British Antifascism and the Holocaust, 1945-67
thesisposted on 18.11.2019, 13:55 by Joshua Cohen
This thesis explores the extent to which the Holocaust shaped British antifascism in the period 1945-1967. It makes an original contribution in setting out the first dedicated analysis of the relationship between consciousness of the Nazi genocide and motivations for confronting fascism in Britain. The study has interrogated institutional archival records to assess the presence of the Holocaust in the private discourses, propaganda and campaign strategies of a wide variety of antifascist organisations. Personal motivations for antifascist activism have been engaged with through analysis of memoirs, autobiographies and oral histories. The thesis will demonstrate that the Holocaust was often absent from antifascist rhetoric, and so should be decentred from understandings that assume constant affinity between Holocaust remembrance and British antifascism. Instead, antifascism in this period was often conceptualised in a patriotic framework, as coda to the Second World War, or viewed through left-wing analyses of class struggle which obscured fascism’s ‘racial’ victims. However, the central importance of this study lies in its revealing that a Holocaust-inspired resistance to fascism was emerging in this period and beginning to co-exist with patriotic and other forms of antifascism. The ‘lessons’ of the Holocaust for antifascists were the subject of agonised internal disputes and became a point of open conflict between militant and establishment Anglo-Jewish organisations. The genocide was also politicised in a number of antifascist campaigns, including on the Left and in the name of civil liberties. The thesis therefore argues for 1945-67 as a vital transitional period when use of the Holocaust as a weapon against fascism was developing, albeit sometimes on the fringes of antifascist discourse. In this way, the period presaged the more confident later invocations of the genocide, including in activism against the National Front in the 1970s.