lady painting


Feb 2002 Journal

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University to research Manchester refugees' history

The hitherto untold story of the settlement in Manchester and its environs of German-speaking Jewish refugees from Nazi persecution in the 1930s, and their impact on the religious, social, cultural and economic life of the city, is to be researched for the first time and a book resulting from the research is to be published. This exciting project, which has been initiated and supported by the AJR, is being undertaken by the University of Manchester.

Werner Lachs, Chairman of AJR's Northern Group, recommended that the 60th anniversary of the AJR be marked with a commitment to produce a history of Britain's second largest community of refugees from Nazi Europe. The Centre for Jewish Studies at the University of Manchester was approached to carry out the project and, following proposals from the department's co-director, Professor Bernard Jackson, and discussions with AJR's Northern Group and head office, the university has now commenced the project.

Research programme

The two-year research programme will centre on the experiences and impact of refugees from Hitler's Europe who settled in Manchester and its environs between 1932 and 1940. It will recall their European backgrounds and their hurried exodus and arrival in Manchester, tell of their personal experiences before, during and after the Second World War, and describe the work of the agencies which offered them help. The study will evaluate the refugee community's influence on both the established Jewish community and the city of Manchester, and look at patterns of settlement, cultural activity, religious affiliation and personal identity in contemporary Manchester.

An enormous amount of untapped source material exists in Manchester, including extensive oral history archives and a collection of photographs at the Manchester Jewish Museum, papers relating to refugees, held mainly at the Manchester Central Reference Library, newspaper collections, mostly at the John Rylands University Library, as well as personal papers, autobiographies and institutional archives. A number of refugees will be invited to interview.

Historian of Manchester Jewry

Although German Jews have, in the main, insisted on preserving their own special identity, few localised studies have been made. Certainly, no one has previously considered the experience of the German-Jewish population in Manchester, despite the fact that it contained the second largest settlement of German-Jewish refugees in Britain and still boasts the largest AJR group outside London.

The project team is to be supervised and co-ordinated by the highly-respected historian of Manchester Jewry, Bill Williams, who has undertaken to write the history resulting from the research. AJR members, scholars and others will be invited to attend seminars at which the progress of the research will be evaluated. The project will make a major contribution to recording the history of German-Jewish refugees in Britain and should arouse considerable interest in all concerned with the progress of minority communities in this country.
Ronald Channing

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