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Fragile Roots

Walter Igersheimer was among the first German Jewish students to arrive in England in 1933. By 1940, he had “begun to feel so at home [he] could not imagine wanting to live or practice medicine in any other country.”

Refugees lived in agricultural training centres, boarding schools, private homes and hostels across Great Britain. After Kristallnacht, Britain granted entry to 5,000 male refugees between the ages of 18 and 45 who had been released from concentration camps under the provision that they would emigrate from Germany. They were housed in Kitchener Camp, a deserted First World War army camp.

Refugees were aided by relatives and well-meaning individuals, as well as Jewish, Christian and non-denominational agencies. Many of the young refugees came from affluent families and were unaccustomed to the living conditions in British working class homes. Feeling unwelcome, some tried to assimilate quickly by hiding their Jewish roots and perfecting their English.

The refugees banded together to maintain a semblance of home and many tried to further their education and careers while awaiting an uncertain future. While creating self-help organizations to support each other financially as well as emotionally, the young men desperately tried to find escape routes for their family and friends still in Europe.

A dossier of images about refugees in Britain. Dossier

A collection of images relating to refugees in Britain.

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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