Manchester Quakers
and Refugees, 1938-40

by Bill Williams
Research Fellow, Centre for Jewish Studies, University of Manchester.
Honory President, Historic Adviser
and a founder member of Manchester Jewish Museum.

In the face of an increasing number of refugees reaching Manchester, the Quaker ISC could not justify any more than the Jewish community, what was at best a haphazard response to their needs.  On 20 October,  the ISC declared itself ‘seriously concerned with the need to help the increasing number of Refugees in this country.  We suggest that a panel of Friends be drawn up showing those able and willing to take refugees for varying periods.’  The causes of this sudden ‘serious concern’ are not clear.  The sense of a ‘refugee crisis’ had been developing since the Anschluss in March 1938. The most likely explanation, as it had been earlier in the case of the Jewish response, was pressure exerted from London.


It seems likely that the foundation of the Manchester Jewish Refugees Committee on 7 November, followed closely by news of the Kristallnacht pogrom (9-10 November), witnessed personally by Roger Carter of the Berlin Quaker Centre, and no doubt accompanied by pressure from the Germany Emergency Committee in London, served to concentrate Manchester Quaker minds. When, on the morning after Kristallnacht, ‘a large crowd of frightened Jew gathered outside the [Berlin] Centre’ in search of help, Carter was given a list of twenty German Friends ‘prepared to give discreet support to Jews’ seeking an escape 1.  In Manchester, on 17 November, it was reported to the ISC  that the Preparatory Meeting at Mount Street had decided to set up an ‘Emergency Refugee Committee’.  Six days later what became the ‘Refugee Committee of the Society of Friends in Manchester and District’ (hereafter, the QRC) held its first monthly meeting, under John Major’s chairmanship, to devise an urgent plan of action and to launch an appeal for funds.   At Mount Street there was now a dramatic change of mood.  Apathy towards refugee Germans was set aside as the Manchester Quakers launched themselves into what was became Manchester’s most impressive non-Jewish effort on behalf of all manner of victims of the Nazi regime.

 1  E-mail of Roswitha and Peter Jarman, drawing on Carter’s personal correspondence to Nicholas Carter, 4 March 2007

It took some time for the committee to get its act together, to work out its priorities, and to define a working relationship with both the Friends’ GEC in London and, in Manchester, with a Jewish Refugee Committee founded only a week earlier, and which was to be the only other major agency of refugee support in the Manchester region.  Initially the QRC’s organisation was rudimentary.  With John Major as chairman and the long-standing Mount Street elder, Harold Howard, as its secretary, four sub-committees were formed out of the first twenty volunteers: a ‘clerical sub-committee’, with May Elliott and John Major’s wife, Katherine, as its convenors, to oversee day-to-day correspondence and filing; an ‘administrative sub-committee’, convened by Winifred Garnett, to undertake legal work, Home Office contacts and case-work, and to advise on matters of policy; a ‘social sub-committee under Edmund Emson, to take care of external ‘liaison’ and internal ‘fellowship’, and a ‘Finance and Publicity sub-committee’, with the former China missionary, R. Thornton Smith, as its convenor, and John Major as a member.  The QRC became another of those voluntary societies to which the Home Office delegated its case-work: made up of unpaid volunteers and without any form of subsidy from the state, the QRC was expected to share the burden, and attract some of the odium, involved in the implementation of British immigration law.  It was substitute, as its members were soon to realise, for a rescue operation orchestrated and  financed by the British State.

Its members were typically those who had earlier been attracted by their ideals to welfare work either within the local Quaker community or in society at large.  By the end of November 1938 twenty-one Friends had joined the QRC, one from the Bolton meeting, one from Westhoughton,  four from Cheshire, the rest from Mount Street 2. Four had earlier been members of the ISC.  All belonged to what might be seen as the major social constituency of British Quakerism: an intellectual and socially-sensitive commercial and professional lower middle-class residing chiefly in the lower reaches of English suburbia.  Few were wealthy.  The most well-to-do, according to one of their younger fellow-members at Mount Street, was Ida Whitworth (1889-1959), a member of the Cheshire Meeting, daughter of Alfred King, a cotton bleacher by trade, and a former Liberal MP for the Knutsford Division of Cheshire, and the widow of a  Manchester barrister,  Major John Howarth Whitworth, who had also nursed political ambitions, and who had been killed in action during the First World War 3.  Her experience of Quaker international affairs included a spell at the Berlin International Centre with Roger Carter, since April 1938 leader of its ‘British section.’.  In November 1938 she was living with her four daughters and several refugee protégés in a comfortable mansion, ‘Woodburn’,  in the Derbyshire village of Disley. 4 Having ‘lived for prolonged periods in various parts of the Continent, including Germany and Italy’, she is said to have had personal knowledge of Fascism and its effects; her daughter Julia, who also joined the committee, had studied German and music in Freiburg. 5

2   For much of the information about the social and occupational backgrounds of members of the QRC I am indebted to Mrs. Margaret Bayes of Romiley who joined the Mount Street Meeting in 1937 (hereafter, Bayes).  Margaret was the niece of a leading QRC member, Benia Hesford.

 3    SA 9 December 1938.  Alfred King won the 1906 election for Knutsford, but subsequently retired from politics. For J.H. Whitworth, W.L. Mackennal,  Life of John Haworth Whitworth DSO, MC  (Manchester 1918).  Whitworth offered himself twice, without success, as a Liberal parliamentary candidate: for Shrewsbury in January 1910 and for Knutsford in December 1910.  He married Ida Whitworth, whom he had met during his political campaigning, in 1913.  Amongst his close friends in Bowdon, where he spent his early years, was the Liberal party activist and barrister,  P.M. Oliver.  Whitworth died from his wounds in a casualty centre in Rouen in April 1918.

4    In May 1940 Ida’s eldest daughter, Julia, married Roger Carter at the ‘Ring o’ Bells Meeting House in Disley.  At Woodburn, Ida  offered hospitality to several refugees: Gerta Flack and her son, Peter, from Germany;  Fritz  Pringsheim and his wife, Kathe, from Freiburg im Greisgau; and the child of one of the several families from Guernsey  who settled in Disley after the German occupation of the Channel Islands.  Pringsheim was later Professor of Roman Law at Oxford  (SA 17 May 1940; conversation with Ida’s youngest daughter, Joan, and Roger Carter’s son, Michael, at Windermere, November 2007).

5     SA 9 December 1938.

Those of the remainder who can now be identified were petty traders, retailers, social workers, school teachers and ‘housewives’.  Harold Howard was cotton yarn agent whose business in 1938 was in the course of ‘winding down’ under the impact of the Slump 6, leaving him time for a near-total dedication to the refugee cause.  There were  two specialist teachers, one, Benia Hesford, working with epileptics, one, May Elliott, with the deaf.  Christine Sutherland, involved with her husband in the welfare of students at Dalton Hall, was also an ‘overseer’ at Mount Street 7.  Wilfred Garnett was the son of John Garnett, a partner in a long-established firm at 309 Oxford Road, ‘opposite the University’, dealing in scientific instruments and supplying microscopes, lantern slides and laboratory equipment to the university and to Manchester schools 8.  His mother, Winifred, a former school teacher, was also on the committee, along with three other teachers: two, John Major from Leigh and Edmund Emson from Eccles, at Grammar Schools, one from an inner-city elementary school.   There were at least two women without paid occupations:  Sophie Brentano, wife of a physics lecturer at the University of Manchester, and Patti Denton, whose husband was a skilled engineering worker.  It was a feature of this, as of other Quaker committees, that it included a number of unmarried women of ‘strong character’ and feminist leanings, some in lesbian relationships well-known to, and deeply respected by, their fellow Quakers 9.

6    Howard’s first contact with the Quakers is said to have been his imprisonment as a Conscientious Objector during the First World War (Bayes).

7    ‘Overseers’ were those who organised the social work centred on Mount Street.

8     An advertisement in the Manchester and Salford Official Red Book for 1932 (p.216) describes the firm as Flatters and Garnett Limited, ‘established over a quarter of a century’.

