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Manchester and the rescue of the victims of European fascism, 1933–1940
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Between 1933 and 1940, Manchester received between seven and eight thousand refugees from Fascist Europe. They included Jewish academics expelled from universities in Germany, Austria, Spain and Italy. Around two hundred were children from the Basque country of Spain evacuated to Britain on a temporary basis in 1937 as the fighting of the Spanish Civil War neared their home towns. Most were refugees fleeing Nazi persecution in Germany, Austria and Czechoslovakia. As much as 95% of the refugees from Nazism were Jews threatened by the increasingly violent anti-Semitism of the Nazi regime. The rest were Communists, Social Democrats, Pacifists, Liberals, Confessional Christians and Sudeten Germans. There have been several valuable studies of the response of the British government to the refugee crisis. This study seeks to assess the responses in one city—Manchester—which had long cultivated an image of itself as a ‘liberal city’. Using documentary and oral sources, including interviews with Manchester refugees, it explores the work of those sectors of local society that took part in the work of rescue: Jewish communal organisations, the Society of Friends, the Rotarians, the University of Manchester, secondary schools in and around Manchester, pacifist bodies, the Roman Catholic Church and industrialists from the Manchester region. The book considers the reasons for their choices to help to assesses their degree of success and the forces which limited their effectiveness.

The Manchester International Club
Bill Williams

Bill Williams’ essay takes the opportunity of a unique study of the Manchester International Club to demonstrate the cosmopolitan tendencies in the city in the 1930s. The Club represented the first time that anyone had thought to give Manchester’s tradition of tolerance a local, practical and institutional form, and the essay explores the objectives and achievements of the founders of the Club. Williams records the city’s earlier history of pacifism and liberal internationalism in the early twentieth century, manifest in Manchester branches of various other organisations. The specific rationale for the International Club was to provide for Manchester’s foreign population, as well as to promote ‘a real understanding of other peoples’. The structure and governance of the Club is discussed, and some of the issues debated explored, through archival and other documents, as well as its relationship with the British Council. The Club served various populations, including foreign students, refugees and members of the armed forces.

in Culture in Manchester
Refugee industrialists in the Manchester region
Bill Williams

In September 1967, Dr Heinz Kroch, the German-Jewish refugee from Berlin who thirty years earlier had founded the Lankro Chemical Company in Eccles, was presented by the Mayor of Eccles with a casket and scroll to honour his admission to the Roll of Freemen of the Borough. The whole episode may perhaps be seen as a continuance of those ritual exchanges, engineered on both sides, which, from the mid-nineteenth century, sought to define the relationship between Manchester Jewry and the civic authorities of the locality. In 1967 Eccles, a time and a place troubled by newer waves of immigration, the corporation and the refugee were effectively laying claim to a heritage of reciprocity. For its humanity, the town had been rewarded by the contributions of the stranger; by his contributions, the stranger had confirmed his right to be British; a Jewish German had become an Eccles cake.

in ‘Jews and other foreigners’
Manchester Quakers and refugees, 1933–1937
Bill Williams

In earlier years, the problem for the Quakers was that of reconciling their objective of international harmony with the rescue of Jews from Germany, one of the chief national fields of their welfare services and missionary endeavour. In their eyes, too, the rise of Nazism, and the economic crisis and sense of national humiliation which had helped bring it about, were largely a consequence of Britain's treatment of Germany at the Versailles conference. Germany's reaction to this treatment, even if part of that reaction was an unacceptable anti-Semitism, was a natural consequence. The Manchester Quakers sought to retain a friendly relationship with Germany, including an annual exchange of students, until the outbreak of war. While the London Quakers were prepared from 1933 to lend organised support to refugees seeking a way out, their Manchester co-religionists were reluctant to follow suit.

in ‘Jews and other foreigners’
Manchester and the Basque children of 1937
Bill Williams

