Content warning: This post contains discussion of suicide.

For the last few years, the writer Natasha Walter has been delving into her family’s past as part of a journey propelled by grief. Late in 2017, her mother Ruth Walter took her own life at the age of 75. The shock of that loss, at first overwhelming, in time led Natasha to try to comprehend her mother’s life on her own terms – to discover how her choice in facing her death aligned with her choices in leading her life.

Ruth Walter as a young woman. Photo courtesy of Natasha Walter.

The daughter of German Jewish refugees who escaped to Britain at the start of the Second World War, Ruth Walter committed her life to activism in service of peace and social justice. In the early 1960s, she joined the anarchist wing of the British peace movement in the form of the Committee of 100 and Spies for Peace. In the years that followed, she became part of the women’s movement and devoted herself to working with refugee women and people with learning and mental health difficulties – “outsiders”, as she once put it, “the people who had been the first to be gassed by Hitler.” That story, and the story of Ruth’s father’s own struggle against fascism as part of the German resistance, forms the core of Natasha Walter’s memoir, Before the Light Fades: A Family Story of Resistance, an exceptionally moving account of activism, solidarity, and the power of refusing to live in denial.

To learn more about the Committee of 100 and the Spies for Peace, listen to our interviews with activists Nic Ralph and Jay Ginn in earlier episodes of the podcast.

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