9    Bayes.  May Elliott lived with a friend, Katie Croft, also a Quaker, in Ashton-on-Mersey;  they are said by Margaret Bayes to have hiked together, with packs on their backs, ‘before this was usual’.  Emma Tomlinson, an elementary school teacher, lived with her ‘companion’, Annie Lee, the head teacher of a school in Stockport, in the small Derbyshire town of New Mills.

Millie Uhland, herself unmarried, was co-opted onto the QRC at its second meeting and put her formidable linguistic skills at its disposal.  At Mount Street, she and Percy Long, widower of her late friend, Lily, fulfilled the vital functions of translating the German documents of potential refugees and communicating on their behalf with the QRC and the British authorities.  Millie’s house in Manley Road, Whalley Range, became also a pied a terre for newly arrived refugees, put up on her sofa while they awaited the more permanent hospitality of local families or placements as a domestic servants 10.  

 10   Wolfe.

The QRC was composed of dedicated men and women, chiefly in their thirties or early forties, held together by their powerful and practical commitment to the social implications of ‘the Quaker Way’.  A handful brought to the committee earlier experience of community work. One, Douglas J.J. Owen, a manufacturer’s agent by profession and a member of the Quaker meeting in Stockport,, was also employed by the Mount Street meeting to supervise its Centre for Unemployed Men 11.  Another, Margery Wilson 12, was active in the University Settlement.  

11     Owen, who lived in Heaton Mersey, was also a frequent correspondent to the Manchester Guardian on a range of political and humanitarians issues, including the British presence in Ireland (MG 1 January 1938), conscientious objection and the treatment of refugees.
12   Unless otherwise stated, this account of Margery Wilson’s life is based on a recorded interview of her by the author in 2003, when she was ninety-eight years of age and living in retirement at Hartrigg Oaks, an estate in York built by the Rowntree Trust. (hereafter Wilson).  For her husband, Roger Wilson, Fred Brown, The Making of a Modern Quaker: Roger Cowan Wilson, 1906-1991 (Epworth Press, 1996).  

Margery Wilson was born into a committed Anglican family in London in 1905, but moved soon afterwards to a village in Berkshire where her father, the theologian Cyril Emmet, was Vicar of the Parish Church and vice-principal of Ripon Hall, a theological college near Oxford.  At the age of 15, after her father’s appointment as Dean and Chaplain of University College 13, she accompanied him to Oxford, and it was there, after his death in 1921, that she formed a close friendship with a charismatic fellow-student,  Roger Cowan Wilson, who in 1928 had defeated Quentin Hogg to become President of the Oxford Union.  Roger’s mother, Edith, was from a long-established Manchester Quaker family; his father, Alex, an engineer, a convert to Quakerism and a voluntary worker with the Mount Street meeting 14.  After her own conversion,  Margery married Roger Wilson in  August 1931. Following his ‘false start’  in the textile trade, she followed him to Manchester when, in 1932, he was offered a post in the Talks Department of the BBC.  In Manchester the couple, now members at Mount Street,  joined the University Settlement at the Round House in Ancoats, of which the long-serving Warden was another Quaker, Hilda Cashmore 15, and soon afterwards, on her behalf, set up what they described as a ‘Guild of Neighbours’ in Newton Heath in East Manchester, where they chose to live.

13    There he was a leading figure in the ‘Modern Churchmen’ movement.  After his death, his family was left penniless;  his friends paid for Marjorie to be educated at St. Mary’s Hall, a ‘school for the daughters of clergymen’ in Brighton.

 14    Fred Brown, op.cit. Roger’s mother was a born Quaker.

 15    Cashmore worked for the University Settlement in Bristol from 1911 to 1926.  She was Warden of the Manchester University Settlement from 1926 to 1933.  Roger Wilson was its joint honorary secretary during 1933 and 1934.  Cashmore left Manchester to found, under the auspices of the Quakers, a settlement at Rasula in the Central Provinces of India (MSWC No.181 April 1932).  She died in November 1943, having set up bursaries to help students train for social work at the universities of Bristol and Manchester (obituary in MCN 25 February 1944).

The Guild was part of a drive by the University Settlement, initiated by Hilda Cashmore, to bring a degree of social warmth and creativity to families moving in the wake of the slum clearances of the early 1930s from cohesive working-class communities to the city’s new and soulless municipal housing estates, of which the earliest were in Newton Heath and Wilbraham Road, Fallowfield, and the largest at Wythenshawe. Taking over a derelict hut on the Newton Heath estate, restored, it was said, with the help of subscriptions from three hundred of its residents and the labour of the local unemployed, the Wilsons used it to orchestrate a range of activities which included a library and play centre for children, classes in handicrafts, literature, philosophy, economics and psychology , a hockey club, a ‘Wireless Group’ and a ‘Women’s Adult School. 16’  Although the project was later abandoned when the Wilsons left Manchester temporarily for London in 1935 17, Margery’s experience at Newton Heath marked her out for co-option to the QRC at its second meeting.  It was an opportunity which Margery also welcomed.  A year or two earlier, while on a walking tour in the German Rhineland with her husband, she had looked up the parents of a refugee German-Jewish girl who worked in her mother’s house in Oxford;  through them she had learnt of the ‘appalling things’ going on under the Nazi regime’.18

16        Manchester University Settlement, Autumn Programme for 1931-32 p.11, for1932-1933, p.11, for 1934-35 p.15., for 1935-36 p.15  For the University Settlement, M.D. Stocks, Fifty Years in Every Street: A Story of the Manchester University Settlement (Manchester 1945), Manchester University Settlement ,Diamond Jubilee Souvenir Brochure (Manchester 1955)
17    M.D. Stocks op.cit. pp.100,108.  The Wilsons later returned to Manchester, where in 1939 Roger was the Honorary Organiser of the Manchester and Salford Citizens Advice Bureaux (MSWC No.252, November 1939, pp.6-7)
Wilson.  Later, independently of the QRC, Marjorie helped personally to bring out refugees, including these parents and some of their friends from the Ruhr, by persuading her friends to offer work or guarantees.  She and her husband themselves took on at least three refugee domestic servants;  her house, she remembers, ‘was full of people for quite a long time.’  Looking back, she reckons she saved some 35 refugees, ‘quite a small number’ in her own estimation.  Amongst the guarantors arranged by Marjorie was her sister, Dorothy Emmet, a  Professor of Philosophy at the University of Manchester, who was also active, as an official of the Manchester branch of the International Student Service, in facilitating the entry to the University of refugee students.  At the time of her work with the QRC Margery was the mother of two small children.

The QRC was composed at first exclusively of Friends, and only once subsequently used its powers of co-option to bring in a non-Quaker. This was James Henry (‘Harry’) Wharmby, a man in his late 60s, a publisher’s agent by profession and a devout Methodist, who joined the committee in January 1939, after he had volunteered to find guarantors for refugees from within the membership of his own organisation, the Manchester branch of Rotary International 19.  A ‘noted Methodist layman’ of whom it was said that he ‘took religion with almost medieval seriousness’, Wharmby had earlier shifted his voluntary interest from the foreign missions supported by his chapel in Styal to ‘refugees from foreign oppression’.

19   Co-opted on 24 January 1939.  Later Wharmby was to offer free holidays at the Willesby Guest House of the Rotarians and to inform the QRC of  the possibility of the Rotarians setting up their own hostel for 20 refugee boys between the ages of 15 and 18 (QRC 17 February, 14 March 1939).  There is independent evidence that the Rotarians did, in fact, set up, equip and run a ‘Residential Hostel’ for refugees (Rotary International 1905-1955: Golden Jubilee Brochure: Supplement on Founder Club No.4 [ie Manchester] (Manchester 1955) np.  The brochure dates the beginning of the hostel to 1938, adding that it was in existence ‘for several years’).  Wharmby’s death was announced at a committee meeting on 14 October, 1939, when he was replaced by another Rotarian, Clifford Whatmough.   

The QRC never saw itself, even potentially, as a refugee self-help organisation. Between 1939 and the end of 1941 the QRC co-opted a further twenty Quakers, chiefly from backgrounds and occupations similar to those of its founders.  It was not until late in 1939 that it included two members who were themselves refugees, and, of these, one, Herta Israel, who joined the committee in October 1939, was a displaced worker from the Quaker Centre in Berlin 20.

