Two requests for assistance

Young Jewish refugees in Britain: Research help needed

Dear Kitchener Descendants,

I am a PhD student at Royal Holloway’s Holocaust Research Institute, exploring the history of the Central British Fund (CBF) (which you may know as the Jewish Refugees Committee at Bloomsbury House). Today the organisation is known as World Jewish Relief. They provided financial support for the Kindertransport and Kitchener camp.

My focus is the CBF’s work with adolescent refugees, some of whom arrived on the Kindertransport; others arrived on work visas or training schemes. I am interested in the experiences of young (mid to late teens) refugees and how the CBF interacted with this group. Many were seen as “too old” to adapt to British homes, yet too young to support themselves or enter full-time employment. 

The experiences of these young refugees tended to take place in agricultural training, vocational schools, and (for girls) in nursing or domestic service. They were housed in hostels or residential homes for training to become self-supporting, or to prepare them for re-emigration. I have been exploring nursing and domestic service training, schools for Jewish refugees (such as Bunce Court), and agricultural training centres (usually managed by Zionist youth programmes with the support of the CBF).

I am interested to hear more about how and in what ways these experiences had an impact on young refugees. How did the presence, influence, and relationship with the CBF (however indirect or infrequent) affect the lives and identities of a younger generation of Jewish refugees in Britain?

In many ways, Kitchener was an early experiment in how to “deal” with refugees, and in responses to refugees arriving from Europe. The experiences of Kitchener refugees may help answer some of my research questions. 

Although many Kitchener refugees were older than the adolescents in my other case studies, I am interested in learning more about the following:

  • The experiences of younger men at Kitchener (in their late teens and twenties).
  • Interactions with workers/volunteers of the CBF/JRC, and Bloomsbury House.
  • Reflections/memories of the support received from the CBF (or other British-Jewish refugee agencies).
  • Reflections/memories of what was “expected” of them as so-called aliens. How were they treated? Were they expected to participate in particular duties or work? Did they feel pressure to assimilate? Or to do what was ‘expected’ of them?
  • Indications of how they thought their time at Kitchener, or their treatment by refugee agencies in Britain, had an impact on later life and aspects of identity. 

I would love to hear from anyone who is willing to assist me in my research and/or is interested in finding out more about my project. Please do get in touch if any of the above information has resonated with you or your family’s story.

My contact details are:

Email: emily.smith.2013@live.rhul.ac.uk

Twitter: @_emilycsmith

Many thanks,

Emily Smith

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