the blow of his father's prolonged absence, Mrs Grundy explained to her son that "a very great and good man called Hitler was trying to rescue Daddy and The Leader (Mosley). After Hitler won the war both would be released. Then the Jews would be for it." Day in, day out, his mother would drill him on the iniquities of Judaism, and when most kids of his age were amusing themselves with nursery rhymes and colouring books, he was subjected to the delights of the Horst Wessel song and great fascist marching tunes. In the event of Hitler's much- hoped-for victory, he was taught to say "Wir sind Freunden," just to let any invading Nazis know he was on their side. Such relentless propaganda inevitably had its effect. The day after he attended his first Mosley rally, aged eight, he went into school and called his friend Vilma Cohen "a Jewish bitch". When his history master asked him what he thought was the greatest battle of all time, he answered that it was the 1936 Battle of Cable Street "when Oswald Mosley marched through the Jewish areas of the East End, and where a man called Tommy Moran had knocked out 12 communists before he was beaten to the floor by Jews". By his early teens he was an active member of the Union Movement, selling newspapers and daubing anti-communist slogans on walls, and at 17 he spoke at a Union rally in Trafalgar Square, the youngest person ever to do so. The following year he passed up an opportunity to lose his virginity on discovering that his partner was wearing a Star of David. If proof were ever needed that a bigot is made, not born, then this is it. Grundy was a product of his environment, a child warped by the prejudices of his parents, just as they in turn had been warped. Throughout his early life he struggles to reconcile the hatred he is encouraged to feel with a growing realisation that the world isn't as black and white as he has been lead to believe. …