Wales is famous for being the home of woolly sheep and Tom Jones and difficult-to-pronounce place names (Llanrhaeadr-ym-Mochnant, we’re looking at you). What it’s not known for is anti-Semitic violence. But 102 years ago today, it became notorious for just that.
In 1911, the newly industrialized South Wales was wracked by labor disputes, and on the night of August 19, about 250 people attacked Jewish-owned businesses in a village called Tredegar. No one was killed, but the looting and pillaging continued for several days in nearby towns; Home Secretary Winston Churchill labeled the riots a “pogrom,” and called in the Army to deal with the rioters.
On August 25, The Times of London quoted The Jewish World, which opined that while the looters’ main motive was a “lust for plunder,” anti-Semitism offered “both a direction and a ready cause of inflammation to the savagery of the mob.” Whether the riots owed more to anti-Jewish sentiment or poverty and labor unrest is still debated. Today, about 2,300 Jews live (peacefully) in Wales, about half as many as lived there at the time.
Watch a film that’s set at the time of the riots: