Walter Wolfgang, long-time JJP signatory dies at 95


Walter Wolfgang is led away from the 2005 Labour party conference after heckling Jack Straw.

We print three tributes to our long-time signatory, Walter Wolfgang.

Diana Neslen, long-time signatory of JFJFP, former Executive member, and member the lobby group, writes,

We in Jfjfp are deeply saddened at the death of one of our most outspoken and fervent supporters, Walter Wolfgang. Walter was a refugee from Nazi Germany whose life expressed with conviction the Jewish value of Tikkun Olam, healing the world. His major passion was world peace, for which he was an unstinting advocate. He was one of the founders of the Campaign for Nuclear disarmament and made every effort to advance the cause seeing the dangers of the nuclear arms race with exemplary clarity.

Nuclear disarmament was not Walter’s only issue. He was also a Jew who recognized the vital importance of justice for Palestinians. He knew from bitter experience that oppression is destructive especially to those under the yoke but also to the powerful who choose the path of aggression instead of the path of peace and justice. He was not electronically literate but made it his business to regularly ring me up to discover the date of the AGM. I cherish those wide ranging conversations immeasurably and will miss them so much. When he was able to attend the AGM he always offered wise rejoinders in debate.

Even though Walter was extremely frail, he and Peter Prager both in their eighties agreed to deliver the Jfjfp petition to the EU demanding action from that organisation against Israeli intransigence. Walter was someone who had no truck with those who turned a blind eye to injustice. He stood up against the crowd without fear or favour and defended many of those accused of antisemitism by the Labour party. Walter, who knew the reality of antisemitism was not prepared to see people he recognized as antiracists pilloried for their views. We all remember his heckling of Jack Straw at the Labour party conference. It was a pyrrhic victory for the bruisers who ejected him, as he returned to a hero’s welcome the following day.

It was indeed a privilege to know Walter and to welcome him into the Jfjfp fold. Walter’s life and struggle has been an inspiration to us all. The best legacy is to remember what he stood for and commit ourselves to supporting the causes he so passionately advanced especially the right of the Palestinian people for self determination, for peace and justice and against the belligerent occupation.

WALTER WOLFGANG 1923-2019

Mattha Busby writes in The Guardian:

“Tributes have been paid to the antiwar activist Walter Wolfgang, who has died aged 95, with many remembering a “committed fighter for peace and justice” and a lifelong socialist who “always spoke truth to power”.

“Wolfgang, a Jewish refugee from Nazi Germany, joined the Labour party in 1948 and was a founding member of the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament, remaining active in the organisation until his death. He was propelled into the public eye in 2005 after heckling Jack Straw at the Labour conference.”

“After apparently shouting “Nonsense” during the then foreign secretary’s speech on Iraq, as Straw spoke of “nation-building from a violent past” to justify keeping British troops in the country, Wolfgang was manhandled out of his seat by security. He was briefly detained under terrorism laws, before returning to the conference the next day amid a flurry of apologies. “When you have an international debate that does not deal adequately with the international issues of the day, the least you can do, if someone is talking nonsense, is say so,” Wolfgang said. More …

Jeremy Corbyn writes in The Guardian,

My friend Walter Wolfgang’s life was a portrait in moral courage

“Donald Trump flies into the UK next week, and we will be treated to the surreal spectacle of a widely reviled president meeting a defeated prime minister amid scenes of pomp, ceremony and protest. For all the high-level meetings he will attend, the president would gain far more by staying home and learning about the life of my friend Walter Wolfgang, who died this week at the age of 95. A lifelong peace activist, he was preoccupied in his final days by Trump and his growing belligerence towards Iran.”

“Walter’s life story reads like a history of the last century. He was born to Jewish parents in Frankfurt in 1923, a year before the city elected its first Jewish mayor, Ludwig Landmann. But by 1937 he had to flee from the Nazis to Britain, a teenage refugee. Walter’s parents remained in Germany, only to lose everything when their business was confiscated. His father was taken to Buchenwald concentration camp. Although he was able to escape Germany for Britain with Walter’s mother in 1939, Buchenwald destroyed his health and caused his premature death in 1945 – the same year that Mayor Landmann died of malnutrition while in hiding from the Nazis.”

““As a refugee from Nazi Germany,” Walter later said, “I saw at first hand the terrible consequences of a political doctrine based on hatred and racism.” It was this experience, and a further political awakening when his family was interned like other Germans in England in 1940, that gave Walter 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.” More…

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