THE MISSING CHAPTER:
HOW THE BRITISH QUAKERS
HELPED TO SAVE THE JEWS OF GERMANY AND AUSTRIA
FROM NAZI PERSECUTION
This site is based on the paper writen by Dr Jennifer Taylor in October 2009
Research Centre for German and Austrian Exile Studies,
Institute of Germanic and Romance Studies, University of London
Kindertransport was the informal name given of the way in which an unspecified number of children under the age of 17 were allowed to enter the United Kingdom. The children were to travel in sealed trains. The first left on December 1, 1938, less than one month after Kristallnacht; the last left on September 1, 1939—just two days before Great Britain's entry into the war, which marked the end of the program. By that time, approximately 10,000 children had made the trip. (from http://www.kindertransport.org/history03_rising.htm)
Kindertransport was unique in that Jews, Quakers, and Christians of many denominations worked together to rescue primarily Jewish children
Implementing the Kindertransport
The Quakers made their contribution to the various organizational tasks connected with the Kindertransport. As it was becoming increasingly difficult for Jews to travel by public transport, the help offered by Quakers was crucial. The Quakers were outside the railway stations ready to receive the children who had been told to avoid demonstrative farewells on the station platforms, thus avoiding conflict with the police. They had members travelling on the train to the Hook of Holland, ensuring the children were able to leave Germany. (It was not unknown for Jewish emigrants to be taken from the trains and humiliated, and on occasions preventing from leaving). In London Quakers went to Liverpool Street Station to receive the children, organize refreshments, pass them into the care of a foster parent and, finally, arrange for the temporary accommodation of any child who was not met.
The recently erected memorials to the Kindertransport at Liverpool Street Station in London and at the Westbahnhof in Vienna constitute a public recognition of the importance of this project.
(The Nazis made sure the journey was humiliating and terrifying. Trains were grimly sealed. Parents were sometimes not permitted to say goodbye in public. The children had to take trains to Holland so that they would not "sully" German ports. Their luggage was torn apart by guards searching for valuables.
In some cities, parents were not even allowed to say goodbye at the train stations so as to avoid any public spectacle. In Holland the trains were met by committees of volunteers who gave the children refreshments and helped them board the boats taking them to their new homes. - from East Renfrewshire council)
A refugee could be admitted into Great Britain if that person could obtain a guarantee from a British Citizen. Guarantors had to provide £50 (just under £2,500 in today’s money) as an assurance that the person admitted would not be a burden on the British State. Through their network of centres in Germany and Austria the Quakers were able to identify people in need of such assistance, while the corresponding network of approximately 400 Meetings in Great Britain enabled them to obtain guarantors.
The help requested by Wilfrid Israel, outlined above, illustrates the value of the Quakers’ contacts at international level. British Quakers were requested to compile information, since at this time it was considered too dangerous for German Quakers to do so. However, help was also offered at national level. Roger Carter, the last British Quaker representative in Berlin, was given a confidential list of twenty-two German Friends who could be trusted to give discreet support to Jews through the Friends office in London. Carter later gave the following report of the importance of the Quaker network in the immediate aftermath of Kristallnacht when his organization became the first port of call for the demoralised Jewish community: ‘For the moment the Jüdischer Hilfsverein, paralysed by the arrests, closed its doors and despairing and frightened people filled the courtyard outside the Quaker Centre.’ Working closely with the German Christian Churches to facilitate the emigration of so-called, non-Aryan Christians, the Quakers represented those of Jewish heritage with no Christian affiliation who for one reason or another were not recognised by the Jewish community. From this joint initiative it is estimated that Catholic Aid facilitated 2,270 cases, the Protestants under Pastor Heinrich Grüber between 1,700 and 2,000 cases and the Quakers 1,135 cases. Not all of these people came to Britain or remained there. As an international organization the Quakers were able to support emigration to throughout the world. A ten-year survey of the work of the London based Germany Emergency Committee published in 1943 cites the USA, Canada, South America, Scandinavia, Africa, Australia and India as countries of settlement, but many did remain. Homes for the refugees in Britain were found by encouraging Quakers to become guarantors. By the time war broke out it is claimed that the Germany Emergency Committee had dealt with a high volume of cases of refugees from Germany and Austria. Estimates of the number of cases vary; 6,000 is quoted by one source, 14,000 by another, the general trend being to revise upwards as more information comes to light.
The accuracy of these assessments is contested and it may never be adequately demonstrated, since many Quaker records did not survive the war. In the German centres few records were kept since the work was so politically sensitive. In London, many case notes from the Germany Emergency Committee/Friends Committee for Refugees and Aliens were destroyed when Bloomsbury House closed in 1947. However, the material that remains would reward closer scrutiny. Friends House in London still has a substantial number of files from the Germany Emergency Committee from the years 1933-42, and from its successor, the Friends Relief Service, Refugees and Aliens Section, 1943-1948. Additionally, a large amount of source material on cases administered by the American Friends Service Committee held in the Balch Institute, Philadelphia, awaits further scrutiny.
