Defying Hitler. The Germans who resisted Nazi rule

Review of Gordon Thomas and Greg Lewis ‘Defying Hitler. The Germans who resisted Nazi rule by Merilyn Moos

Books about resistance to Nazism are suddenly pouring from the presses. Four such books were recently reviewed in one issue of the NY Review of Books. One might well ask why, over seventy years since Nazism was crushed, this outburst of interest. The answer is not comforting. Some of us are scared that something similar could happen again.

The absence of interest in the past is easily explained. The resistance did not fit easily into the conflicting ideologies: the Americans wanted nothing to do with movements which smacked of Communism, and the USSR, though more apparently supportive, regularly saw the organised resistance as too autonomous or too Jewish.

Even now, the books which are appearing focus on the more ‘respectable’ end of the resistance. Such is Thomas and Lewis’s book. Their book is important in taking on the still current myth that there was little to no resistance in Germany.… Read on ...

POLICE RACISM and UNION COLLUSION – the John Fernandes Case

In the early 1980s, John Fernandes, a lecturer at the Metropolitan Police Cadet School in Northwest London, published some essays by police cadets that were clearly racist. In the ensuing scandal, John was dismissed and his trade union, NATFHE, one of the forerunners of UCU, initiated disciplinary proceedings against officers of his branch who supported him. Now, nearly 40 years later, a pamphlet written to support John at the time has been found and digitised. At a time when the relationship between the police and the black community is in the news, it provides a useful contribution to the debate. It is particularly relevant to the discussion about the difference between “Multicultural Education” and “Anti-racist Education”.

The pamphlet, “POLICE RACISM and UNION COLLUSION – the John Fernandes Case” by the National Convention of Black Teachers, may be downloaded here…

Those who remember the events will be pleased to know that John, now a member of the UCU London Retired Members branch, is alive and well and living in Goa.… Read on ...

If You Got A Boss, You Need A Union

The singer-songwriter Steve Earle has a new album out in which he sings about the worst mining disaster in the United States in 40 years.

On April 5, 2010, the Upper Big Branch mine in West Virginia, owned by coal giant Massey Energy, exploded. Twenty-nine workers. Four years later, Don Blankenship, the CEO of Massey Energy, which had been fined nearly $400,000 in the year before the explosion for repeated and serious safety violations, was indicted by a federal grand jury for allegedly conspiring to violate mine safety rules, conspiring to cover up those violations, and providing false statements about Massey’s safety record. He faced more than 31 years in prison. He ended up being convicted of one misdemeanor and only served a year in prison.

Jessica Blank and Erik Jensen have produced a play about the Upper Big Branch disaster, with Steve Earle writing the songs for the show. Coal Country, based on interviews with miners who survived and relatives of those who did not, opened at the Public Theater in New York City in early March.Read on ...

Mugsborough Then & Now

The story of Robert Tressell and his book has been told and re-told by various authors, each account framed in accordance with their own perspective. His novel has also been the subject of academic scrutiny and literary criticism, but the approach adopted here is different. This new book focuses on the striking, not to say shocking parallels with modern day Britain, comparing Tressell’s descriptions of early 20th century Britain and with their 21st century counterparts.

Each subject is split into two parts, with the first section quoting examples from The Ragged Trousered Philanthropists and in the second part evidence based modern-day equivalents are introduced.

buy the book on ebay for £5…

Anti-Nazi Germans – review by Ian Birchall

I was invited to speak at the launch, on 26 March, of Anti-Nazi Germans, by Steve Cushion and Merilyn Moos. The launch had to be cancelled, but the following is, more or less, what I should have said.

For details of the book see

You can get a copy post-free from the authors: £10 – more details from: You may pay by cheque, bank transfer or PayPal

In one of his last interviews Eric Hobsbawm said that “the whole function of history is precisely to be a pain in the arse for national myths.” It would of course be grossly discourteous to call Steve and Merilyn “pains in the arse”, but they certainly are fulfilling the function of good historical writing.

National myths are still very much with us, as we saw during the increasingly bitter and sterile debate about Brexit. The “spirit of the Blitz” has been tediously invoked, not only by Brexiteers, but to described the impact of coronavirus.… Read on ...

