Photography: 98for98: The century in photographs: today 1938

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Indy Lifestyle Online
As he saluted followers in Bermondsey, the leader of the British Union of Fascists, Sir Oswald Mosley, must have felt that he couldn't have made a shrewder choice in his embrace of Fascism. Though clashes with anti-Fascist activists, in May this year and in 1937, indicated a grass-roots distaste for Mosley's far-right principles, the charismatic ex-Labour politician must have been encouraged by the increasingly bullish Fascist regimes in Germany and Italy.

Better still for Mosley, though the British people reserved particular antipathy for Hitler, the British government had signally failed to take a stand against either the Nazi dictator or Mussolini. Remarking on the Italian leader's transformation of his country, the prime minister, Neville Chamberlain, went so far as to sign an Anglo-Italian agreement this year, which Labour opposition attacked as a sell-out to Fascism. Many no doubt would also have been dismayed at the sight of the England football team giving the Nazi salute at a match in Berlin this year. What is more, by September, April's Anglo-French agreement to defend Czechoslovakia against future German aggression appeared to be worthless, with the news that German plans to annex the Sudetenland from the Czechs by the year's end would meet no resistance from Britain.

The Germans duly occupied the Sudetenland, yet another triumph to add to Hitler's control of Austria this year, when, encouraged by a plebiscite in which Austrians demonstrated a near-unanimous show of support for Vienna's prodigal son, he instigated a pogrom. Within weeks, the "spring cleaning", as it was dubbed, had stripped Jews of many of their civil, social and human rights: Jewish judges were dismissed, Jewish shops were daubed with the Star of David and Jewish children were systematically victimised at school.

The maltreatment of Austrian Jews merely reflected the hostility to which their German counterparts had been subjected throughout the mid-Thirties, and which culminated in November's Kristallnacht. Across Germany, 7,000 Jewish shops were looted and an unknown number of Jews were murdered. To add insult to injury, the Nazi Party promised to confiscate any insurance money that Jews received as a result of damage sustained during the carefully co-ordinated nationwide rampage.

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