Saturday 4 June 2011

A tribute to Miriam Karlin (1925-2011)

Actor, trade unionist and antifascist activist Miriam Karlin died yesterday. Paul Holborow, who was national organiser of the Anti Nazi League in the 1970s, pays tribute to her.

The news of Miriam Karlin’s death will have evoked feelings of real affection and loss among the many thousands of antifascists in the Anti Nazi League and far beyond.

An outstanding feature of her long life was her committed and active opposition to Nazis, fascists and racists.

In this respect she trod proudly in the footsteps of her father. Harry Samuels Karlin spoke out strongly in the 1930s against the rise of Hitler in Germany and Oswald Mosley’s Blackshirts in Britain.

In the 1970s Miriam threw herself into building the newly formed Anti Nazi League. She campaigned tirelessly to win support for active opposition to the Nazis within the Jewish community.

Miriam spoke at countless ANL meetings and frequently wrote on its behalf to the Jewish Chronicle and the Times to defend the organisation’s tactics and inclusive approach.

When the ANL was relaunched in the 1990s Miriam once more stepped forward. She took a prominent role in protests against Holocaust denier David Irving. She also campaigned to expose the Nazi sympathies of Austrian politician Jörg Haider.

Miriam was a fine actor. Many will remember her iconic portrayal of the acerbic shop steward Paddy in the hugely popular 1960s TV series The Rag Trade. The show encapsulated the shopfloor confidence of the time.

But Miriam was a campaigning trade unionist off-screen too. For many years she attended the TUC congress as a delegate from her union Equity.

Miriam’s commitment to the rights of human beings never faltered. She will be remembered with fond appreciation by all who knew her.


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