BY MARCUS STEAD
With each year that passes, the number of Holocaust survivors still living dwindles ever further. For many years after the liberation of the concentration camps, survivors often did not tell their stories, the full horror of what they had experienced being too painful to recount.
But in recent decades, as they approached old age, survivors began to speak more openly about what they went through. Has the passing of years eased the pain of their memories? It’s not for me to say, but I suspect it has not. Survivors telling their stories in books, on film, in lectures and in school assemblies do so because they understand the importance of lessons being learned, and of history never repeating these mistakes again.
As the number of Holocaust survivors dwindles, their stories become more important, not less. The years since Jeremy Corbyn became Labour leader saw a resurgence of antisemitism to levels that would have seemed unthinkable in mainstream British politics just a decade ago. And as with the 1930s, the resurgence of antisemitism has come from the Left.
While it is right and proper that antisemitism in the Labour Party is properly reported and scrutinised, it is wrong to assume that antisemitism in Britain is confined to the Labour Party.
Welsh nationalist party Plaid Cymru has a history of antisemitism stretching back to its founder, Saunders Lewis, and it remains an ongoing trait with the party. Relatively recently, Plaid Cymru member Sahar Al-Faifi was suspended days after she appeared in a party election party when it was revealed she had been responsible for a number of antisemitic social media posts several years earlier.
It would also be wrong to assume that Plaid Cymru has gone to great lengths to distance itself from its past. Saunders Lewis is still widely revered by Plaid Cymru supporters and the Welsh nationalist movement in general. They can be rather touchy when you raise the subject. At best, they seem to regard Lewis’s antisemitism as a minor character flaw, like leaving the toilet seat up after using it.
Below, I have reproduced an exert from my lengthy essay ‘Wales – A Country Divided’, which can be read in full here. The exert details Saunders Lewis’s long history of antisemitism, which litters not only his politics but also his wider writings.
Underneath that, I have reproduced an article by former BBC Wales Head of News and Current Affairs David Morris Jones. He runs an excellent hyperlocal news website for Penarth, which he updates several times per day. He published the article on the 30th May 2019, in which he used former Plaid Cymru leader Leanne Wood’s disgusting comparison of Brexiteers to Nazis as a platform to expose Plaid Cymru’s long links to fascism and the Nazi movement.
Extract from Wales – A Country Divided by Marcus Stead
Indeed, Plaid Cymru itself was founded during a meeting at the 1925 Eisteddfod in Pwllheli. The party’s co-founder, the aforementioned Saunders Lewis, was an ardent Monarchist and devout Roman Catholic. He didn’t care much for political independence, even going so far as to say that Wales was a nation (as in a people with a culture and, most importantly for him, a language). His ultimate vision was of a Welsh-speaking, monoglot Wales of small-scale farmers as part of a united Catholic Europe.
Lewis was far from universally popular among the Welsh nationalist movement. A significant number were suspicious of his conversion from Nonconformism to Roman Catholicism. He was pretentious and snobbish, with a reedy voice, cerebral style and aristocratic contempt for the proletariat. Many Welsh language literary critics don’t hold his extensive writings in high regard.
But there was a far darker side to Lewis, ones which modern-day Plaid Cymru prefers not to talk about. Lewis’s writing is littered with numerous grotesque examples of anti-Semitism. A repeated phrase of his is ‘Hebrew Snouts’, which he uses when referring to Jewish financiers, with Alfred Mond being a favourite target of his.
Lewis had an affection for the politics of Franco, Salazar and Petain. Plaid Cymru officially remained neutral during World War II. Some senior figures openly advocated that a German victory would be better for Wales. Lewis’s anti-Semitism and support for fascism became a target for opponents of the party and an embarrassment to some of its supporters, including the writer Ambrose Bebb (the grandfather of current Conservative MP Guto Bebb).
Of Hitler himself, Lewis declared: “At once he fulfilled his promise—a promise which was greatly mocked by the London papers months before that—to completely abolish the financial strength of the Jews in the economic life of Germany.”
Plaid Cymru’s stance did not stem from Christian pacifism but from their own nationalist opposition to Britain, which they saw as a greater threat to Wales than Hitler. In the late 1930s, the party’s internal newspaper cited Jewish influence over the British media as a source of the drive to war.
Of English children being evacuated to Wales to avoid the bombing of their homes during the war, Plaid Cymru said that that would
completely submerge and destroy all of Welsh national tradition. Saunders Lewis went on to say that the
movement on population is ‘one of the most horrible threats to the continuation and to the life of the Welsh nation that has ever been suggested in history.’
So, there we have it. Hitler and Mussolini were friends of the nationalists, but English children escaping the ravages of war were the enemy.
Plaid Cymru doesn’t like to mention or discuss, let alone condemn its own murky past. Indeed, former party President, Lord Dafydd Wigley, who will have known Lewis personally, called for the ‘character assassination’ of him to end during a 2015 interview, as though Lewis’s abhorrent views were some kind of minor character flaw.
Leanne Wood,( former leader of Plaid Cymru and a former AM for South Wales Central which includes Penarth ) has come under attack for publishing a cartoon on Facebook which suggests that people who want Britain to Leave the European Union are, in effect, Nazis .
On social media the lack-lustre Leanne, who was replaced as Leader of Plaid Cymru last year, has praised the tasteless, politically-motivated and grossly misleading cartoon as a “powerful image”.
Leanne Wood served as the leader of Plaid Cymru from March 2012 to September 2018. Plaid Cymru supporters have lambasted her lack of judgement – condemning her Facebook post as “idiotic”‘, “childish” and “totally inappropriate”.
Ironically Plaid Cymru itself (whose anti-semitic founder, Penarth author Saunders Lewis, praised Hitler and backed the Fascists in the Spanish Civil War) has plenty of fascist skeletons hidden away in its own murky history.
Plaid Cymru first came to prominence after a terrorist arson attack committed by three of its central figures on the RAF bombing school on the Lleyn Peninsula in 1936.
In the 1960 and 1970s nationalists and fellow-travellers committed a series of terrorist bombing and arson attacks across Wales targeting major infrastructure and “English-owned” holiday homes .
The fascist element of nationalism reached its zenith in the creation of the “Free Wales Army” (whose uniforms and insignia aped those of the Nazis) and in the sinister Mudiad Amdiffyn Cymru which planted three bombs on the processional routes of at the Investiture of the Prince of Wales in 1969. (A soldier was killed in one explosion and a young boy injured in another).
Marcus Stead is a journalist, author and broadcaster, working mainly in political journalism and sport. Other writing by Marcus can be found here.