Born in New York in 1906 and spending his childhood in Ireland and most of his adulthood in Britain, William Joyce has the dubious distinction of being the last person hanged by the United Kingdom for the crime of treason. Joyce left Britain for Germany in 1939, a mere six days before Hitler’s armies invaded Poland, and remained there to broadcast English-language propaganda, the activity that earned him his death sentence. But his fascist sympathies began earlier in 1922, when he joined a pro-Mussolini group in England; in 1937 he left another group, the British Union of Fascists—in part because his anti-Semitism was too extreme even for its leaders—in order to establish the British National Socialist party. Robert Philpot tells his story:
As Martin Pugh writes in his book on British interwar fascism: “Increasingly consumed with a hatred toward Catholics, Communists, and Jews, Joyce saw fascism as the best means of prosecuting his crusade against his and the nation’s enemies.” These hatreds were fueled by a powerful sense of resentment stemming from his own multitude of personal failures. Joyce blamed his inability to complete his master’s degree, for instance, on a Jewish tutor who supposedly stole his research. His rejection for posts in the civil service and Foreign Office were similarly attributed to the malign power exercised by Jews and others.
Joyce’s growing power [in the British Union of Facists]—together with that of the former Labor MP John Beckett and the journalist A.K. Chesterton—accelerated the increasing emphasis the Union of Fascists placed on anti-Semitism. . . . . Joyce [would later] argue for an alliance with Hitler and war against the “twin Jewish manifestations” of Bolshevism and international finance.
Joyce was not entirely the political outsider he made himself out to be. Instead, he was involved with a string of shadowy groups, such as the Nordic League, the Link, and the Right Club, which were frequented by right-wing Tory MPs, members of the aristocracy, and former military officers.
Once in Germany, Joyce’s subversive wartime radio broadcasts—for which he adopted the name “Lord Haw-Haw”—earned him the praise of Joseph Goebbels and a large audience in the UK. After the war, he was identified and captured by the British soldier Geoffrey Perry, né Horst Pinschewer, a Jew who had fled the Third Reich in 1936.