In applying immigration law, the British government made the occasional concession and its agents at the ports of entry their occasional mistake. The British public had apparently become persuaded by 1937 that the regulations contained in the Alien Acts represented a valid and minimal defence of the ‘national interest’. The temporary and conditional admission of the Basque children suggests the very limited impact which even as potentially explosive a mix of international events, popular sentiment and voluntary action, such as that which came to exist in the spring of 1937, might exert on public as well as governmental perceptions of the national interest. It seems clear from the imagery and language surrounding discussions of the Basque children that notions of Britain's humanitarian tradition floated freely within the whole of Britain's political spectrum.

in ‘Jews and other foreigners’
The Manchester Jewish Refugees Committee, 1939–1940
Bill Williams

The decisive factor which drew provincial communities into the more systematic rescue of refugees was the escalating number of those seeking entry to Britain following the Anschluss (March 1938), the German occupation of the Sudetenland (October 1938), the Kristallnacht pogrom (9 November 1938), the British government's decision to facilitate the entry of unaccompanied children on the Kindertransport (21 November 1938) and the German annexation of Bohemia and Moravia (March 1939). As the sources of emigration multiplied and the Jews of Germany became finally convinced of the permanence of the Nazi regime and the centrality of its anti-Semitic intentions, Britain received around 70,000 refugees, of whom a little over one-tenth reached Manchester. As the number of refugees swelled, the London agencies of support, Quaker and Jewish, in danger of being overwhelmed by the case work and financial commitment involved, applied increasing pressure on provincial centres to share the load.

in ‘Jews and other foreigners’
The Manchester Quakers and refugees, 1938–1940
Bill Williams

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 1938, the ISC declared itself ‘seriously concerned with the need to help the increasing number of refugees in this country’. 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. 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 transports to Harwich, and arranged for the children to be met and befriended in London and Manchester.

in ‘Jews and other foreigners’
The Manchester branch of the KPD
Bill Williams

In taking responsibility for refugees from Czechoslovakia, the Quakers were brought into contact with political refugees, Communists and Social Democrats, brought to Britain by the Czech Refugee Trust Fund. Some of them were experienced members of the German KPD who, following the emergence of the Nazi regime, had taken refuge in Prague. Some had been sent on what turned out to be unproductive missions to Germany for just this purpose. Arriving in Britain in 1938, their political skills enabled them to re-group and to work for the rescue of their comrades still trapped in Czechoslovakia. One such group of KPD members, helped by the Quakers, found its way to Manchester, where it sought to provide their comrades with a means of escape. In doing so, they concealed their Communist identities in the hope of enlisting the support of the Quakers and of influential Manchester liberals.

in ‘Jews and other foreigners’
The Catholic Church in Salford and refugees
Bill Williams

The Quakers were the only organised body of Christians in Manchester to take collective measures for the rescue of the victims of Nazism. Individuals of the Christian faith—Methodists, Congregationalists and Unitarians—were to be found in refugee support organisations and amongst the advocates of tolerance towards refugees, but the branches of Christianity to which they belonged engaged in no concerted action on the refugees' behalf. For the Roman Catholic Church in the Salford Diocese, it was a matter of principle. Whatever the feelings of their congregants, the hierarchy of the Church in Salford was disinclined to put itself out in the rescue of refugees, particularly those of Jewish origin. The response of the Roman Catholic Church to refugees was particularly shaped by the Church's response to the rise of Fascism.

in ‘Jews and other foreigners’
Rabbi Dr Solomon Schonfeld and Manchester
Bill Williams

The same meeting of the MJRC on 6 December 1938 to which Arthur Kershaw had been invited to outline his plans for a hostel in south Manchester was attended by another group of friends, this one led by Eli Fox, with proposals for the creation of a hostel to the north of the city. They had links to Chief Rabbi's Religious Emergency Council which was the organisational base for the ‘manifold activities’ of the ‘inspired idealist’ and maverick British orthodox rabbi, Dr Solomon Schonfeld. Whether by design or by the chance circumstances of their origins, the two hostels created came to represent the two poles of Manchester orthodox observance.

in ‘Jews and other foreigners’