Review – El Norte: The Epic and Forgotten Story of Hispanic North America by Carrie Gibson

When I was at school in the 1950s, we were told in geography lessons that the United States of America had no colonies. Even if one accepts the 13 original British colonies, this neglects the remaining 37 states. No one never seemed to wonder about the origins of names like Nevada, Arizona, Montana, Florida etc., which had originally been Spanish then Mexican before being seized by the US government. This book looks at the history of North America from the point of view of its Spanish speaking inhabitants and makes a useful counterbalance to the normal Anglo-centric historiography

The origins of Texas were particularly myth-laden to those of us who got the story of the Alamo from Walt Disney, Fess Parker and John Wayne. There is no contemporary evidence that Davy Crocket ever wore a coon-skin hat with a fur tail at the back. The reality is much more prosaic. If you look at a historical atlas, you will see that Texas was a state with a very high proportion of slaves.Read on ...

 A Jewish Communist in Weimar Germany

Review of
Ralf Hoffrogge, A Jewish Communist in Weimar Germany: The Life of Werner Scholem (1895-1940), Chicago: Haymarket, 2018
by Merilyn Moos

This 600 page book requires a strong interest in revolutionary politics in Germany in the early 1920s. Werner Scholem is a figure rarely heard of in the UK though he was party to the many splits within the KPD (Communist Party) at the very time when a German revolution, post 1919, would have broken the isolation of the Russian revolution and changed twentieth century history. That he fell out with the KPD in the direction of Trotskyism has not helped! The author presents much detail on the period 1919-1926, drawing on a remarkable number of original sources about Scholem’s personal and political life.

After belonging to a Jewish youth group, Scholem joined the SPD’s (Social Democratic Party’s) youth organisation: ‘Workers Youth’ and became heavily involved in anti-war work, for which he was arrested.… Read on ...

Yiddish Glory: The Lost Songs of WWII

Six Degrees Records has just released Yiddish Glory: The Lost Songs of WWII. On this collection of Yiddish music from the Second World War some very talented modern musicians perform previously unheard songs that call for the defeat of fascism and revenge on the Nazi oppressors.

In the manuscript department of the Ukrainian National Library, archivists found a number of sealed boxes. They contained hand-written Yiddish documents dating back to 1947. Upon examination, it turned out that the pages contained thousands of songs, written by Yiddish-speaking Jews in Ukraine during World War II. Leading Jewish Soviet ethnomusicologists and linguists, including the legendary Moisei Beregovsky, had archived this music by Jewish refugees, Jewish soldiers in the Red Army and Holocaust survivors, who had defied Hitler in song. Stalin’s authorities arrested Beregovsky and his colleagues as part of the campaign, started in November 1948, which aimed to liquidate Jewish culture, and the documents were sealed.… Read on ...

Foreign Parts. German and Austrian Actors on the British Stage 1933-1960

Review of Richard Dove’s ‘Foreign Parts. German and Austrian Actors on the British Stage 1933-1960’, Leganda, by Merilyn Moos

This is a detailed study of five German and Austrian actors who fled Nazism: Lucie Mannheim, Gerhard Hinze, Friedrich Valk and Lilly Kahn, banned from the German stage either for being Communists or Jews, who came to Britain. Dove discusses their roles pre- and post- exile and successfully sheds light on many of the wider issues surrounding becoming a refugee from Nazism. This review will only focus on a few aspects of the many stories Dove recounts.

Gerhard Hinze, a member of the KPD, the German Communist Party, was dismissed from the theatre on account of his politics as early as 1932, even before the Nazis took power. He then became involved in performing anti-Nazi plays and cabaret. But in March 1933, the performance was invaded by Nazi storm troopers, leading to a pitched battle on stage.… Read on ...

Cat-Gut Jim the Fiddler

Ned Corvan’s Life & Songs 
By Dave Harker 
Wisecrack Publications,
2017, £20.00
ISBN 978-0995741812

The mid-nineteenth century is both very near and very remote, as we realise in this study of Ned Corvan (sometimes spelt Corven). The society depicted here is only two lifespans away – my grandmother (who went into the mill aged eight – factory at 6.00 a.m., school in the afternoon) was born into the world of Corvan’s children. Yet the differences, in physical experience and in ways of thinking, are immense.

Dave Harker, who regrets that “today most north-east children have to follow the ‘National Curriculum’ and focus on the history and culture of London”, has rescued from oblivion a remarkable figure. Ned Corvan was a singer, comedian and artist. Born in 1827, he died aged only 37 – largely as a result of his excessive use of alcohol and tobacco – but having established a substantial reputation.… Read on ...