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“Collar the Lot”

Germany invaded Holland and Belgium on March 10, 1941, the same day Winston Churchill became Prime Minister of Great Britain. One of his government’s first actions was to arrest all Category B aliens in “protected areas” along the south and east coasts.

After the defeat of the British and French armies at Dunkirk at the end of May, the government began rounding up all male and some female “enemy aliens” between the ages of 16 and 60, including “Category C” refugees. The passionately antiNazi refugees were caught up in the press-fuelled fear of a possible German invasion of England.

By the end of June 1940, there were 30,000 internees being held behind barbed wire at racetracks, in tent cities and at other makeshift facilities throughout England, including a large camp on the Isle of Man. Most were Jewish refugees from Nazism. They were told their incarceration was a temporary measure and that they would be released as soon as the “true spies” were weeded out. The internees were also fearful of a German invasion. They had no illusions about their fate if they fell back into Nazi hands.

When Fascist Italy allied itself with Nazi Germany and declared war on June 10, 1940, there were 19,000 Italians in Britain, including hundreds of Italian Jewish refugees. Over 4,100 Italians who had lived in Britain for less than 20 years were detained. Only 700 were fascists; the rest included prominent Italian socialist leaders, apolitical restaurant workers, and Jews – some snatched from ships about to sail for the United States. They were rounded up without benefit of tribunals when Churchill proclaimed: “Collar the lot!”

Former internees discuss British internment. Video

Former internees discuss British internment.

A dossier of images relating to British internmnt. Dossier

A collection of images relating to British internment.

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

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