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Mar 2004 Journal

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Archiving Jewish refugees' cultural contribution

A specialist team from the Centre for German-Jewish Studies at the University of Sussex, led by Professor Edward Timms, is to undertake a timely three-year project cataloguing and recording the German-Jewish refugee contribution to British cultural life from 1933 to 1950. Funded by a £320,000 grant from the Arts, Humanities and Research Board, the entire 'archive of archives' will be made freely accessible on a website database which will provide details of the locations and contents of collections of letters, diaries, papers and photographs of German-speaking Jewish refugees and their families.

Among refugee ranks will be those who gained distinction in the worlds of music, science, the arts, politics and entertainment, as well as many more who led less publicly exalted lives but possess equally valuable documentation of their experiences during a tumultuous historical period.

The project also aims to illuminate the role played by individual British citizens whose actions saved the lives of thousands of Jewish refugees from Nazi persecution, bearing in mind the British establishment's failure to take any significant action until 1938. Professor Timms further explained: 'It is hoped that the database will not only serve as a valuable research tool and record of the past, but that it will also offer a model for present and future refugee communities wishing to record and preserve their own experiences.'

A similar project recently undertaken by the Centre, funded by the British Academy, catalogued sources related to the Kindertransport. The new project, much wider in scope, will demonstrate the constructive contribution the refugees brought by dint of knowledge, skills, hard work and commitment, to serve in HM forces, support the war effort and, with the advent of peacetime, participate in the advancement of Britain's economy, education, science, industry and cultural development.

Refugee Voices, a unique project being financed and managed by the AJR and now in the second of its three years, is a collection of structured interviews on videotape to produce an authoritative archive of the experiences and recollections of members of the refugee and survivor community in all parts of the country and all walks of life. To be available in electronic and manuscript formats, Refugee Voices will be lodged in leading research and public institutions including the Jewish Museum, the Wiener Library and the University of Sussex.

Those wishing to offer papers for the database please contact Dr Andrea Hammel or Samira Teuteberg at the Centre for German-Jewish Studies, Arts B, University of Sussex, Falmer, Brighton BN1 9QN Email: s.teuteberg@sussex.ac.uk
Those wishing to gain more information on AJR's Refugee Voices project should write to Dr Anthony Grenville at the AJR offices.
Ronald Channing

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