Research into the TUC’s history of helping trade unionists escape Nazi Germany

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Guest blogger Jay Stoll describes his recent research in the TUC Library into the role of the TUC in his great-grandfather’s escape from Nazi Germany.

In the late 1930s my great-grandfather, Erich Littman, arrived in Britain from Nazi Austria. As a Trade Unionist, he had been imprisoned in Dachau Concentration Camp before managing to secure a visa for a new life in Britain. The remainder of his family were not so lucky – with many dying in Auschwitz, Theresienstadt, or in the ghettos in which they had been persecuted.

Aware of the TUC’s anti-fascist campaigns in those years, I went to the Special Collections Library at London Met to see if I could find anything that would help my search for information on my great grandfather’s escape.

The Library proved helpful for understanding the breadth of support provided by the TUC for underground movements in Nazi Austria. Often, this was done through the publication and sale of pamphlets (such as the one from Otto Bauer, pictured), and proceeds would be given to those directly engaged in the struggle for freedom.

Similarly, my visit enabled me to process the scale of the TUC’s efforts to prevent fascism advancing in Britain and their work to support the established Jewish community in their boycott of Nazi Germany. Cooperation was extensive and was clearly valued by those writing in the Jewish press at the time.

I’m still not entirely sure how the TUC managed to help my Grandpa Erich escape, but I want to thank the staff at the Library for giving me their time and access to some really helpful documents. It hopefully marks the beginning of a successful journey to understanding how my family survived and set up their life in Britain!

 

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Exhibition ‘Labour’s special relationship: connections between the British and American labour movements from the nineteenth century until today’

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Title panel of A Special Relationship exhibition

Our new exhibition will be shown at the Working Class Movement Library from 21st February 2018 to 20th April 2018, Wed-Fri 1-5pm, and the first Sat of most months 10am-4pm. https://www.wcml.org.uk/

We are often told that American and British governments have a “special relationship.” Less often do we hear that the trade unions of Britain and the United States built their own special relationship over the last 200 years. Usually their relationship was weak – sometimes it rivalled the one between Presidents and Prime Ministers.

The story of labour’s special relationship is one of solidarity and fraternity. It is also one of conflict,disunity and even oppression. Whether good or bad, close or distant, British and American trade unionists have learned from and worked with each other. They have not always learned the right things.

But in the world of Donald Trump and UKIP, economic slumps and falling wages, casual labour and the disposable employee, the labour movements of Britain and United States must rebuild their special relationship if they want to survive, and prosper.

This exhibition tells the story of that special relationship, from the nineteenth to the twenty-first century.

This exhibition is available for loan. Contact Jeff Howarth j.howarth@londonmet.ac.uk for details.

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