20      QRC 17 September and 14 October 1939.

From the beginning there were some committee members who understood the degree to which, as volunteers, they were being expected to take on roles which more properly were those of the British state.  They did so under protest.  In January 1939 Ida Whitworth drew attention to the ‘large number of refugees [who] were short of [the] necessary money to bring them out even though their papers were in order.  The men of 35 and upwards [those, that is, not eligible for work permits] were in a desperate plight with nothing but starvation, prison or suicide ahead…Only intervention by the [British] Government on an appropriate scale would solve the problem.21’  Sporadic pressure was applied on the Home Office to simplify its procedures, to act with a greater degree of urgency, to place more funds at the disposal of voluntary agencies and generally to open its doors more widely to those seeking a means of escape, always without substantive success 22.  At a public meeting at the Friends Meeting House at Hillgate in Stockport in mid-February 1939, the QRC member Douglas Owen expressed his belief ‘that if urged by the people the Government would take over the responsibility of admitting refugees on a larger scale. They were just afraid of how far public opinion would support them’; the meeting was persuaded to pass a resolution ‘that the Prime Minister or some other responsible person be urged that this country do whatever it could to co-operate with other nations in finding the necessary money to assist the refugees.23’  In April 1939 the QRC decided on a public meeting of protest at Manchester’s Houldsworth Hall, sending out 3,000 handbills inviting the citizenry to an event to be  chaired by the leading Manchester Liberal, P.M. Oliver, and at which the main speakers would be Sir John Hope Simpson and the Manchester University geographer and folklorist, Professor Fleure, both known to have their personal reservations about the direction of British policy towards refugees 24.  In the event, the protest was ineffective, the attendance ‘disappointing’, the profit negligible 25.

21    QRC 24 January 1939.

22    QRC 24 January 1939.

23    SA 17 February 1939.

24    QRC 4 and 25 April 1939.

25    The QRC attributed the poor attendance to number of other meetings held in Manchester that evening  (QRC 25 April 1939).


By this time the QRC had gone some way towards defining its relationships with London Friends and Manchester Jews.  Although occasionally jealous of its power to act independently, the QRC saw itself from the start as primarily a sub-committee of the GEC, which, in turn, increasingly embattled by the trend of events, welcomed provincial support.  In truth, the GEC, although seen from Manchester to be operating effectively ‘in difficult circumstances 26’, was nearing breaking-point: the office at Friends House in Euston Road was said to have been ‘transformed’ by the ‘immensity’ of the refugee work that it had taken on since the March of 1938 27.  Hilda Clark, who negotiated with Mount Street on its behalf, estimated that ‘one million persons ought if possible to be brought out of Germany and Czecho-Slovakia.’  She too believed that the task was ‘too great for voluntary effort…only by Government support can the problem be tackled in the right proportion 28’  Since this was unlikely to ever be the case, the GEC was anxious to transfer to Manchester some of its work (and some of the refugees who applied to it for help).  Harold Howard was co-opted onto the GEC as Manchester’s representative; it was his view that in particular cases, ‘to economise time’, it might be necessary for the QRC to act without consultation 29..

26    QRC 30 November 1938.

27    ibid.

28    ibid.

29    QRC

There were two ways in which it was necessary from the start for the QRC to co-ordinate its work with that of the Manchester Jewish Refugees Committee, in the event its only major partner in Manchester in the support of refugees.  One was the potential of overlap, and possible conflict, in working with refugees of Jewish origin, the vast majority of all refugees, not all of whom were Jewish by religion.  The other was how the two committees might work together, if at all, in the reception of the 10,000 unaccompanied children, the first of whom were due to arrive in Britain on the Kindertransporte at the beginning of December 1939.  

In resolving the ‘Jewish issue’ the QRC took its lead from the GEC, which since 1933 had been working harmoniously with the Jewish Refugees Committee in London.  The agreement reached in London was essentially that while the Jewish Committee registered 30 all ‘practising Jews’, the GEC took responsibility for non-Jews, ‘non-practising Jews’ and, in a Nazi terminology sometimes taken on by Friends House [and at Mount Street], ‘non-Aryan Christians’ (Christians, that is, who would have been defined as ‘Jewish’ under the Nuremburg Laws) 31.  Although it was acknowledged that there would be ‘borderline cases’, these lines of demarcation were thought to be ‘fairly clear’.  If, in the rush of emigration’, a refugee was wrongly registered, then, after consultation between the committees and with the consent of the refugee, a transfer could be effected.  Refugee women who, after their arrival ‘married out of their communities’ were then to be re-registered with their husbands’ committee.  The few refugees who changed their religion after their arrival (chiefly, it was said, from Judaism to Christianity) were then re-registered with the committee appropriate to their new affiliation.  In the case of the children of those registered with the Jewish committee attending Christian denominational schools, their registration was ‘not necessarily changed unless at the request of their parents 32.’  A reference in the QRC minutes to ‘amicable working relationships’ between the Quaker and Jewish committees, as well as the list kept by the QRC of its clients, suggest that in 1939 the London arrangements were accepted in Manchester, although possibly without any kind of formal agreement.  

31    While ‘registration’ with a voluntary agency of support was not obligatory, refugees likely to be in need of support were advised by the Home Office to place their names on the list of one or other of the committees.

32    Hence the QRC could later talk of refugees ‘on its books’

These arrangements were more readily defined in theory than applied in practice.  An exception made from the beginning on the Quaker side, was the registration with the QRC of ‘Friends of Friends’, whatever their religious affiliation or practice. The Kurer family is one example: the Friend who entitled them to registration with the QRC was Millie Uhland.  More significant was the difficulty of defining what constituted a ‘practising Jew’.  There is ample evidence in the records of the Quaker committee of borderline cases in which neither the Quakers nor the refugee knew how to act for the best.  At least eight families whom the Quakers themselves defined as ‘practising Jews’ chose to register with the QRC, and the list of those supported by the Quakers includes the names of others whom the evidence would suggest were ‘practising’: one was the Kosher butcher, Jonas Halberstadt, brought to Manchester specifically to supply meat to the ultra-Orthodox Machzike Hadass, another Feliz Reich, formerly Principal of the Berlin school for deal and dumb Jewish children, a third described simply as ‘related to the Rothschilds’ 33. Members of the same family did not always make the same choice: one entry reads: ‘mother is registered with JRC, he prefers FRC [Friends Refugee Committee]’, another: ‘Jewish, divorced. Chose to register under FRC. 34’   In practice, in ‘the rush of emigration’, Jews who in normal circumstances might have been judged ‘observant’,  found their way, either from the start, or subsequently, onto the books of the QRC 35.  Mixed marriages brought particular definitional problems: one of those registered with the QRC was described as ‘Jewish with an Aryan wife in Germany’, another as being Jewish with a Protestant wife 36.  The MJRC itself was not entirely averse to refugees being ‘allowed to make their own choice 37’.

 33    QL Jonas Halberstadt, Felix Reich.

 34    QL Alice Fleischmann, Hanna Judith Warner..

 35    The QL describes refugees registered with the Quakers as ‘Jewish (Liberal)’, ‘Jewish Reform’, ‘Jewish race and religion’.

 36    QL H. Otto Schoen, Dr. Hans Nathan.

 37    MJRC Rae Barash to Joan Steiner 22 December 1941.

What was unacceptable was the refugee who chose to register with both committees.  Dr. Rudi Friedlaender, a refugee GP in south Manchester, with many refugees on his books, and a founder-member of the MJRC, believed such people to lack ‘scruple’ and ‘conviction’; for him, even those seeking out the materially more advantageous committee could not be counted amongst ‘the best and most characterful elements’ of refugee society 38. Dual registration was to cause ‘considerable difficulties’ in both London and Manchester until the end of 1941; until the matter was then clarified, there were even cases of refugees registered with the Friends in London re-registering in Manchester with the MJRC 39. Although roundly condemned,  the practise had still not been entirely suppressed in October 194240.

