This Day in Jewish History / August 19

On this day in 1911, a wave of labor strikes in the U.K. shifted their focus to Jewish stores.

On this day in 1911, a wave of labor strikes in South Wales took on an anti-Jewish character, as strikers in the town of Tredegar began attacking Jewish-owned stores. The violence included the burning and looting of both shops and residences owned by Jews, and it spread to other industrial towns in the region, including Cwm and Caerphilly. It came at the end of a nine-month-long miners’ strike, which was accompanied by labor action against the railroads and the ports – a series of strikes that became known as the Great Unrest. That Saturday night, as a group of striking miners left a bar in Tredegar, their anger against Jewish landlords and shopkeepers spilled over into rioting in which 250 people participated. Though no one died in the rioting, it went on for a full week, and eventually the British Home secretary, Winston Churchill, describing the events as a “pogrom,” invoked the Riot Act, and brought in the army to quell the violence. Over the following half-century, historical opinion in the U.K. tended to downplay the anti-Semitic aspect of the attacks (according to the conventional wisdom, the violence was directed at the shopkeepers as merchants, not as Jews), but for the past four decades historians have debated the reopened question, with no clear consensus being reached.