May 12, 2007

Historian finds a fascist link to Broughton synagogue

A Prestwich historian has revealed that a strictly orthodox synagogue in Northumberland Street, Higher Broughton, was once the regional HQ of the British Union of Fascists.

Dr Yaakov Wise, Hon Research Fellow at the Centre for Jewish Studies at Manchester University, made the startling discovery whilst studying 1930s newspapers, Home Office Records and MI5 files for his doctorate. He claims British Union of Fascist's (BUF) founder Sir Oswald Mosley even considered moving his national headquarters from Chelsea to Northumberland Street where the Machzikei Hadas Synagogue now stands.

Dr Wise said: "It's an amazing paradox that this important Jewish institution was once a hotbed of anti-Semitic hatred."

He said Mosley attended the opening ceremony of the BUF Northern HQ in the Spring of 1934. A photo, now in archives at the Central Library, Manchester. shows Mosley with an honour guard of Blackshirts, mirroring the poses of fellow fascists Hitler and Mussolini.

According to Dr Wise, many of Mosley's followers were not ideologists but Lancashire cotton workers who, due to the Depression, had lost their jobs. Dr Wise has records from 1936-7 of Blackshirts from around the country arriving at Victoria Station and marching down Bury New Road to the Northumberland Street HQ. There was also a rally at Belle Vue in 1936. These rallies attracted protesters from the young Communists, Socialists and Jews and the ensuing skirmishes were quelled by police. This activity mirrored the better known Cable Street anti-fascist riots in the East End of London. Mosley also spoke at the Athenaeum Club in Bury, which now houses Bury Education Offices.

The organisation was made illegal in 1937 and in 1938, furniture importer and wholesaler Abraham Jacob Pfeffer bought the building in Higher Broughton. It was established as a synagogue the following year. The original 1870's merchant's villa was demolished in the 1950s and the current building dates from 1959.

Prestwich and Whitfield Guide

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