History and Images: Episode 3
In Ridley Road Episode 3, we meet Colin Jordan’s socialite wife, and learn about an organized Nazi Party in the U.S., and the destruction of National Socialist Movement headquarters. Which story elements from the episode are true? Series writer and executive producer Sarah Solemani helps us sort fact from fiction.
Who was Françoise Dior?
In Episode 3, young Paul Jordan pulls a pistol out of some luggage. In chasing after him, Vivien encounters the luggage owner: Jordan’s wife, Françoise Dior. Suspecting Vivien is Colin’s mistress, Dior proceeds to punch our heroine below the belt!
Dior was the socialite niece of fashion designer Christian Dior and, a neo-Nazi herself, who helped finance various far-right causes. (Notably, her famous uncle married a decorated WWII resistance fighter; the couple distanced themselves from Françoise.) The Jordan/Dior marriage was actually conducted in 1963 and allegedly rushed to halt her deportation as an undesirable alien. In the ceremony, “They cut their fingers and mingled their blood as they made their vows over a copy of Mein Kampf,” says Solemani. “She wore a diamond swastika brooch.” Dior soon became heavily involved in NSM’s arson campaigns. The marriage fell apart in 1967, Dior claiming Jordan had become “bourgeois” and he later married a second time.
Was there an American Nazi Party?
In Ridley Road, Colin Jordan meets with American George Rockwell; the two men disagree on when the NSM should take up arms. Rockwell is indeed a real person from history who founded the American Nazi Party in 1959 and led it until 1967 from its Arlington, VA headquarters. In fact, he hung swastikas on the National Mall and picketed Martin Luther King’s marches. He also secured big-shot investors for Jordan’s NSM.
In 1962, Rockwell was invited by far-right extremists to attend a summer conference in England and confer with fellow fascists. The UK’s Home Secretary tried to deny his entry on the grounds he threatened public disorder, but Rockwell illegally crossed England’s border via Ireland. Once inside British borders, Rockwell dropped in on a neo-Nazi training camp in Gloucestershire under Jordan’s purview. He was apprehended in London in August, and deported by air back to the U.S. Rockwell died in 1967, killed by one of his own followers.
Did a Ridley Road Synagogue Get Attacked?
The NSM’s “White Power Rally” in Episode 3 is a march ending at the Ridley Road synagogue—that of the 62 Group’s Rabbi Lehrer. “There wasn’t a synagogue on Ridley Road…but there are many nearby in the Stamford Hill area,” says Solemani. “There was a spate of arson attacks in the summer of 1962.” The NSM allegedly carried out over 30 arson attacks against Jewish targets around London that year. Schools, synagogues, cemeteries, and a theological training college were all burned.
As we see in Ridley Road, Colin Jordan returns to NSM headquarters after the disastrous march and orders his men to torch the building, “Don’t leave ‘til this is razed to the ground. Upturn every room, make it look ransacked.” Solemani says this arson attack to frame the anti-fascists is fictionalized.
What was the Yellow Star National Petition?
While the NSM rallies outside the Ridley Road synagogue, we see counter-demonstrators in archival film footage holding a banner reading, “Sign the Yellow Star National Petition.” This appeal was a nationwide call for Parliament to “make the public incitement of racial hatred a criminal offense.” Reverend Bill Sargent initiated the petition in support of a Racial Discrimination Bill already before Parliament. Sargent chose the yellow star symbol for the petition because in the summer of 1962, he witnessed the Jewish community’s being vilified and wanted to stand with them.