3. Domestic Permits
Another method of gaining entry to Britain was to obtain employment. In effect, this meant applying for the type of job that could not be filled by a British person. At this time such posts were predominantly in domestic service; butlers, maids and cooks. In common with other refugee organizations the Quakers assisted those who wished to use this method of escaping from Nazi Germany and Austria by matching applicants and posts. For example, a domestic service pool was set up in Manchester. The minutes from just two months in early 1939 record 33 posts found and over 50 visas obtained.
This information from Manchester forms part of a detailed study described below, but it is to be assumed that such an initiative was not unique and that further regional studies would indicate the extent of the involvement in this area of refugee assistance.
To date the following three detailed analyses of this work, one in a German centre and two in English centres, have been made:
(i) Emigration - Bad Pyrmont
Mary Friedrich was married to a German who was eventually punished for assisting Jews by incarceration in Buchenwald, from where he was liberated by the Americans. Both were committed Quakers working at Quaker centres, first in Nuremberg, then in Bad Pyrmont. As an Englishwoman Mary was ideally suited to organize guarantors in England (with the help of Bloomsbury House). In 1939 she arranged for 59 people to emigrate, of which 35 went to England. Access to her mother’s papers has enabled her daughter, Brenda Bailey, to compile a comprehensive list of the named individuals who were helped to emigrate in this way.
(ii) Immigration – Manchester
As part of his study of refugees in the Manchester Region 1933-1945 Bill Williams of the Centre for Jewish Studies at the University of Manchester has analysed the records of the Manchester Quaker Refugee Committee (MQRC). These records document over seven hundred refugees who were saved or given substantial assistance by Manchester Quakers.
Once the refugees had arrived in Britain, they needed moral and financial support. The minutes of the MQRC illustrate the range of the assistance offered by the Quakers in Manchester and environs:
Manchester is, of course, a major population centre, but it can be assumed that Quaker Meetings in other large towns afforded similar assistance and would hold similar records which would reward detailed scrutiny.
4. Case studies from the Manchester area
Peter Kurer can cite the following from his own experience:
Nine of the Kurer family were saved by Manchester Quakers giving guarantees for their family. Guarantees for four members of the Kurer family were given by Horatio and Mary Goodwin, while the remaining five family members, including the great grandmother who was then 91 years of age, received guarantees from other members of the Manchester Meeting. Additionally, the Manchester Quakers paid for Hans and Peter Kurer to attend a Quaker Boarding school for two years, after which their father could afford to pay the school fees. In the meantime all had shelter and food in the Goodwin’s house.
Another example is Dr. Muriel Edwards of Wythenshaw, Manchester,
an unmarried General Medical Practitioner, who offered hospitality to Hans-Peter Einstein, Oscar Einstein and Otto Wangermann from Austria. She treated these young men as her own children and saw them through school and university.
There are many other examples of private hospitality which may regrettably never be known, but it is to be hoped that publishing these details might encourage the emergence of similar instances of generosity.
One way of facilitating entry into Great Britain was to offer a place in a school. There were twelve Quaker boarding schools in Great Britain (all in England) at this time and 100 scholarships were provided so that refugees could attend these schools. Additionally, other financial arrangements were possible, ranging from offering places if the parents could guarantee the first term’s fees to places at reduced fees. Once a young person was attending the school, it was the policy to offer assistance with fees or remission of fees if the parents could no longer meet this expense, and there are recorded instances of individual Quakers or Quaker meetings providing such assistance.
(iii) Ayton School
The only one of these twelve Quaker boarding schools to have been studied in detail is that at Great Ayton in Yorkshire. Through an initiative of Gill Jackson of the Ayton Old Scholars Association approximately 40 refugee scholars were identified, and those that could be contacted invited to submit autobiographical accounts to the old scholars magazine. These were published in 2005 and have encouraged further responses from old scholars so that more details have emerged. Subsequently, this work formed the basis of an academic essay.
As this school was intended for children of mixed marriages, it is likely that it had a greater number of refugees than other Quaker schools, but it is probable that each school had some.
From his own experience Peter Kurer can state that Friends’ School Wigton in Cumberland had a total of 125 pupils, of which six were refugees.
As more people realize that this information is of interest, additional details are coming to light. For example in December 2008 John Dunston, himself the grandson of refugees from Austria, paid tribute to Leighton Park School, Reading. Writing in the AJR [Association of Jewish Refugees] Journal, he recounted the distinguished careers of two of the refugee scholars who received places at the school, to which he himself was appointed as Head in 1996. It is to be hoped that more details will emerge of the identity and careers of refugee scholars in Quaker schools in England.