38    MJRC Dr. Rudi Friedlaender to Morris Feinmann 26 October 1942.

39    MJRC Rae Barash to Joan Stiebel 22 December 1941.
40    MJRC Morris Feinmann to Rudi Friedlaender 27 October 1943
.  The arrangements made between the Quakers and the Jewish Refugees Committee in London entailed similar difficulties of interpretation (Kotzin op.cit. pp. 70-72)

The division to which the MJRC now lent its name was to have significant consequences for the future identities of those Jewish refugees for whom Jewish observance had become in their homelands no more than a peripheral part of their lives.  Many (perhaps most) of those from families for whom Jewish practice in Germany, Austria or Czechoslovakia had come to mean no more than a visit to the synagogue on Yom Kippur, the lighting of the candles on Eruv Shabbos, or the celebration, often in some bowdlerised form, of the annual Seder meal, chose, or were advised to choose, to place themselves under Quaker care.  This in turn was unlikely to include any measures which might bolster their identities as Jews.  What happened for most refugees who came into these categories was that a ‘slippage’ from Judaism  which had begun under the impetus of cultural assimilation in continental Europe was now carried to completion.  It is not that the Quakers failed to support Jews; what they failed to support, more often than not with the tacit consent collusion of the refugees themselves, and with the silent complicity of the MJRC, was their Judaism or, more correctly, their Jewishness, their Jewish identity.  Many refugees were understandably willing enough to shed what remained of the identity which had caused their flight.  The MJRC never felt inclined to explain its position.  It is unlikely to have been indifference, although the British Jewish community was not well-known for supporting the non-conformists in its midst.  The most probable explanation is the MJRC’s sense of its inadequacy, in terms of its human and financial resources, to cope, after Kristallnacht and the beginnings of the Kindertransport, with the task of supporting all those refugees (the vast majority) who were of Jewish origin.  Contracting out a share of the burden served both to reshape the identities of many residually religious Jewish refugees and so effectively place them out of reach of a Jewish community of which they might otherwise have become a part.

The understanding between the Quaker and Jewish committees generally worked well enough in practice, however, each applying the rules with what seems to have been an acceptable degree of elasticity, keeping one another informed of important developments, and occasionally launching a joint operation, most notably the setting up of a shoe-making workshop in the basement of the Mount Street Meeting House, a proposal emanating from Norman Jacobs, chairman of the MJRC, in July 1939, and underway by September 41.  In the end, a development for which each committee paid half the cost, and which was expected to provide both a mechanism for refugee training and a cheap means of repairing refugee footwear, lasted less than six months.  In April 1940, when the MJRC claimed that the training was ‘unsuited to English conditions’, the quality of the output poor and the workshop ceasing to pay its way, Harold Howard arranged for its ‘satisfactory wind-up’ 42.  Rather less is known about what was apparently another joint enterprise: a Viennese Café on Deansgate, opened as a fund-raising venture in the summer of 1939. 43

 41    QRC 18 July, 17 September, 25 November 1939.

 42    QRC 9 April 1940.

 43    QRC 17 September 1939; Wolfe

Apart from non-practising Jews, the QRC chose to concern itself chiefly with refugees from Czechoslovakia – Czechs, Germans from the Czech Sudetenland and German refugees from Germany and Austria who had taken refuge in Prague.  Largely because these refugees were chiefly ‘politicals’ – Social Democrats and Communists – but also because they were already overburdened by their commitment to Jewish Germans and Austrians – the Jewish refugee committees in London and Manchester decided that refugees from Czechoslovakia lay outside their remit.   The Quakers took up the slack.  The QRC appears to have reached an agreement with the Czech Refugee Trust Fund, the government-supported body responsible for the escape and maintenance in Britain of refugees from Czechoslovakia, by which the Manchester Quakers would provide the accommodation for refugees maintained by the Trust.  The QRC’s hostels were intended chiefly for this category of refugee.


 Within the QRC’s evolving structure the priority was rescue.  Private guarantors, the major resource in opening Britain to refugees,  were given to understand that their personal obligations would be backed, wherever necessary, by the QRC: ‘it was right and proper that the Committee as a whole should be willing to undertake a moral but not a legal obligation to help individual guarantors, but that the number of such guarantors should be limited.’ 44  A letter sent to the Preparative Meeting at Mount Street asked Friends ‘to stand behind the guarantors,’ fifty of whom had put themselves forward by the end of January 1939, with more expected through the Manchester Rotary Club, now working closely with the QRC. 45  The Home Secretary was called on to simplify forms which were ‘extremely difficult for people to sign’. 46 Applications were invited from prospective employers of domestic servants, one of the few occupations for which work permits might readily be obtained from the Ministry of Labour.  Between 60 and 70 had been received by the middle of December, for which Home Office permits were being sought;  their ‘hosts’ were informed that, given bureaucratic delays,  the time of their arrival was ‘elastic’. 47 Enquiries were made at the Labour Exchange as to ‘what [other] occupations show [ed] a scarcity of labour.’ 48 The committee entered into  negotiations with the Czech Refugee Trust Fund (CRTF), which by January 1939 had agreed to pay part of the expenses of refugees accommodated by the QRC.  24 adult refugees arrived in Manchester under the QRC’s auspices during January, twelve from the CRTF, twelve sent by the GEC.

44    QRC 15 December 1938.

45    QRC 3 January, 24 January 1939.

46    ibid.

47    QRC 15 December 1938, 3 January 1939..

48    QRC 3 January 1939.

By the end of April 1939 guarantors had been found for 55 refugees, posts as domestic servants for 17, with 200 other applications for entry ‘still being dealt with’, as the crisis in Nazi Europe deepened and attempts to prise open the doors of bystander nations failed. 49   Margery Wilson reported that  the United States was ‘practically closed’ to refugees, Australia ‘almost impossible’, New Zealand ‘difficult’, South Africa ‘hopeless’, Bolivia ‘closed’, Canada willing to take only Czech refugees, and Shanghai ‘definitely to be avoided’.  Only Paraguay was possible for those with £20-£30 ‘landing money’. 50  In Manchester the QRC had by this time set up a section to deal with agricultural and industrial trainees, a category allowed temporary residence in Britain under one of the few concessions made by the government to Jewish pressure for the liberalisation of the immigration laws, while Czechs and German exiles in Czechoslovakia continued to arrive through the CRTF.  With Home Office assent,  the QRC had also set up a ‘domestic service pool’ , which made possible the entry of refugee women with the necessary permits but without posts;  some were housed temporarily in a new children’s hostel in Newton Heath. 51  In June, ‘as an experiment’, a refugee couple was added to the pool. 52

 49    ISC 20 April 1939.

 50    QRC 4 April 1939.  Wilson was reporting on the proceedings of the Oxford Conference.

 51    QRC 6 June, 16 December 1939.

 52    QRC 26 June 1939.

Behind these bureaucratic arrangements were the complex personal stories of men and women desperate to escape from Germany, and who, after exploring other options, and witnessing the involuntary dispersal of their families, now turned to the Quakers for help.

One was twenty-nine-year-old Margarete Herman, a Roman Catholic convert to Judaism from Konigsberg in East Prussia, with a Jewish husband, Siegfried (Siegie), a manufacturer’s agent, and a baby son, Danny.  Early in 1939, after failing to obtain visas for Palestine, the United States or any  European country, she had bought ‘black-market tickets’ for Shanghai, the only destination for which no visa was required (‘Shanghai was hell’, Margarete thought, ‘but better to go to hell together than be separated’).  Soon afterwards, however, Siegfried was offered a place amongst those allowed into Britain as transmigrants and housed at Richborough Camp in Kent.  After persuading him to accept, and promising to follow on a domestic permit, Margarete then wrote ‘a desperate letter’ to a Mrs. Shaefer, who had known her family in Konigsberg, and who was then working as a volunteer for the QRC in Manchester.  Siegfried’s parents, meantime, left Konigsberg in May 1939 to stay with their daughter in Holland.  After waiting in vain for four months for her permit to arrive from the Home Office at the British Consulate in Berlin, towards the end of August, Margarete took matters into her own hands.  Travelling at some risk through the Polish Corridor to Berlin, with a child suffering from scarlet fever, she persuaded a ‘very handsome’ consular official, on the point of ending the official issue of visas, to endorse her passport   Travelling on the toilet of an over-crowded train (the last boat-train) to Cologne, she made it to the quayside at Flissingen on 31 August to board a tourist ship bound for Harwich. Arriving in London at midnight  the same day, they were met by Quakers and accommodated in a crowded hostel (the children slept on mattresses under their parents’ beds).

