Was Oswald Mosley a Nazi in Real Life? How Did He Die?

The period crime drama series ‘Peaky Blinders’ take place between the two World Wars and revolves around the Shelby family, the leaders of the eponymous street gang in Birmingham. The show has one of the most diverse sets of antagonists in the history of television. In season 5, we are introduced to Oswald Mosley (Sam Claflin), the MP for Smethwick, which is the neighboring constituency of Tommy Shelby’s Birmingham South. Mosley is also the Minister of the Duchy of Lancaster, the Cabinet adviser to the Prime Minister of Great Britain, and the deputy to the Chancellor of the Exchequer. Shortly before his meeting with Mosley, Tommy describes him as the Devil to his family. Mosley harbors fascist beliefs and apparently knows Adolf Hitler. If that has made you wonder whether the real Oswald Mosley is a Nazi, this is what you need to know. SPOILERS AHEAD.

Was Oswald Mosley a Nazi?

Peaky Blinders’ Oswald Mosley is based on the historical figure of the same name. Sir Oswald Mosley was initially a traditional politician. From 1918 to 1922, he was part of the Conservative Party, becoming the MP for Harrow. After that, he became a non-partisan politician before joining the Labour Party in 1924. That complicated journey through the British political spectrum apparently disillusioned him. In the 1930s, he embraced fascist ideologies. Mosley established New Party in 1931, which he turned into the British Union of Fascists (BUF) a year later.

Mosley had some connections to Hitler, especially through his second wife Diana Mitford, portrayed in ‘Peaky Blinders’ by Amber Anderson. Hitler was in attendance at Mosley and Diana’s secret wedding ceremony at Joseph Goebbels’ home in Berlin in 1936. Mosley was more of a fascist than a Nazi. To understand the difference, we must learn the distinction between fascism and Nazism.

Image Credit: Robert Viglasky/BBC/Caryn Mandabach Productions

Nazism is a form of fascism in the same way that fascism is a form of totalitarianism. A totalitarian can be both communist or fascist head of state. There are many similarities between Nazism and fascism. Both ideologies reject the notions such as democracy, liberalism, equality of all, and communism. However, there are also differences. For instance, fascism is predominantly focused in upholding ultranationalism, whereas Nazism propagates the idea of racial purity and superiority. Nazism gained prominence in Germany and certain neighboring countries, whereas fascism became a pan-European phenomenon at the height of its influence.

Ideologically, Mosley was closer to Benito Mussolini, the former Italian Prime Minister and virtually the poster boy of fascism, than Hitler. He embarked on a tour across to study the fledgling political movements in Italy and other countries across Europe in 1931, and that basically indoctrinated him into the fascist beliefs. In 1933, Mosley set up the Fascist Defence Force, a paramilitary organization to deal with the frequent disruptions at party meetings. They were called “Blackshirts,” because of the color of their attires and the fact that they were inspired by the namesake Italian fascist militia.

How Did Oswald Mosley Die?

After World War II Began, Mosley advocated for peace negotiations with Germany. In 1940, both Mosley and his wife were arrested and spent the following three years in confinement and the BUF was disbanded. Although they were released in 1943, they were immediately placed under house arrest. The war put an end to Mosley’s political future. Although he tried to revive his political career a couple of times in the following decades, his efforts were overwhelmingly unsuccessful. Mosley and Diana left England in the early 1950s and spent the rest of their lives between France and Ireland.

Image Credit: British Pathé /YouTube

Mosley was a Holocaust denier. In his final years, he suffered from poor health and Parkinson’s disease. Mosley died on December 3, 1980, in his sleep at his home in Orsay, France. He was 84 years old at the time. He was cremated at the Père Lachaise Cemetery, and his ashes were dispersed on the pond at Orsay.

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