Maurice Podro 1928-2020

Maurice Podro 43 Group by Stuart Freedman

Maurice Podro photographed by Stuart Freedman 2020 (copyright Stuart Freedman)

Maurice Podro was 91 which is one reason why he hardly appears on the Web. He has two search returns: a listing as a company director – inactive and a piece to do with his time in the 43 Group, a post-war anti-fascist group mainly of Jewish ex-servicemen who took on Mosley and the blackshirts, pretty successfully. Maurice’s older brother was quite political and led the intelligence operation. Maurice wasn’t political – he just said “I knew it was the right thing to do”. That second search return is an article entitled ‘Remember the day they did not pass’ – it’s about the Battle of Cable Street.

Maurice Podro fought the resurgence of fascism in post-war Britain and his response is unambiguous.

“I am a firm believer that you fight violence with violence. I don’t see it any other way.”

The journalist, Alex Davis, seems a bit disapproving of this plain-speaking response. Maurice had a catchphrase to conclude any debate or discussion: “…and that’s simplified it.” That meant, that’s the plain truth.

The photograph above was taken by Stuart Freedman to capture the last half dozen surviving members of the 43 Group. I had connected the historian Daniel Sonabend, author of ‘We Fight Fascists’, a definitive history of the 43 Group, to Maurice and he interviewed him. Daniel then connected Stuart to Maurice and he photographed him. Maurice was not too well at the time and he didn’t much like the photo for that reason. Ditto his wife, my mother. But I really like it because it captures Maurice’s determination and fighting spirit in those pursed lips.

The last outing I went on with Maurice was to an evening discussion about Daniel’s book at King’s Place, York Way. He was wearing a camel hair coat and looked like the dapper cross of a mafioso and a Wingate football club supporter of the 70s (minus the cigar). Every inch the swagger don. I was well proud of him that night.

In the foyer he bumped into some men whose families worked in Petticoat Lane/Wentworth Street market. Maurice knew their relatives in detail – crystal clear memory. It was like the time I took him to a Sinatra show at the Palladium – the children of some market traders of the golden age recognised Maurice at the interval and eagerly questioned him about their parents’ generation down the Lane. He knew every name without fail. He was a living link to a past now almost vanished. I’m glad that I got round to interviewing him at length on video and I’m going to give the video to the Jewish Museum in Camden Town now. I did the interview with David Rosenberg who is a specialist on the history of anti-fascism and radical politics in the East End. I once took Maurice on one of David’s ‘Anti-fascist footprints’ walks and every time we stopped at one of the landmarks Maurice would pipe up and add more first-hand testimony to David’s commentary. Such as details of the mini-train that snaked around the playground at his school, JFS. And the time they beat up a blackshirt, broke his legs and chucked him in a bin.

So I wanted to get Maurice properly on the internet with this post to mark his passing to the big jazz club in the sky yesterday afternoon. I’m writing this listening to Buddy Rich. Maurice loved drumming, learnt to play during his time in the RAF, hung out in Archer Street, Soho in the days when it was in effect the jazz musicians’ labour exchange. He took me to see Buddy play twice. The second time, at the Festival Hall, I got to meet him and get my record signed. I was in my school uniform still. Buddy told me I should be at home studying on a school night, not out listening to jazz.

The last time I saw Maurice he was at home in the Corona Lockdown. I saw him through the open side door at the front of my childhood home. He was frail and not doing that great. I cracked a joke slightly at his expense and he laughed – I can’t remember what it was but I remember being pleased it was a good one and was appreciated. I’m glad that was our last ever interaction.

He took me to jazz. He took me to the other Lane (Spurs, where he got me hot Ribena and we sat next to a man who sucked on a huge cigar but never lit it) – in latter years, we would go to a caff opposite before the match and he would engage with all and sundry, the highlight of the afternoon eclipsing the actual football. In the good old days he had an 8-track in his car on which he introduced me to some great music such as ‘Hot August Night’, Diana Ross and Stevie Wonder. He gave me a job down the first Lane as a teenager – as we passed Hoxton on the early morning way into work he would pronounce “‘Oxton – ares’ole of the universe!” (it’s improved some since then), and get me good grub at Mossie Marks or Kossoff’s, sausage sarnies with lashings of ketchup a favourite on cold mornings. All a far cry from my dad who was a research scientist.

Maurice was my step-father and the best way I can capture him is to say that whenever he was introducing me to anyone he would always say “this is my son, Adam” – never “my step-son”.

maurice podro sadiq khan mayor london cable street commemoration

Maurice with Mayor of London Sadiq Khan when he was honoured at a Cable Street commemoration

4 comments so far

  1. […] contains “die”. So I was pleased to find another quotation this week (at the funeral of my step-father) which means much the same thing. It is from the Old Testament, Psalm 90 (verse […]

  2. Danny Altmann on

    Wonderful to read this. I remember Maurice so well as a larger than life JFS dad in the 1970s, and like you, remember great outings to jazz clubs. Wish we’d spoken about Cable Street…

    • ArkAngel on

      Glad you have fond memories of him, Danny

  3. […] The Guardian reports on surviving members of the 43 Group, a remarkable guerrilla army made up of ex British-Jewish servicemen and others, which fought fascists in Britain in the years immediately after WW2. Five of their number are alive today; a sixth, Maurice Podro, died a few weeks ago. Vidal Sassoon was a member. Their story shines a light on a little known aspect of post-war British history and reveals that fascist sympathies remained alive in various parts of the UK even after the death of Hitler and the end of the Nazi regime. The group was the subject of the 2019 book We Fight Fascists by Daniel Sonabend, reviewed last year by The Guardian; you can also read a moving tribute to the late Maurice Podro by his step son, Adam Gee. […]


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