After being reunited with her husband and staying for eight days in Richborough Camp and in lodgings nearby (on money earned by Siegie for filling sand-bags),  Margarete then faced the problem of what she was to do with Danny before taking up her post as a cook-general in Manchester on 1 October.  She again wrote to Mrs. Shaefer, who put Danny’s photo, amongst others, on a notice board at Mount Street.  Fortunately a couple visiting the Meeting House, a Mr. and Mrs. Holmes, took a liking to Danny’s photo and agreed to take him into their home in Broadbottom.  Margarete’s mistress in Manchester, the Russian wife of the French Consul, reluctantly agreed to put up Danny for one night, before he was placed with people Margarete ‘had never seen before’.  As things turned out, she was fortunate in the choice of foster parents, who looked after Danny with great care and warmth, and less lucky in her work placement, where, from the start, she was ‘treated like a slave’.  Working from 6 in the morning until midnight, she was expected to do all the cleaning and cooking for the family and their many guests in an eight-bed roomed house.  With the help of Harold Howard, who Margarete saw as a ‘wonderful man’, always true to his word, ever ready to lend practical help, she was able to move to a more congenial placement and, in the meantime, to receive a loan from the QRC to have her belongings brought to Manchester from Holland.  When the luggage arrived, the Hermans were reunited in a rented house in Mabfield Road, Fallowfield, furnished at first with orange boxes and camp beds, which they shared with ‘four German refugee girls’, one working for a rabbi in Withington, one ‘who came to England from Berlin in a fur coat’ and now worked as a cook for the Argentine Consul and his lady friend’. 53

53    Interview of Margarete Herman by Lynne Jesky 20 February 2002 (hereafter Herman).


Accommodating those who had been saved was a major problem.  It may be that at first the hope was that most refugees would find hospitality in the private homes of Friends and Friends of Friends.  By mid-December 1938, however, when appeals transmitted through all the meeting houses of the Hardshaw East circuit had come up with only thirty suitable offers, and most of them for women, it had become clear that something more than private accommodation was required.54  This in turn was seen to depend on the one hand on the acquisition of suitable property on manageable terms and, on the other, on the availability of  financial contributions and voluntary help from outside the limited Quaker fold.  The creation of hostels and the forging of links with allied organisations thus went hand in hand.

54     An undated (late 1938?) card index in MFA of the 55 responses to requests from the QRC for refugee hospitality (from which only the 30 deemed suitable had presumably been chosen) also suggests that the full nature and severity of the ‘refugee crisis’ had not yet been fully appreciated by ordinary Quakers. Ten were willing to accommodate only Christians;  23 offered hospitality for 3 months or less, one ‘for several weeks’.   

One temporary measure, apparently arranged by the Quaker physics lecturer at Manchester University, Dr. F.C.M. Brentano,  was the taking of rooms at the Lamb Guildhouse, a substantial Gothic mansion in Bowdon, a fashionable commuter township in the Cheshire countryside, some seven miles south of Manchester, then in use for residential courses mounted by Professor R.D. Waller, head of the Extra Mural Department of Manchester University.55  Six refugees, described in the QRC’s minutes as ‘Czechs’, but in fact German political exiles brought to London from Prague by the Czech Trust Fund, arrived at the Guildhouse on 19 December 1938.56  This also marked the beginning of the QRC’s contacts with the Manchester branch of the National Council of Women (NCW), which since November had begun to interest itself in ‘Czech’ refugees from Nazi Europe, perhaps the first of Manchester’s women’s organisations to do so.  An appeal launched  by the NCW in November 1938, whether on its own initiative or at the prompting of the QRC, ‘for the support of refugees from Czechoslovakia’, had met with such a ‘very good response’ that by the end of the first week in December the branch had received £140 in cash and three promises of hospitality.  It was then that it decided to work with the QRC, first by paying, on its behalf, for the rooms at the Lamb Guildhouse in which the ‘six Czechs’ were now installed.57

55    Card index op.cit.: two cards for ‘Dr. F.C.M.Brentano’ For the Lamb Guildhouse and its refugee residents, see below pp.XXX.

56    QRC 15 December 1938, 3 January 1939; Kresse op.cit. pp. 220-223; and see below pp. XXX.

57    Minutes of the Executive Committee of the Manchester Branch of the National Council of Women (hereafter NCW), 1 November and 6 December 1938, 7 and 28 February and 6 June 1939. The minutes are in the archives of MCL M271.

It was the promise of further help from the NCW which persuaded the QRC to proceed with the acquisition in January 1939 of its first refugee hostel: a Victorian detached property at 14 Birch Polygon in the Rusholme district of south Manchester, offered ‘at a nominal rent’ by the parents of Roger Cowan Wilson,  Alex and Edith.58  This, in turn, prompted the QRC to look for support from its fraternal pacifist organisations, most of which saw Mount Street as their spiritual home.  It was Roger’s wife, Margery, who now persuaded  ‘the Manchester and District IVSP’ to contribute £2.10 a week towards the cost of converting it into ‘a house for refugees’ and to offer voluntary support in its management; two [unnamed]representatives of the IVSP were then co-opted onto the QRC. 59  By mid-February sixteen single men and one married couple had moved into what was now called ‘Wilson House’,  perhaps to honour Roger’s parents, perhaps his wife, who now took responsibility for obtaining donations of furniture, finding jobs for the occupants and supervising the hostel’s daily routine.60  Margery described the occupants as ‘all Sudeten Germans’; in reality at least two were from amongst the German politicals housed earlier at the Lamb Guildhouse.61  Edmund Emson, the Eccles teacher and QRC member, offered them lessons in English.62

 58    QRC 24 January 1939.

 59    Ibid.

 60    QRC 17 February 1939; Wilson; Kresse op.cit. pp. 245-246.

 61    Kresse op.cit. p.225.  The two were Kresse himself and Ernst Hoffmann

 62    QRC 6 June 1939.


The NCW had meantime provided a further £50 towards the cost of housing nine other Czechs in lodgings prior to the opening of a second hostel.63 On 30 March 1939, less than a fortnight after the German occupation of what remained of the Czech Republic, the QRC opened this second hostel at 4a Palatine Road, Withington, for ‘Czech’ refugees arriving under the auspices of the Czech Refugee Trust Fund, with which it had now forged a working relationship.  It was the CRTF which was to pay the rent (at 18/- a week) of the twenty refugees who arrived at what was now ‘Hardy House’, loaned without charge by the Manchester businessman, E.W. Hardy.64  A second pacifist body, the Fallowfield Group of the PPU, was now brought in tow, probably through the mediation of the PPU activist and QRC member, Winifred Garnett, a respected friend of the Fallowfield group’s ‘leader’, the Jewish pacifist Lionel Cowan, and one of its most committed members,  Stanley Mossop, the Unitarian Minister at Platt Chapel.  It was the QRC’s hope that the Fallowfield PPU might be persuaded to ‘take charge’ of 4a Palatine Road.65  In the event, Sophie Brentano’s further  negotiations on the QRC’s behalf led only to volunteers from the Fallowfield PPU taking on a number of specific, although important, tasks.  These included the establishment of ‘a rota for social evenings, sewing etc’, the invitation of refugees into the homes of PPU members (‘to get them into a home atmosphere’), the teaching of English, the organisation of rambles, and the offer of occasional gifts of cigarettes and other items.  Cowan also appealed to his members for donations of such ‘urgent necessities’ as a wireless set, gramophone records and copies of Picture Post and other illustrated magazines.66  In August 1939 Cowan reported that, with the support of his members, the hostel was ‘running well’ and that visitors were welcome.67  Its management, however, was in the hands of the QRC’s appointees, including an Austrian refugee as its warden.

