Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn and union chief Len McCluskey led tributes to the left-wing Jewish peace activist Walter Wolfgang, who has died aged 95.
Corbyn said Wolfgang was a “dear friend and moral leader” who was forcibly removed from the Labour Party conference in 2005 for shouting “nonsense” as then Foreign Secretary Jack Straw “extolled the virtues of the British occupation of Iraq”.
Born to Jewish parents in Frankfurt in 1923, a year before the city elected its first Jewish mayor, Wolfgang had to flee the Nazis 14 years later, in 1937, arriving in Britain as a teenage refugee. His parents remained in Germany, where their business was confiscated, and his father was taken to Buchenwald.
Although his parents were later able to escape Germany for Britain, they were interned as enemy aliens, and his father’s health suffered. He died in 1945.
It left a lasting imprint on the youngster, who said he had seen “first-hand the terrible consequences of a political doctrine based on hatred and racism,” and it informed his politics. He became a veteran of the peace movement and an ardent activist with the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (CND).
Corbyn said his childhood experience gave Wolfgang “a determination to fight prejudice against all peoples and classes. He did not want anybody else, anywhere in the world, to suffer exploitation or oppression, as he and his own family had”.
The Labour leader added that Wolfgang’s political beliefs “were underpinned by his Jewish faith – ‘the Jewish aim of human brotherhood’ as he put it – and a desire to make real the Hebrew prophets’ vision of a world without war”.
Wolfgang defended Ken Livingstone after he was suspended from the Labour Party, after claiming that Hitler was a Zionist.
Deeply saddened to hear that my old friend Walter Wolfgang has died.
Walter escaped Nazi Germany and has campaigned for peace and socialism ever since, including his passionate opposition to the Iraq War.
Yesterday, we said our goodbyes. He will be greatly missed. pic.twitter.com/CUUtmCzDrp
— Jeremy Corbyn (@jeremycorbyn) May 29, 2019