Saturday 24 July 2021

'No Pasaran' is more than a lifetime's struggle



I spent yesterday afternoon with Merilyn Moos. We have been friends for fifty years, almost to the day, so the cuppa tea and lemon cake in her garden was a sort of anniversary marker. We talked about those years and what had become of us and the half-century of struggles we have been involved in. Perhaps it is good I was there for tea and cake and chat. A little later in the day and it would have been time for wine and whisky and brutal curses.

Merilyn has been a trade union and political activist all her life and feels that she has been carrying the baton passed to her by her parents. Her German mother, Lotte, was involved in left wing agitprop as Hitler came to power. She followed her lover to the USSR and felt guilty that she may have contributed to his death. He was sent to Spain at the time of the Civil War and, in a card she wrote to him there, she praised POUM. He was kidnapped, sent back for ‘trial’ in the Soviet Union, accused of Trotskyism and died in the Gulags.

Her father, Siegi, witnessed the sailors declaring a Soviet on the steps of Munich town hall in 1918. He was a leading figure in agit-prop which is how he met Lotte. He became an active anti-fascist. They arrived separately in the UK where, in 1940, Lotte was imprisoned in Holloway prison as a spy.

After many years as a trade union activist in further education, Merilyn started to write about her family history. She writes about her parents in “The Language of Silence”, but in recent years has dealt with the history of anti-nazism within the German working class to counter the view that there was no significant German resistance. “Anti-Nazi Germans” by her and Steve Cushion deals with this.

My wife Anne Aylor, is writing a novel set in the Spanish Civil War and, as her proof reader, can testify to the numbers of Germans who took up arms against fascism. The German Thälmann batallion was one of the largest of the International Brigades.

Many of these people would, like Merilyn, have described themselves as “historically Jewish” and would join her today in support of the Palestinians. “It is a terrible irony”, she told me, “that the very people once defined as untermensch are now treating others, the Palestinians, as untermensch.”

Because of our frayed health neither of us were able to make it to the recent Palestinian demonstrations, but stick or no stick, we will join the nurses and health workers if they take to the streets as now seems likely.

A good review of “Anti-Nazi Germans’ is here:

Merilyn’s other writings on German anti-fascist resistance can be found here: