What would Clement do?

A Labour blog that witters on about Clement Attlee. Hurrah for The Major!

Holocaust Day – a Family Tale…

Today of all days, I have been thinking about William and Nancy – brother and sister of Scottish Communist parents.

Nancy was the real party-line comrade, and eventually went off to work for The Comintern in Moscow, marrying an Old Bolshevik, who was Jewish. William, a baker by trade, was a party militant – a steward on the 1931 Hunger March from Glasgow to London, who settled in London, marrying a Lass from Mansfield. Their father was a founder member, a veteran campaigner from before the Great War – well connected in international Communist circles, a real class war fighter to the end of his days.

In 1934, with a baby to look after, William was approached by someone outside of The Party, with the Party’s consent, and asked if he would deliver some packages to Berlin, via Hamburg. He said yes, and upon boarding a steamer in Harwich, found himself in possession of a package of British Passports and a revolver – which, as a pacifist, he threw over the side.

He made several trips, keeping them secret from his wife, all of them terminating with afternoon coffee at the Hotel Adlon, where the exchange would be made. His luck ran out, and in Williams passport is to be found the odious stamp of the Third Reich, “Entrance Forbidden”, his name on file for future use…

To this day his family do not know who these passports went to, but before he died, William did intimate that it had something to do with a rebel group in The Foreign Office, hoping to get “useful” non-aryans and anti-nazis out. They will probably never know the full truth. In 1939, William received a message that in the event of British defeat, he should make plans to escape Britain – he and his six year old son were on the Gestapos list…

Nancy worked faithfully for Stalin’s Commintern until one night in 1938, when the dreaded knock at the door came. Her husband was arrested and never seen again. He like so many other loyal Communists probably died with abullet in the back of the head, his last word “Why?”.

A resourceful and strong woman, she ran across Moscow that very night, with her young son in her arms, to the British Legation. With amazing good luck, she and her son were on the last ship out of Soviet Russia before Stalin closed the border – many other foreign Communists were not so lucky. Most of her first husbands family were wiped out by the early 1950s – either by Nazism or Communism.

Nancy renounced the creed that had killed her husband, and was ostracised by many old comrades, and even family members, though not her brother William – to him, blood was thicker than politics.

William was my Grandad, Nancy my Great Aunt. I miss them both.


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