Sheffield Uni professor’s talk asking if two Nazi figures were ‘heroes’ cancelled

Some have written to the uni


A talk by a Sheffield University professor discussing if two famous Nazis were “heroes or villains” has been cancelled, after it invited widespread criticism.

Brian Edwards, Emeritus professor of Healthcare Development at the University of Sheffield, was due to make a speech assessing the legacy of Oswald Mosley, the ex-British Union of Fascists leader tied to Adolf Hitler, and his widow Diana Mitford, who Hitler described as his “angel”.

But after a fierce backlash online saw it branded “neo-Nazi grade anti-Jewish hate", organisers have been forced to cancel the 11 December event and have deleted a webpage that advertised tickets.

The Union of Jewish students called the talk "incomprehensible and outright ludicrous". Professor Edwards and the Helen's Trust, the Derbyshire cancer charity that organised the talk, did not return a request for comment.

The gathering, titled “Oswald Mosley and Diana Mitford: Heroes or Villains?”, was set to be a quiet affair at Quaker Meeting House in Bakewell, a village in the Peak District.

But a dog walker spotted a poster advertising the talk on Sunday and took to Twitter. Writing under the handle @NudderingNudnik, he called the event "morally deranged", urging followers: “Ask @sheffielduni if they are happy that one of their emeritus (retired, honorary) professors is giving a talk with this title/slant?”.

Prof Edwards has held his prestigious post at the institution since July 2017.

Mosley and Mitford married in 1936 at the house of Joseph Goebbels, the man behind the Nazi regime’s propaganda machine, and Hitler was a guest of honour. Mosley led Britain’s strongly anti-Semitic black shirts street movement during the 1930s and was close friends with Italian fascist Benito Mussolini.

The event description said Prof Edwards’ talk would "chart their path through the tumultuous events of the thirties, forties and fifties. Their politics, intrigues and loves," asking: "Were they heroes or villains?”

Dozens flocked to rebuke the event on Twitter, with some calling it "horrifying" and "nastily anti-Semitic". Leena Jones tweeted: “I’m a @sheffielduni graduate and find this disgusting." Another user added: “As a @sheffielduni graduate I’m bloody well ashamed, and I’m sorry.”

The Union of Jewish students joined the furore on Wednesday, telling The Tab Sheffield: "It is incomprehensible and outright ludicrous that the question still be asked whether Oswald Mosley and his fascist black shirt movement were heroes or not.

"This is a man with strong links to both Hitler and Mussolini who together killed millions during the second world war and were the architects of the Holocaust. History tells of the brave Jewish community with allies who stood up to these black shirts, most famously at the battle of Cable Street.

"The idea that these people were heroes makes their memory be in vain."

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The email that one Twitter user wrote to the university

Others questioned why Sheffield University had not intervened. One Twitter user wrote to uni bosses, saying they “can’t imagine any Jewish student feeling safe" with the professor on campus.

Responding to the criticism over them hosting the event, faith group Quakers in Britain said on Monday: “Having discovered more about the event, Bakewell Quakers have withdrawn the booking". They stressed they were "firmly against hate speech".

Helen's Trust put down the phone when The Tab Sheffield contacted them for a response. The University of Sheffield declined to comment, saying it is not a matter for them.

Featured image via @sheffieldalumni on Twitter.