Oswald Mosley

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Portrait of Oswald Mosley, painted by Glyn Warren Philpot in 1925

Sir Oswald Ernald Mosley, 6th Baronet of Ancoats in the County of Lancaster (born November 16, 1896 in London , † December 3, 1980 in Orsay , Essonne department , France ) was a British politician who was primarily considered the founder of the Fascist Party British Union of Fascists (BUF) became known.


Family, youth and military service

The Mosley family is of Anglo-Irish origin. The line to which Oswald Mosley belonged had large land holdings in Staffordshire, England . In 1781, his great-great-great-grandfather John Mosley (1732-1798) was given the hereditary title of baronet , of Ancoats in the County of Lancaster , which Oswald Mosley finally inherited in 1928 as the 6th baronet. After his parents separated, Oswald was raised by his mother and paternal grandfather, Sir Oswald Mosley, 4th Baronet. His great-uncle was Baron Anslow . In family circles and among friends, Oswald Ernald Mosley was always called Tom .

He attended Winchester College and the Royal Military College at Sandhurst . During World War I he fought with the 16th Lancers on the Western Front. He later worked as an observer in the Royal Flying Corps , where he sustained a permanent leg injury in a plane crash. Before the injury had healed, he returned to the trenches and passed out from pain during the Battle of Loos in 1915. He was assigned to do administrative work and in 1916, when his injury did not heal, he was dismissed as an invalid.

First successes as a Conservative MP

Wedding of Oswald Mosley and Cynthia Curzon (1920)

At the end of the war, Mosley decided to pursue a career as a politician and wanted to join the British House of Commons for the Conservative Party , although he was only 21 years old and had neither political experience nor a solid political opinion. Mainly because of his family membership, several constituencies considered putting him up as a candidate. At first an unoccupied candidacy near the family's estates seemed the most promising, but he was unexpectedly selected for the candidacy in Harrow near London and easily won the general election there in 1918 due to a lack of serious competition. Apart from a Sinn Féin candidate who did not take up his seat, Mosley was the youngest member of parliament to be elected. He soon attracted attention as a speaker who kept his speeches in Parliament free and as an extremely self-confident politician.

In 1920 he married Lady Cynthia Curzon ( Cimmie ), the second eldest daughter of George Nathaniel Curzon, 1st Baron Curzon , the former Viceroy of India , and his first wife, the rich American heiress Mary Victoria , née. Ladder. Lord Curzon first had to be convinced of the suitability of Mosley as a husband, as he suspected Mosley of attempting the marriage mainly for reasons of social advancement and because of the high inheritance to be expected. Curzon's suspicions were later confirmed, but the marriage was the social event of the year attended by guests from many European royal families.

Political change of side

Around this time Mosley fell out with his party over their policy in Ireland, he spoke out against the use of the paramilitary unit Black and Tans to suppress the Irish. In the end, he drew the conclusions and from then on sat as an independent MP on the opposition benches of the lower house. Since he now had a loyal following in his constituency, he was able to defend the constituency against candidates from the Conservative Party in the 1922 and 1923 elections. In the meantime, his inclination towards the politics of the Labor Party , which formed a minority government in 1924, grew. In March 1924 he joined the Labor Party, immediately afterwards also its left wing, the Independent Labor Party (ILP).

When the Labor government fell in October, Mosley had to find a new constituency because he would not have been re-elected as a Labor candidate at Harrow. He decided to face Arthur Neville Chamberlain in his Birmingham Ladywood constituency . After a vigorous election campaign, Chamberlain was able to beat Mosley with a majority of only 77 votes. Mosley used the following time without a mandate to develop a new economic policy for the ILP, known as the Birmingham Proposals , which remained the basis of Mosley's economic policy until the end of his career. When a Labor constituency in Smethwick near Birmingham became vacant in 1926 , Mosley returned to Parliament. In 1928 his father, the 5th Baronet, died, whereupon Oswald Mosley inherited this dignity and was addressed as Sir .

Minister with no portfolio

Then he sought political advancement within the Labor Party. He worked closely with James Ramsay MacDonald in the hope of one of the great ministries, but after the Labor-won election of 1929 he was only named Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster . In this more symbolic office he was from then on worked as a kind of minister without portfolio. Although he was tasked with solving the unemployment problem , his radical proposals were always rejected by his superior James Henry Thomas or by the cabinet. The ever-impatient Mosley finally compiled his entire program as a Mosley Memorandum , which was rejected by the Cabinet, whereupon he resigned in May 1930. In October 1930 he tried unsuccessfully to win the Labor Party congress for his program. With an expanded version of his program published in December 1930, he was initially able to win over 16 Labor MPs. Mosley's program included a. the establishment of a government with five ministers without portfolio (similar to the War Cabinet of the First World War), which should only be subject to the general control of a largely powerless parliament.

