Warm British welcome for Jews fleeing Nazis a 'myth'

Feb 27, 2013

The warm British welcome for Jewish refugees fleeing the Nazis in the 1930s is a myth, according to research by a University of Manchester historian.

Bill Williams, from the University's Centre for Jewish Studies, has cast new light on the way responded to the desperate plight of Jews fleeing Germany after the Nazis came to power.

The were, he says in his new book published by Manchester University Press, neglected across all sections of British society.

Even the Jewish community themselves, he argues in Jews and Other , were inhibited by fears of an anti-Semitic caused by letting in 'alien' foreigners.

Mr Williams, one of the country's leading scholars of Jewish migration to the UK, believes Government offers of help were half-hearted.

The Quakers declared they would only support "non practicing Jews and Friends"  - those with existing contacts within the Quaker community - and the Catholic Church did virtually nothing, argues Mr Williams.

He said: "Though both the British and Mancunians have strong humanitarian traditions, they they were often undermined by self-interest, , the failure to challenge it and anti-semitism.

"So these findings have a critical bearing on the notion of how in Britain we regard ourselves as a tolerant society.

"So much more could have been done to support the Jews – especially as the British knew what was happening in Nazi Germany.

"Many refugees were well treated, but many weren't. There is a degree of complacency about our recent past so it's important to dispel that myth.

"Lessons should be learned from remembering how it really was: our say they preach tolerance, but their rhetoric is often anti-immigrant."

Britain's treatment of the Jews was no worse than many other countries, argues Mr Williams.

Only 1930s Shanghai, which was ruled by Japan, was a true safe haven, where Jews could arrive without a visa.

He added: "Manchester, which touts itself as a beacon of tolerance, was particularly poor.

"The Lancashire Development Company, for example, was happy to bring in refugees but only if they were useful.

"The Kurers, in another example, were a family of devout Viennese Jews brought to Manchester by the Manchester Quakers.

"The Quakers were keen to support the Kurers- but only on their terms and not as Jews.

"The family were documented as taking part in a 'Christmas party' at the Meeting House with the head of the family dressing up as Father Christmas.

"This must surely have been difficult for them.

"Only the Rotary Club acquitted itself well in Manchester, and that was down to two strong individuals who overruled hostility to the Jews within the organisation, opening a hostel for training in 1938."

Explore further: Can science eliminate extreme poverty?

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Germany approves bill to protect male circumcision

Dec 12, 2012

(AP)—German lawmakers approved a bill Wednesday that explicitly permits male infant circumcision, ending months of legal uncertainty after a court ruling that the practice amounts to bodily harm led to ...

Recommended for you

Egypt archaeologists find ancient writer's tomb

Apr 19, 2014

Egypt's minister of antiquities says a team of Spanish archaeologists has discovered two tombs in the southern part of the country, one of them belonging to a writer and containing a trove of artifacts including reed pens ...

Study finds law dramatically curbing need for speed

Apr 18, 2014

Almost seven years have passed since Ontario's street-racing legislation hit the books and, according to one Western researcher, it has succeeded in putting the brakes on the number of convictions and, more importantly, injuries ...

User comments : 2

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

Shootist
1 / 5 (2) Feb 27, 2013
Heck yes it's a myth, more than that it is an outright lie. I didn't even know that any other opinion existed, in the thinking world.
Bigbobswinden
not rated yet Mar 01, 2013
It's human nature to be afraid of anything new and it was not just the Jews. I worked with a Jamaican man who told me he had been greeted in England by signs on boarding houses saying "No Blacks or Irish". He also told me that the discrimination between the people of "Big and Small Islands" of the Caribbean was as great as any of that in England. Even in Jamaica the shade of your skin was reason to discriminate, white skin being favored. Religion or Race it comes to the same thing, any difference is reason enough to stir the mob.

More news stories

Clippers and coiners in 16th-century England

In 2017 a new £1 coin will appear in our pockets with a design extremely difficult to forge. In the mid-16th century, Elizabeth I's government came up with a series of measures to deter "divers evil persons" ...

Making graphene in your kitchen

Graphene has been touted as a wonder material—the world's thinnest substance, but super-strong. Now scientists say it is so easy to make you could produce some in your kitchen.