This is not intended as a definitive document, but as a start to which more should be added. It is in an attempt to encourage the filling of this vacuum in our history that this manuscript is submitted. In the later thirties there were fewer than 20,000 Quakers in Britain. This short account shows that in proportion to their numbers the Quakers were among the most active group of rescuers in saving Jews from the holocaust.
I am indebted to Peter Kurer for suggesting the outline of this paper, and to Peter Kurer and Bill Williams for providing the details of the Manchester Quaker Refugee Committee and other material from the Manchester area. Grateful thanks are also due to the staff of the Library of the Religious Society of Friends, London, for their assistance.
7. Podcast from Britains National Archives
Published: Fri, 26 Feb 2010 52mins
The Wiener Library (Manchester) holds many personal accounts of children evacuated from Nazi Germany, Austria and Czechoslovakia between December 1938 and September 1939. Using individual first-hand accounts sourced from The Wiener Library and documents held at The National Archives, this talk gives insights into how Britain dealt with the refugee children who arrived on the Kindertransports and the difficulties they faced.
Friends Service Council, ‘History of Organization’, <nobelprize.org/nobel_prace/laureates/1947/friends-council. html> [accessed 30 December 2006] (p.5 of 71)
See Francois Lafitte, The Internment of Aliens (London: Libris 1988), p.44.
See Heinrich Otto, Werden und Wesen des Quäkertums und seine Entwicklung in Deutschland, Vienna: Sensen, 1972.
See Hans Schmitt, Quakers and Nazis – Inner Light in Outer Darkness (Columbia: University of Missouri Press, 1997), p.45.
See Lawrence Darton, Account of the Work of the Friends Committee for Refugees and Aliens, First Known as the Germany Emergency Committee of the Society of Friends, 1933-1950 (London: Friends Committee for Refugees and Aliens, 1954), p.4.
Brenda Bailey, Address to ‘Commemorating the Kindertransport’, Friends House, London, 1 December 2008.
Darton, op. cit., p. 4.
Brenda Bailey, A Quaker Couple in Nazi Germany: Leonhard Friedrich Survives Buchenwald (York: William Sessions, 1994), p. 65.
Cf. Sybil Oldfield, ‘”It Is Usually She”: The Role of British Women in the Rescue and Care of the Kindertransport Kinder’, in: Shofar, vol. 23, No. 1 (2004), 57-70 (here 60).
Letter from Bertha Bracey quoted in Bailey, op. cit., p.95; Bailey spells Israel’s first name ‘Wilfrid’, Oldfield ‘Wilfried’.
See Hansard, House of Commons Daily Debates, 21 November 1938, quoted after Sybil Oldfield, op. cit.,p. 60
‘Kindertransport, 1938-1940’, Holocaust Encyclopaedia, http://www.ushmm.org/wic/article.php? Module id 10005260>[accessed 4 December 2008].
J. Roger Carter, ‘The Quaker International Centre in Berlin, 1920-1942’, Friends Historical Journal, Vol. 56, 1990, No. 1, 15-31 (here23).
See Schmitt, op. cit., p.121.
Bertha Bracey, A Ten Year’s Survey, 1933-43, London: Bloomsbury House n.d.  p.11; copy in Friends House, London, Box 539/34.
See Schmitt, op. cit., p.121.
See Sybil Oldfield, op. cit., p.60.
Brenda Bailey, op. cit., p. 82.
Minutes of Manchester Quaker Refugee Committee (held at Friends House, Mount St. Manchester), 17 February 1939, Minute 11; 14 March 1939, Minute 9.
Brenda Bailey, op. cit., pp. 97-100; 102-3.
At the time of writing this work is awaiting publication.
Dated 23 November 1938 to 5 December 1944.
Library Guide 7: Quaker Schools in Great Britain and Ireland, issued by Friends Library.
Brenda Bailey, op. cit., p. 98.
‘Ayton’s Refugees – 1935-42’ (ed. by Gill Jackson) in Ayton Old Scholars Association Annual Report 2005, pp.28-36; accessible on school website:http://www.manannan.org.im/aosa/magazines.
Jennifer Taylor, ‘“Work […] of modest proportion”. Ayton School: One Example of the Contribution of the Society of Friends to Saving the Refugees from Hitler’, in ‘I didn’t want to float; I wanted to belong to something.’ Refugee Organizations in Britain 1933-1945, ed. by Andrea Reiter,Vol. 10, Yearbook of the Research Centre for German and Austrian Exile Studies, Institute of Germanic and Romance Languages, University of London, (Amsterdam: Rodopi, 2008), pp. 153-168.