We built up our lives : education and community among Jewish refugees interned by Britain in World War II

Bibliographic Information

We built up our lives : education and community among Jewish refugees interned by Britain in World War II

Maxine Schwartz Seller

(Contributions to the study of world history, no. 92)

Greenwood Press, 2001

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Includes bibliographical references (p. [247]-253) and index

Description and Table of Contents


Fearing an imminent Nazi invasion, the British government interned 28,000 men and women of enemy nationality living in Britain in the spring of 1940. Most were Jewish refugees who, having fled Nazi persecution, were appalled to find themselves imprisoned as potential Nazi spies. Using oral histories, unpublished letters and memoirs, artifacts and newspapers from the camps, and government documents, We Built Up Our Lives tells the compelling story of sixty-three of these internees. It is a seldom-told part of the history of World War II and the Holocaust and a classic tale of human courage and resilience. We Built Up Our Lives describes the survival mechanisms relied upon by the Jewish refugees. Although the internees, imprisoned in Britain, the Isle of Man, Canada, and Australia, were adequately housed and fed and rarely mistreated, they were cut off from family, friends, school, and work--everything that had given meaning to their lives. Resisting boredom, anger, and despair, the internees made the best of a bad situation by creating education, culture, and community within the camps. Before and after as well as during the internment--in Nazi Germany and in Britain--educational resources and social networks were essential to the refugees' efforts to build up their lives. Equally important were personal qualities of courage, ingenuity, assertiveness, and resilience.

Table of Contents

Introduction "We Had to Go"--Life in the Third Reich From Refugees to Internees Making the Best of It Community and Culture Education in the Men's Camps Education in the Women's Camp Getting Out and Looking Back Bibliography Index

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