 63    NCW Executive 28 February, 7 March 1939.

 64    QRC 14 March 1939.  ‘Czech refugees’ might well have included Czechs, Sudeten Germans and German exiles in Czechoslovakia..

 65    QRC 17 February 1939.
 66    WCML Cowan papers: Cowan’s notes for a meeting of Fallowfield PPU on 27 March 1939.

 67    WCML Cowan papers: Circular to Fallowfield PPU members August 1939

Most of the volunteers who helped out at the Quakers’ two Manchester hostels remain anonymous.

One, however, was the twenty-seven-year-old  Samuel Johnson of Swinton, an assistant secretary at Manchester University, who recorded his work in testimony to the Conscientious Objectors’ tribunal.

in September 1940.  An ‘admitted member’ of the Society of Friends, a member of the LNU since he was sixteen and of the PPU since he was twenty-seven, Johnson noted that over the last two months he had taught English to refugees, ‘visited their hostels’, arranged discussion groups and collected clothing for them until his activity had been ‘curtailed’ by internment.  Although judged by the tribunal to have been ‘truculent, bellicose and studiously offensive’, he was duly registered as an objector, ‘without conditions’. 68  

68    MCL M547/2/14 Record of Sittings of the Lancashire Tribunal; Samuel Johnson.  

By this time, the QRC had called in other allies from Quaker meeting houses on the Hardshaw East and Cheshire circuits.  During the late winter  of  1939 and the spring off 1940 ‘refugee committee’ under the aegis of the QRC were established by Quakers, or under Quaker inspiration, in Bolton in Lancashire,  Marple, Sale and Wilmslow in Cheshire, and Disley 69 in Derbyshire, each expected to raise funds, identify guarantors and sympathetic employers, and provide hospitality in their districts.70  All were immediately active.  In February 1939 Ida Whitworth, secretary of the Disley Committee with her fellow-Quaker, Margaret Hadfield, reported to the QRC that while offers of hospitality had been ‘disappointing’, the committee had raised £300 towards the maintenance of refugee children and trainees.71  By the end of April the Bolton Committee had found accommodation in private houses for ‘several refugees’, placements for a number of domestic servants and one ‘farm trainee’, and money enough to help a refugee join her family in Chile.72 In four of the districts, Salford, Sale, Wilmslow and Marple, small ‘houses for refugees’ [that is, hostels] had been established, each maintained by its own committee, but accepting refugees sent to it by Mount Street.

69    The Disley committee is reported to have been set up by the Vicar of Disley Parish Church at a public meeting at St. Mary’s School in Disley in December 1938, when Mr. Penman, a London Rotarian, was one of the two speakers, the other Ida Whitworth, ‘from first-hand knowledge of the events [in Germany]’.  Both joint-secretaries were Quakers.  (SA 9 December 1938).  For the ambiguities surrounding the founding of the Salford and Sale hostels see below pp. XXX.

70    QRC 17 February, 25 April, 16 May 1939.

71    QRC 17 February 1939.

72    QRC 25 April 1939.

In late April 1939 forty-six refugees from Czechoslovakia, forty-three men and three women, ,all of whom had left their country illegally through Poland and travelled to Britain through the Polish port of Gydnia with the help of the CRTF, arrived in Marple, where they were met by a committee from the tiny Marple Meeting House and Margery Wilson from the QRC.  They were there found accommodation by the QRC,73 first in Brentwood, a holiday home in Church Lane, Marple, offering summer breaks for unemployed women and their children organised by South East Lancashire and North East Cheshire (SELNEC).  In early May this, ‘the largest single party of refugees which has yet arrived in the Manchester district’, were visited by a reporter from the Stockport Advertiser, who found them traumatised but resilient, preoccupied with ‘housework…cooking and cleaning and putting their gardens in order, as they came to terms with their ‘terrible experiences’.  In Marple he believed they had been well-received.  The Vicar of the Parish Church, which many of them attended, gave them a ‘warm welcome’ and ‘urged the congregation to help the refugees make themselves at home…and also to help them in any way as far as they possibly could.’  After the service, ‘a number of the congregation made themselves known to the refugees and chatted freely with them.74 The Quakers meantime set up classes in English and launched an appeal for clothing ‘urgently needed’ by those who had arrived ‘without money, [with] few personal possessions and with no clothing apart from that in which they had ‘escaped’. 75

73    QRC 25 April 1939.  The new Nazi regime in Czechoslovakia, while freely allowing Jewish emigration, was anxious to prevent the departure of political dissidents, who were thus forced back on illegal entry into Poland.  After the Polish Government had signalled its reluctance to harbour refugees, emissaries fro the CTF arrived to select those it believed  to merit the limited number of visas assigned by the Home Office.  The meeting house in Marple was one of a row of small terraced houses.  It was vacated in 2004 when alternative accommodation for surviving Quakers in a local Methodist Chapel.

74    SA 5 May 1939.

75    ibid

On 18 May, when Brentwood was returned to its original use, the refugees were re-located by the QRC, some to a hostel in the town, ‘Norwood’ in Arkwright Road, rented for £70 a year, eighteen to a house rented by the Quaker committee in Wilmslow.76  Heinz Vogel, who entered  Norwood with his mother in July 1939, after being removed from a ‘protected area’ on the Kent coast,  found several Czech families already in residence, including his relatives, four members of the Slatner family from Zlin, where Hugo Slatner had been a dentist, the Bergmans and the Kohns. 77

76    QRC 25 April, 16 May, 26 June, 17 September 1939. ‘Norwood’ was vacated in September 1939 and the refugees found alternative accommodation, some at a hostel in Sale, some with private families.  The house still stands, now a hostel for the mentally-handicapped.

77    Form completed by Heinz Vogel for s survey made by Peter Kurer of Manchester.  Kurer used the AJR journal to distribute forms entitled ‘Quakers who helped Jews’.  The forms are now in the Archives of Manchester Central Library (hereafter referenced as QHJ).  The hostel was closed as the government introduced its internment policy in June 1940.  The Slatners were then allowed to purchase hostel furniture for a nominal amount and to use it in a house they rented in Marple

By the outbreak of war, when government policy all but blocked the entry of further refugees, between 90 and 100 refugees from Czechoslovakia - Czechs, Sudeten Germans and German exiles - were being accommodated at hostels managed by the QRC, as well as an unknown number of other refugees, some of them Austrian, in private homes, student hostels, and boarding houses.  Of the lodging houses, the one of which we know most was run by a Mrs. Mary England at 85 High Street, Chorlton-on-Medlock.  Who Mrs. England was, and how she made her connection with the Quakers, are both unknown, but, certainly from the end of June 1939, she was being paid by the Quakers  for boarding and lodging refugees, Czech, German and Austrian, at a rate of £1 a week.78 Hanna Behrend’s recollections suggest that it was used by the QRC for housing those suddenly rendered homeless or ‘problematic’ refugees  judged to be too ‘disturbed’ for immediate allocation to a hostel or having difficulty in holding down jobs.79

 78    QRC 26 June 1939.  

 79    Hanna Behrend, Typescript of a Draft Autobiography (Berlin 2004) pp.19-22.

Hanna Siederer, as she then was, a seventeen-year-old Viennese refugee, found a place at Mrs. England’s when on 1 November 1939, she was dismissed from her post as a trainee nurse at the County Mental Hospital in Prestwich because her work permit was judged by the police to be invalid.  After spending two days and nights roaming the streets of Manchester and sitting in late-night cafes, she sought advice at Manchester Town Hall, where, as a person of Jewish origin, she was directed to Mrs. Barash.  After being ‘bombarded’ with questions by a woman she found unfriendly and abrupt, Hanna was passed on [she was a ‘non-practising Jew’] to the Friends Meeting House, where Harold Howard, after giving her her first meal for two days and a small loan to tide her over, found her a place at 85 High Street’.  There she found herself amongst  what she experienced as a group of refugee eccentrics.  ‘All these émigrés,’ she wrote in her diary on 11 November 1939, ‘they’re all mad’.  They included an elderly German who walked incessantly up and down the room, ‘six steps forward, six steps back’; ‘crazy’ Maria, who believed herself to be permanently ill; a Viennese man lacking the fourteen teeth knocked out in a Nazi camp; and a ‘very brutal’ Communist chemistry student from Berlin who was constantly engaged in ‘bitter’ disputes with a member of the German SPD.  At house parties which went on until two in the morning, relationships were made and broken by young refugees clearly in desperate need of human warmth.  ‘Was it just the terrible experiences which made them like this ?’ Hanna asked herself.80

 80    ibid.

