Stimulated by the Israel -Hamas War, a recent Pro-Palestinian march to Dalston Junction (Hackney, London) rang loudly with the voices of hundreds chanting rhythmically. Their chant was a clear genocidal call against Jews, “From the River to the Sea, Palestine Will be Free.”
Over the decades, Hackney and the Dalston – Ridley Road area had been heavily Jewish. Times change. Memory is lost. Today, Hackney, especially the Dalston-Ridley Road area has become home to many new immigrants, Muslims, and Afro-Caribbeans in particular, who displaced most of the Jews.
Few of the marchers had any historical understanding of the struggle led by British Jews, who fought fascism, racism, hatred, bigotry, and ignorance from the end of WWII into the 1960s that gave them the right to immigrate and live in Hackney.
Before WWII, Ridley Road was known euphemistically as “Yiddley Road” because of the high density of Jews and Jewish businesses in the area.
The British Fascists, pro-Nazis, rabid anti-Semites, had marched into Dalston- Ridley chanting their message – “Perish Judah” or a popular American refrain – “Send them back in Leaky Boats”
A recent survey asked Palestinians what should be done with the Jews if Palestine should dominate from the “River to the Sea.” Few answered the Jews who have lived there centuries, even millennia, should be permitted to remain. Almost all answered, send them back to Europe where they came from. They have no right to live in “Palestine.”
1946 – Jewish British World War II soldiers returning home were horrified, disgusted, with the reemergence of Sir Oswald Mosely’s efforts to rebirth his rabidly antisemitic, pre-War British Union of Fascists. He called them the Union Movement. It found surprising acceptance by thousands across the U.K. Their message to Jews was not much different from the recently defeated Nazis.
Mosely’s method of operation was confrontation, intimidation, and physical violence. Union Movement marches were organized to go through Jewish areas to terrorize. A key target for Mosely was the heavily Jewish area of Dalston – Ridley Road in Hackney.
1946, 43 Jewish veterans and a few non-Jewish supporters met in London. They organized themselves to face down Mosely. Centered out of a nondescript building on Panton Street, the 43 Group, as they became known, quickly grew to hundreds. Jews rallied to the effort to confront the Fascism, and anti-Semitism they had just defeated in Europe. It was again becoming tolerated in Britain.
The 43 Group learned where Mosely meetings were to be held. They physically disrupted the meetings and rallies. Mosely marched into Ridley Road. Fighting ensued. The Jews and their supporters refused to give in. They aggressively fought back. By 1950 Mosely and his bigots were defeated.
A little over a decade later, 1960s, a new leader for British Fascism and Neo-Nazism was emerging, Colin Jordan. Britain was receiving high numbers of non-White immigrants, Muslims, African-Caribbeans and Asians. Jordan founded the British National Socialist Movement in 1962. He advocated a pan-Aryan “Universal Nazism” as a solution to what he had ascribed as the “Coloured Invasion”.
The re-emergent Neo-Nazis stirred the Jews who fought with the 43 Group to create the 62 Group. The 62 Group had no compunctions facing down the Neo-Nazis who chose to intimidate the Jews and the new immigrants along Ridley Road. Ridley Road became the epicenter of the struggle against hatred, bigotry, racism, and fascism.
December, 2023, a historical interpretive marker was placed on the corner of Ridley Road and Kingsland near Dalston Junction. The marker, funded by the Jewish American Society for Historic Preservation U.K Branch, was organized by Martin Sugarman, archivist of the British Association of Jewish Ex-Servicemen and Women.
Sugarman was a teenager at the Ridley Rd. fight in 1962. He recounted, “we were throwing pennies at the Fascists as they tried to speak, and my older brother with me – just as my dad had been at (Battle of) Cable Street in 1936. He ironically warned us NOT to go to Ridley Road – but we did anyway and bunked off school.
As Mosley arrived, we all rushed him and his platform, and he was taken away by his Blackshirt guards to his limousine, and never again returned, and soon after he left the UK.”
At Ridley Road, the Jews won. Great Britain won. The new immigrants had won.
Time decays memory. Complacency replaces vigilance. The past that shaped today is not respected.
The marker is simple. It is brief and placed high enough on the corner building’s side that it cannot easily be ripped away by anger, intolerance, bigotry and hate.
The text of the marker reads:
Star of David
This Ridley Road plaque marks a key site where the mainly Jewish Ex-Servicemen and Women anti-Fascist organization
The 43 Group
Confronted the British Neo-fascist movement in 1946-50 and early 1960s to rid Britain of anti-Semitism and all hatred
“Be strong and of good courage (Joshua 1:9)
הלוא צויתיך חזק ואמץ
Erected 2023 by Jewish American Society for Historic Preservation UK Branch,
Association of Jewish ex-Servicemen and Women UK (AJEX)
Martin Sugarman being interviewed at marker site.
Jerry Klinger is the President of the Jewish American Society for Historic Preservation.