New party

Convinced of the incapacity of the Labor Party, Mosley resigned on February 28, 1931 and founded the New Party the following day . The party was initially supported by six Labor MPs, but a day later two of the six MPs had changed their minds and from then on sat as independent MPs in parliament. In the first replacement elections, in which the party ran in 1931, it only managed to fragment the votes of the left, which gave the Conservatives victories through British majority voting.

Initially, Mosley's party enjoyed a certain degree of sympathy, as observers considered the party suitable for offering a “middle position” between Labor and Conservatives. Initial sympathizers included Harold Nicolson and later Prime Minister Harold Macmillan . Nicolson joined the party and published the party newspaper (Action). Macmillan briefly considered leaving the Conservatives and joining the New Party. As soon as Mosley began adopting fascist content, however, Macmillan quickly distanced himself and stayed with the Conservatives. As a result, the New Party took on more and more of the political content of fascism emerging in Europe . When nationwide elections were held again in 1931, the New Party could not win a single seat. Nicolson also distanced himself from Mosley when it became clear that he was drifting into fascism and went back to the Labor Party.

The Fascist Union

After failing in the 1931 elections, Mosley went on trips to study the new political movements of Benito Mussolini and other fascists. He returned convinced that the fascist movements were leading the way for him and Britain. He decided to unite the existing fascist movements in his homeland and established for this purpose in 1932, the anti-communist and protectionist -oriented British Union of Fascists (BUF). According to its own information, the BUF had up to 50,000 members and was supported early on by the Daily Mail . Mosley's followers included the novelist Henry Williamson and the military theorist John Frederick Charles Fuller .

Italian model and the model of the German SS developed Mosley a party uniform, by its black color, the followers of the movement as Black Shirts were known (Blackshirts). The Blackshirts were often involved in violent conflicts, particularly with communist and Jewish groups in London. At a major fascist event in London's Olympia on June 7, 1934, a mass brawl broke out when the Blackshirts tried to throw troublemakers out of the room. These incidents and Adolf Hitler's internal party cleansing campaign in Germany, the so-called Röhm Putsch , resulted in the BUF losing most of its supporters in 1934, so that in 1935 it could no longer even take part in the general election. In 1936 the number of its members had shrunk to less than 8,000.

Mosley remained present in political life through marches organized by him and protected by Blackshirts. The British government saw them as so dangerous that they passed the Public Order Act in 1936, a law that banned political uniforms and restricted the freedom to demonstrate. However, that only happened after the so-called Battle of Cable Street in October 1936: In a racially motivated brawl, Mosley and his supporters were forced to retreat by a majority of opponents.

Mosley's wife Cimmie died in 1933 at a peritonitis , which allowed him, his mistress Diana Guinness to marry the sister of Unity Mitford and Nancy Mitford was. The two were secretly married in the house of Joseph Goebbels in 1936 , Adolf Hitler was one of the guests and "organized a dinner in their honor in the Reich Chancellery ". Since Mosley had spent a large part of his private fortune on the BUF, he tried to give it a stable economic base and let Diana negotiate with Hitler for approval for a commercial radio station that would broadcast from Germany to Great Britain. In 1935, Mosley declared that he would fight alleged Jewish control of the land, the press, trade and the City of London . In 1936 the party's name was expanded to include the British Union of Fascists and National Socialists at the instigation of William Joyce , a member of the BUF known as a demagogue speaker . In the 1937 elections for London County Council, the BUF was able to achieve up to 25% of the votes in three of its strongholds in East London. Mosley then fired most of the party's employees, including Joyce, who subsequently rallied in the new National Socialist League .

Public clashes at appearances and especially the violence of his bodyguards led to criticism in public opinion. Especially the night of the long knives and his publicly displayed anti-Semitism cost Mosley further support from the British public.

As Europe seemed to be moving closer and closer to war, the BUF campaigned its candidates under the slogan Mind Britain's Business ( Take care of British affairs! ). At a public rally in July 1939, it was able to attract 30,000 spectators. After Great Britain finally declared war on Nazi Germany after its invasion of Poland on September 3, 1939, Mosley campaigned for a negotiated peace with the German Reich. His policy was initially received rather benevolently in Great Britain, but after the invasion of the German Wehrmacht in Norway he was met with general hostility, which reached as far as attempted physical attacks.


