by Jason Lever
Posted on Sun, 01 Dec 2013 18:09:06 GMT
Speaking out against the rearmament of Germany
In 1954, the London Jewish Bakers Union supported a composite motion (which was lost) that ‘This Congress expresses its opposition to the rearmament of either Eastern or Western Germany...’ (TUC History Online, 4).
They were in the company of other unions – from the National Union of Furniture Trade Operatives to the Scottish Painters Society – in moving motions. Solomon Lever’s particular motion stated that:
‘Congress views with concern the decision of the Government to rearm the Germans. Congress is of the opinion that it would be in the best interests of peace if both East and West Germany remained disarmed for the time being’ (TUC History Online, 5).
Starting his speech, he ensures for the Congress audience that the wider victims of the Nazis are remembered too (TUC History Online, 6):
‘I want the Germans disarmed because twice in our lifetime have we seen what a menace an armed Germany can be to Europe to the world and to humanity in general... Prominent Germans are fleeing to the east.... as a protest against the rising strength of the Nazis.
‘This small union which I represent, one of the smallest affiliated to Congress, and the only remaining Jewish trade union in the world outside of Israel, feels that it owes a duty to 6 million Jewish dead...[and] the many thousand socialists and trade unionists in the occupied territories which these same Germans tortured and put to death.’
He makes clear his view of the continuity of both German ‘kultur
’ and actual personages in making his argument extraordinarily candidly and powerfully:
‘Have the people who committed these crimes changed? Most of them are still alive and they hold responsible positions. It is our view that a disarmed and subdued Germany can be an asset to the world...
‘A rearmed and cocky Germany with “Deutschland uber alles” as its slogan, would not think twice again exterminating millions of people to gain its ends.... men have been known to murder each other, but even savages have spared the children. Not so the Germans’.
The full speech can be read at TUC History Online
His speech has impact at the highest levels. Later in the day, the TUC general secretary, Sir Vincent Tewson said, ‘When our friend from the Jewish Bakers spoke this morning this hall was stilled and our minds went back to debates which we have had here previously
[in 1935]’ (TUC History Online, 7).
Five years later, when J.R. Shanley (National Union of Furniture Trade Operatives) spoke in debate on the same issue, he said (TUC History Online, 8):
‘I want to remind Congress of the last time we discussed the rearmament of Germany. This Congress went as quiet as I ever heard it go in the 24 years I have been coming here... I cannot reproduce the quiet tones of appeal of Solomon Lever; I can only remind you of his words’.
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