Skip to content

Do you have a story about the internment of refugees from Nazism in Canada?

Share a story or
Read others’ stories.

“Enemy Aliens”

Following the outbreak of the Second World War in September 1939, the British government established tribunals to determine which German and Austrian nationals over the age of 16 posed a threat to national security. Meanwhile, the press fueled anxieties about “fifth columnists” (enemy spies) among the populace.

The tribunals, generally presided over by a county court judge or King’s Counsel, heard 73,000 cases. Only 569 were deemed “Category A” – a “significant risk” – and immediately incarcerated. The 6,700 classified as “Category B” were designated as “friendly enemy aliens” and a “slight risk.” They were restricted to travelling no more than fives miles from their homes and were forbidden to own cameras and bicycles. Approximately 66,000 were classified as “Category C” and judged to pose no risk to national security. Within this group, 55,000-60,000 were Jewish and declared to be “refugees from Nazi Oppression.”
The tribunals were hastily convened and informal affairs that used arbitrary guidelines, prompting criticism from many. In his 1940 book, The Internment of Aliens, François Lafitte argued: “We [should] discriminate not between Britons and aliens or ‘enemy aliens’ and ‘friendly aliens’ but between those who stand for freedom and those who stand for tyranny in every country. … The real ‘aliens’ are the ‘Nazis of the soul’ of all countries including our own.”

A dossier of images about Enemy Aliens. Dossier

A collection of images relating to “Enemy Aliens.”

From Refugees to Internees
in the classroom


From Refugees to Internees
Students learn about Britain’s classification of refugees from Nazism as “enemy aliens” by engaging with documentary sources, and with internee video testimony about their arrest and internment in England.


Fragile Roots
“Enemy Aliens”


“Do’s and Don’ts for Refugees”
“Refugee from Nazi Oppression Certificate” (160Kb PDF)
“Application for Consideration by Joint Recruiting Board” (225Kb PDF)


“Collar the Lot”

Complete Teachers’ Guide to Enemy Aliens
PDF 7.8 MB

Adobe Reader can be used to view PDF files.