On May 23, 1940 Mosley was interned along with most of the other active fascists in Great Britain according to Defense Regulation 18B , the BUF was later banned. Diana Mosley was interned after the birth of their son Max Mosley ; During the war, the couple mostly lived together in a house on the grounds of Holloway Prison in London. Mosley used the internment period to study the societies of classical antiquity extensively. When Mosley contracted phlebitis in 1943, the couple were released, but remained under house arrest until the end of the war in 1945.

post war period

The Temple de la Gloire in Orsay near Paris. Home of the married couple Mosley from around 1950 with the Windsors as neighbors

After the war, former followers turned to Mosley and convinced him (initially against his will) to get actively involved in politics again. He founded the Union Movement , a movement that strived for a unified European state. However, due to his pre-war activities and war internment, he was not taken seriously and the movement was able to win very few votes. In 1951, Mosley therefore decided to leave the United Kingdom and live in Ireland. He later moved to Paris. Of his decision to leave the UK, he later said, “You don't clear up a dungheap from underneath it.” At that time, he got involved Mosley in the European Social Movement .

After the race riot in Notting Hill in 1958, Mosley returned briefly to Great Britain to run in the general election of 1959 in the constituency of North Kensington . The Union Movement had done everything possible to exploit racial tensions in the area, and Mosley was confident of his victory. The election result of his party, which advocated a ban on immigration of all non-whites to Britain, was miserable, however. His last candidacy in the general election in 1966 also failed with poor results. He then wrote his memoir My Life (published 1968; German translation 1973) and withdrew completely from political life.

He and his wife, Cimmie, had three children, including Nicholas Mosley , who wrote a biography of his father. With Diana, he had two children, including Max Mosley , the former president of the FIA . Oswald Mosley had numerous extramarital relationships, including - during his first marriage - affairs with his wife's sister, Alexandra Metcalfe , and with his wife's stepmother, American-born Grace Curzon .


  • In the British drama series Peaky Blinders , Oswald Mosley appears in the fifth season. Mosley tries to use Thomas Shelby politically.

German language fonts


  • England - as I want it. ( Announced in 1935 in the advertising of Walter Bacmeisters National Verlag Berlin, but not published; German translation by The Greater Britain , 1932)
  • The alternative. Mosley Publications, Ramsbury July 1949 (German translation of The Alternative , 1947)
  • The European Revolution. Mosley Publications, Ramsbury 1950 (abridged German translation of The Alternative , 1947)
  • I believe in Europe. Klosterhaus Verlag, Lippoldsberg 1962 (German translation from Europe: Faith and Plan , 1958)
  • Way and risk. One life for Europe. Druffel Verlag, Leoni 1973 (abridged German translation of My Life , 1968)



  • James Drennan (pseudonym for William Edward David Allen): BUF British Fascism and its Leader. (German translation by BUF Oswald Mosley and British Fascism , 1934) Walter Bacmeisters Nationalverlag , Berlin 1935.
  • Arthur Kenneth Chesterton: Mosley. History and Program of British Fascism. (German translation by Oswald Mosley. Portrait of a Leader , 1937) EA Seemann , Leipzig 1937.
  • Jonathan Carr: The Wagner clan. Hoffmann and Campe, Hamburg 2009, ISBN 978-3-455-50079-0 .
  • Roger Griffin : The Nature of Fascism . Reprinted edition of 1991. Routledge, London et al. a. 1993, ISBN 0-415-09661-8 .
  • Roger Griffin (Ed.): Fascism . Oxford University Press, Oxford u. a. 1995, ISBN 0-19-289249-5 , ( Oxford readers ), (Synopsis [1] ).
  • Richard Griffiths: Fellow Travelers of the Right. British Enthusiasts for Nazi Germany 1933–39 . Oxford University Press, London a. a. 1983, ISBN 0-19-285116-0 .
  • Robert Skidelsky : Oswald Mosley . Holt, Rinehart and Winston, New York, 1975, ISBN 978-0-0308-6580-0 .
  • Richard Thurlow: Fascism in Britain. A history. 1918-1985 . Basil Blackwell, Oxford 1987, ISBN 0-631-13618-5 , (Revised Paperback Edition: Fascism in Britain. From Oswald Mosley's Blackshirts to the National Front . I. B. Tauris, London 1998, ISBN 1-86064-337-X ).

Web links

Commons : Oswald Mosley  - collection of images, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. ^ John Turner: Macmillan (Profiles in Power) . Routledge, London 1994, p. 21.
    Simon Ball: The Guardsmen: Harold Macmillan, Three Friends and the World They Made . Harper Perennial, London 2004, p. 119 ff.
  2. ^ Carr, p. 283.
  3. ^ John Gunther: Inside Europe. Harper & Brothers, New York, 1940. pp. 362 ff.