Anti-Semitism in British Society, 1876-1939

By Colin Holmes | Go to book overview

12 Attack and counter-attack

So far our attention has been concentrated upon anti-semitic thought and the background which encouraged and sustained it. But if we accept that thought can be translated into action, that those who philosophize about the world can also attempt to change it or preserve it in their own image, we need to consider the possibility of aggressive action being directed against Jews as well as the emergence of an organized opposition to such forces.

Since Mosley's movement made the most significant attempt to convert anti-semitic thought into action, the activity of the BUF is singled out for analysis. Physical attacks upon Jews became a prominent feature of British anti-semitism in the 1930s and social violence increased considerably in 1936 when the BUF started its campaign in east London.1 Leeds and Manchester were also chosen as target areas but neither received the attention which was lavished upon the East End and consequently an emphasis will be placed upon what happened there, as the area 'become a spasmodically used but nevertheless active battleground'.2 Mosley's campaign in the East End reflected an increasing interest in anti-semitism by the BUF, as a result of which it was brought closer to the centre of British political life. Consequently, after discussing the events in east London an attempt will be made to explain why organized anti-semitism was contained and did not prove to be an avenue to political power. Finally, the reactions of the Jewish community to this growing menace to its own position will be considered, concentrating particularly upon the counter-attack planned under the aegis of the Board of Deputies.

Once the BUF moved towards anti-semitism, for reasons we have already discussed, the East End was a potentially fertile area for its activities. Some reference to these local pressures has also been made but at this point the main stresses might be repeated.3 There was, first of all, a tradition of hostility which had developed during the immigration years and the First World War.4 But there were more immediate influences. Almost one third of Britain's Jewish population lived in the East End and a pronounced Jewish culture was present there. The Jewish inhabitants of the area 'were mainly foreign immigrants who had come in about the turn of the century and who remained largely unassimilated…. There were Yiddish newspapers, Yiddish shops, a Yiddish

-191-

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Anti-Semitism in British Society, 1876-1939
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Anti-Semitism in British Society 1876-1939 *
  • Contents *
  • Preface vii
  • Part I i
  • I- Background i
  • 2- A Nation within a Nation? 10
  • 3- The Health and Morals of the Nation 36
  • 4- Dark Legends 49
  • 5- Our New Masters? 63
  • 6- Movements and Measures against Jews 89
  • 7- Anti-Semitism and Society 104
  • Part II 121
  • 8- Anti-Semitism in the First World War 121
  • Part III 141
  • 9- The Protocols and the Britons 141
  • 10- Other Anti-Semitic Worlds 161
  • II- The Buf and Anti-Semitism 175
  • 12- Attack and Counter-Attack 191
  • 13- Anti-Semitism and Society 1919-39 203
  • 14- The Balance Sheet 220
  • Notes 235
  • Select Bibliography 317
  • Index of Persons 320
  • Index of Places 323
  • Index of Subjects 325
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