The management of refugees in hostels  was a major headache for the QRC.  Not all refugees, some of them politically radical, many uprooted from comfortable homes, buckled down to the conditions they now encountered.  Even at Mrs. England’s, protests at the ‘unappetising meals’ she provided  led to the refugee boarders being allowed to  cook their own (‘more varied and continental’) meals out of the money for food allocated by the QRC.81  In February 1939 two of the ‘politicals’ from the Lamb Guildhouse, Bruno Kresse and Ernst Hoffmann, moved into 14 Birch Polygon with ten other refugees from Czechoslovakia, including at least one other Communist, Christof Kirschneck.  There Kresse and Hoffmann spoke out against what they saw as an unduly strict regime imposed by the Austrian refugee house-manager, a Dr. Pappe, installed by the QRC.  They also identified him, rightly or wrongly, as a Secret Service agent employed to keep tabs on the political activities of refugees.  They were allowed to leave the hostel only with his permission and then only after stating their purpose and the time of their return.  Unable to foment a  rebellion by their fellow-residents, Kresse and Hoffmann left the hostel for private accommodation found for them by local members of the CPGB.82  Disquiet at the hostel continued.  ‘Disharmony’ at Wilson House forced the QRC into several managerial adjustments, and finally into the dismissal of their house-manager.  He was replaced by a house committee, made up of refugee residents as well as volunteers and members of the QRC, a form of limited democracy which the committee applied thereafter to all its hostels.83

 81    ibid.

 82    Kresse op.cit. pp.245-246.

 83    QRC 4 and 25 April, 16 May, 17 September 1939; Kresse op.cit, p.246.


The immediate work of rescue formed only part of the burden on the unpaid members of the QRC during the first eighteen months of its existence.  A calculated stand-off by the agencies of the state meant that between 20 and 30 ‘amateurs’, many with day-jobs and  families, took responsibility for the social lives, personal welfare and financial viability of their guests.  Small loans were offered for anything from a landing fee in Panama to the charge of transporting luggage from Oldham to Manchester.   Pocket money, usually around 5/- a week, was paid to the unemployed, ‘hostel inhabitants’ given 1/- a head at Christmas.84  Holidays were arranged for refugees through the Co-operative Holiday Association.85  Advertisements for posts were placed in the Manchester Guardian on behalf of the German and Austrian domestic servants on its books, even during the months of panic which produced mass internment.86  A clothing store was maintained at Mount Street on which refugees might draw at will.  A panel of local doctors and dentists was set up ‘to give their attentions to the refugees.’: some, like Dr. Margarete Helbing, were refugees, some, like Muriel Edwards, Quakers.87  A Youth Group formed by refugees in March 1939 was allowed to meet at Mount Street once a fortnight.88   There was liaison with the local police when refugees fell foul of the law, committed (or attempted to commit) suicide, or, on one occasion at least, simply ‘disappeared’.89 There were conflicts with the CRTF over the placement and maintenance of ‘its refugees’, most of whom had been moved from Quaker hostels by the end of April 1940.90

 84    QRC 16 December 1939.

 85    QRC 19 March 1940.

 86    MG 2 July 1940.

 87    QRC 6 June 1939.

 88    QRC 4 April 1939.  In June 1939, after he had been accepted for an honours course at the university, the QRC arranged and paid for accommodation for Hoffman in a student hostel, Hulme Hall (MFA QRC 6 June, 26 June 1939).

89    QRC 14 October 1939, 31 July, 24 September 1940.  

90    QRC 19 March , 9 April 1, 30 April 1940.

Social and cultural events organised by the QRC’s ‘social committee’, with Edmund Emson as its convenor and Millie Uhland as one of its members, served at once as opportunities for ‘fellowship’, outlets for refugee creativity and instruments of publicity and fund-raising.  One of the first was a Garden Party at Dalton Hall on 12 July 1939 for 200 people, chiefly potential donors, but including all the adult refugees and thirty of the children on the QRC’s books.91  The first of what were to become annual exhibitions (and sales) of refugee arts and crafts, was mounted in April 1940, when pride of place was given to the young refugee artists, Heinrich Weiss, Ursula Leo and Alex Schwartz.92

  91    QRC 6 June, 18 July 1938.  It was adjudged a ‘great success’.

  92    QRC 19 March 1940.

The QRC had also taken on from the beginning, either by agreement or by default, the support of refugees from other Christian denominations, which, for reasons unknown, had decided against the establishment of northern branches of their London-based agencies of refugee support.  This was occasionally problematic.  A German Catholic refugee couple, the Kallinanns, who in May 1939 had taken posts as domestic servants in Harrow, had earlier deposited their three children, aged 5, 3 and 2, in Holly Mount Convent, a Catholic refuge for homeless children at Tottington, near Bury.  Three months later, still speaking no English, they sought help from the Manchester Quakers in making what they saw as the ‘complicated’ journey to visit their children.  Provided by Tom Ellis with a volunteer chauffeur, a Dr. Stanley Haydock, they arrived at Holly Mount at the end of July.  Their experience, as described to Ellis by Haydock, was traumatic.  The Kallinanns were soon in ‘great distress’ because their children – ‘delightful youngsters’ according to Haydock – did not remember them: they clung to the Sisters…and regarded their parents as strangers…They had apparently forgotten most of their German and were speaking English which Mr. and Mrs. Kallinann did not understand.’  When he returned to pick up the parents Haydock found them outside the convent gates with their children’s belongings, volubly voicing their dissatisfaction with conditions in the convent.  After the Mother Superior had tried unsuccessfully to reason with them through ‘a German interpreter’, they left for Harrow without ceremony, taking the children with them and borrowing the rail fare from the disconsolate Haydock.93

 93    MFA Letters from W.W. Graddon in Harrow to Tom Ellis 18 July 1939; Dr, Stanley Haydock to Tom Ellis 24 July 1939                                                                     

Although the QRC remained in existence until 1949, going on to supervise the welfare of those refugees who had registered with it, including their welfare in the British internment camps set up in June 1940 to house ‘enemy aliens’, and, after 1945, sharing with the MJRC the care of those Holocaust survivors who reached Manchester, its work of refugee rescue ended in 1940, when, like the MJRC, it was called upon to accommodate refugees expelled from the ‘protected’ coastal areas of  Merseyside and the north east.

On 26 June 1940, after the fate of refugees in the ‘protected areas’ had become well known, the QRC accepted the offer made by, Emma Tomlinson, an elementary school teacher and a member of the newly formed Quaker meeting in Cheadle, of a large Victorian end-of- terrace house at 2 Madison Avenue, for those evicted from Merseyside ‘who might become a charge on us’.94 The condition was that ‘the Cheadle group’, not yet formally a ‘meeting’, would maintain the house, meet the cost of its rent and rates, and ‘give such further help as they might feel able’.95 The first three residents arrived in July; by the end of August it was said to be ‘nearly full and getting along well’.96  One of the refugees, Sophie Rujder, was being paid 5/- a week with free board) to act as warden, her daughter, Hildegard 1/- a week pocket money to assist her.97   A small committee, made up of four members of the Cheadle group and representatives from Mount Street supervised the warden and watched over the welfare of what turned out to be around ten resident refugees.

 94    QRC 26 June 1940.  That is those evicted who were not ‘practising Jews’ three hundred of whom were allocated to the MJRC..

