Anglo-Jewish rescue and relief efforts, 1938-1944
Recent scholarship has focused on the response of Jews in the free world to the plight of European Jewry in Nazi-occupied Europe. The work of Anglo- Jewish refugee organisations in facilitating the arrival of over 50,000 refugees in Britain between 1933-1939 has been variously chronicled as a model of charitable endeavour and a half-hearted effort cramped by insecurity and self- interest. More consistently, scholars argue that Anglo-Jewry failed to respond to the catastrophe of the war years with the resolution and vigour that might have saved more lives. This thesis takes issue with the current consensus on both the pre-war and war periods. Anglo-Jewry was a confident, well-integrated community which tackled the escalating problems of refugee immigration in the 1930s with common sense and administrative expertise born of a long tradition of communal charity. Its achievement is all the more remarkable measured against the scale of the disaster, the constraints of government immigration policy regulations and the organisations' own chronic lack of funds. By contrast, the Anglo-Jewish organisations were hamstrung during the war years by their political naivete and inexperience in dealing with government officials. Although their administrative skills remained valuable in areas of relief work such as internment and parcel schemes, their preoccupation with the Jewish humanitarian issue prevented them from grasping the military and logistical implications of their proposals. Misreading the language of diplomacy, they doggedly pursued aims which were in practice, if not in theory, unrealistic. Unlike most previous literature on the record of Anglo-Jewry during this period, this thesis eschews both the didactic and speculative approaches to historical interpretation. Instead of attempting to apportion blame, or to answer hypothetical questions of responsibility, it offers an evaluation based on the evidence available. The thesis examines the quality and scope of rescue and relief work, both of organisations and individuals. What was done, rather than what should have been done, is the focus of attention.