 95    Ibid.

 96    QRC 31 July, 27 August, 24 September 1940.

 97    QRC 31 July 1940.

Sophie Eleanora Rujder, the Viennese woman chosen as the hostel’s warden, was a Catholic with a Jewish husband, Friedrich, who in Vienna had been the manager of a drinks manufacturing company.  Both alienated from their family’s faiths, they had become Lutherans, the religion in which they brought up their only child, Hildegard (Hilde), born in Vienna in 1922.. It was only when Hilde came home from her Lutheran elementary school chanting ant-Semitic slogans that her parents decided to tell her that her father was Jewish.  The escape of all three was engineered by the Quakers.  Hilde travelled first on a kindertransport put together by Austrian Quakers, her parents following to posts as housemaid and butler with the Gladstone family in Hoylake on the Wirral.  After a few uncomfortable months with a  family in Wells, Somerset, Hilde joined them in Hoylake as an assistant nursemaid to the Gladstone children   In Vienna, when Hilde had nursed an ambition for the stage, her parents had entered her for the famous Max Reinhardt Drama School, but emigration meant that she could never take up her place.  Early in 1940 the Quakers arranged for her to enrol for drama and drawing classes at the Liverpool School of Art.98

98    Taped interview of Hilda Brooker (ne Rujder) by Bill Williams and Anne Priest (hereafter Brooker).

It was there, after an episode in a bleak Christian Friendly Society Hostel where she was abused as a ‘spy’, that she turned for consolation to a fellow German, Ruth Windmuller, with whom she shared accommodation at the house of the pastor of Liverpool’s German Church.  Ruth was born in  Hamburg in 1919,. the daughter of a Manchester Jewish lawyer who was working in Germany and his non-Jewish German wife.  Although not strictly-speaking a refugee, Ruth had been sent by her parents to the Liverpool School of Art after Nazi legislation had barred Jews from art colleges in Germany.99

99     Letter from Ruth Duckworth (ne Windmuller) to Anne Priest 19 March 2004

In June 1940, when they were forced to move out of Merseyside, they found themselves at the Friends Meting House in Mount Street.  ‘It was full of these people’, Hilde remembers, ‘we hadn’t a clue what was going to happen and there was Mr. Howard, God Bless his soul, who was sitting there and sorting us all out.  And what happened was that ordinary Quaker families simply took us into their homes.’  After a few weeks in the house of a Quaker couple, William Brown, a bank clerk, and his wife, Jessie, in Cheadle Hulme, Hilde joined a group pf around ten refugees to be housed at 2 Madison Road.  They included Bruno Tublin, a Catholic of Jewish origin, a puppeteer by vocation and once ‘youth organiser for evening classes in Vienna’, with his wife and two children, a fragile Czech woman, Catherine Pollack, born in Prague in 1900, Martin Reichenbach, then in his late 60s, who in Germany had been a hat maker, but who had come to Britain as an ‘assistant butler, a young man from Stuttgart, Edgar Neuberg, and Ernst Schwarz, a former Viennese businessman, now alone with his two children, Karl Heinz and Vera,. After his wife, Helen, had deserted him in Vienna, converted to Catholicism and remarried.  Charlotte Pollack was the victim of a defrauding guarantor, a Mr, Parker, who informed the QRC that ‘he was only a nominal guarantor and refused either to implement his guarantee or assist the committee in any way.’ 100 Ruth Windmuller, who, as a British citizen was not compelled to leave Merseyside, chose to join her friend Hilde at the Madison Street hostel.

Hilde and Ruth both have positive memories of the hostel.  They were happy in a ‘relaxed hostel in which, of an evening, the residents would gather in the lounge to solve the problems of the world.’  The only sour note was struck by the local police, who would come in after the end of curfew to check on their refugees, when ‘p00r Mr. Reichenbach and poor Mrs. Pollack would be got out of bed ‘without their teeth’.101 Living together in the hostel attic. Hilde and Ruth wrote their journals, read poetry, painted each other’s portraits and planned long walks across the Cheshire countryside.    While Hilde confirms that the Quakers had no conversionist intent, on Sunday mornings she and Ruth began to attend, with Hilde’s parents, what Ruth saw as the ‘particularly good’ Quaker meetings in Cheadle.

 101    Booker.

Hilde was entranced by a guest appearance of the Quaker MP, Philip Noel-Baker.102

102    Letter to Anne Priest op.cit.

Ruth and Hilde were drawn into the enterprise of the ambitious puppeteer, Bruno Tublin, whom they accompanied as his (unpaid) assistants to schools and societies throughout the north-west. By the March of 1941 Tublin had ‘played his puppets’ in over 300 schools, publicising himself as something of a pioneer, bring ‘the old stagecraft’ to the notice of local teachers and children, so keeping a tradition alive.103  He had entertained ‘many hundreds of appreciative kiddies’ in Lancashire and Cheshire with puppet plays. Some written by Manchester people.104  During the summer of 1942 he made a name for himself for the ‘delightful displays’ in local parks during Manchester’s ‘holidays at home’ programme.  Ruth and Hilde cycled from place to place with Mr. Tublin’s equipment, helped in the performances (‘blowing smoke through holes’, Hilde remembers) and carrying back to the hostel his bags of pennies.  Although regarded  by both as ‘a wide boy’, for Ruth, the making of puppet heads turned out to be the first stage in a career at the end of which she remains a world-famous ceramicist, while puppet drama led Ruth into the world of theatre.105

103    MG 24 March 1941.  In April 1941 he was doing well enough to offer his ‘surplus profits’ to the QRC, an offer refused on the grounds that he might better use it for the upkeep of his child (QRC 29 April 1941),

104    MCN 20 June 1941, 18 and 31 July, 20 August 1942.

105    Autobiographical notes in the Catalogue of an exhibition of ceramics by Ruth Duckworth (nee Windmuller) in the Gallery of American Ceramics, Evanson, Illinois.  The exhibition included a puppet head carved by Ruth. The Madison Road hostel closed in the autumn of 1943hostel closed


It would be difficult to overstate the part played  by Quaker individuals to facilitate the rescue of refugees.106  In the European capitals from which kindertransports  set out, Quakers helped families find places for their children, took part in organisational work, saw off children whose parents were barred from platforms,  accompanied some transports to Harwich, and arranged for the children to be met and befriended London and Manchester.  On a personal basis, they provided refugees with homes,  guarantees, financial assistance, friendship and placements as domestic servants, trainees, university students and scholars in secondary schools.  Like Elizabeth Abegg of Berlin, they hid Jews trapped in Europe.  The mother of Elizabeth Rosenthal  and her maternal grandfather had assisted Quakers from Manchester in giving assistance to those starving in Danzig in 1918.  When her mother, then in Berlin,  renewed contact with the Meeting House in Manchester in 1938, the Quakers arranged for Elizabeth to be accommodated with a Mrs. Doxan, the headmistress of a Church of England Infants School in Oldham, and found work for her mother as a children’s nurse with a family in Greenfield, near Oldham.  Millie Uhland,  beyond her work for the QRC, found guarantors for at least six refugees, including, in November 1938,  a Roman Catholic family prepared to accommodate four members of the Fessler family from Vienna.

106    The information in this paragraph is taken from replies in QHJ.

Muriel Edwards was a Quaker GP with her surgery at 45 Yew Tree Lane in Wythenshawe.  When, in September 1939, she heard that the German refugee, Dr. Gertrude Mueller-Lange, her mother and sister, with an affidavit for entry to the United States, were likely to remain trapped for some time  in Manchester,  without resources, she rented a house near her own to provide them with accommodation. There they stayed at her expense until their departure for the United States in 1942  Amongst other young refugees  housed in Muriel Edwards’ house or in its ‘annex’ were Ernst Wangermann, whose father had committed suicide in Vienna and whose mother was in domestic service in Mellor in Derbyshire,  Hans and Lorelinde Einstein. who had arrived  from Stuttgart, and who had neither friends nor relatives in Manchester, and two refugees, Gerda Wolf and Herta Fiebig, who were paid as servants,  jobs  which, according to Ernst Wangermann, ‘neither performed very efficiently’.               







    Kristelnacht 75      Years On

Immigration Appeal to
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     The Association of      Jewish Refugees
      Thank You       
      Serious Concern -
         Manchester Quakers
         and Refugees,

Sir Nicholas Winton  

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