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Jerry Springer with parents documents

​Jerry Springer with his parents' documents (centre) with Linda Rosenblatt and James Libson from World Jewish Relief

A Story of Survival: the World Jewish Relief archives project

Introduction

World Jewish Relief launched its archives project in Autumn 2015.

Previously known as the Central British Fund for German Jewry, World Jewish Relief was founded in 1933 initially to raise resources to assist Jewish communities fleeing Nazi oppression in Europe. Before, during and after the Second World War, tens of thousands of children and adults came to the UK from Nazi-occupied Germany and Austria. A case file was opened for each person by World Jewish Relief in the 1930s and 40s. The files are available, for free, for family members who wish to find out more. For more information visit the World Jewish Relief website.

World Jewish Relief partnership with LMA

The World Jewish Relief archives project is a culmination of a partnership between World Jewish Relief and London Metropolitan Archives (LMA) which looks after the archives of World Jewish Relief including the original case files. World Jewish Relief, with funding from the Otto Schiff Housing Association, the Rothschild Foundation Europe and the Association of Jewish Refugees, enabled the creation of a detailed index to the files, basic preservation work, and digitisation. LMA was very pleased to work with World Jewish Relief on this project to secure the future of these unique and internationally important records.

The two year project got underway at LMA early in September 2012 with the appointment of two catalogue editors to compile the index and carry out basic preservation (removing metal paper clips, placing loose papers within folders, and other repackaging and labelling.) The index took twenty months to complete and was worked on by four members of staff over the course of the project. They indexed over 35,000 files which filled 660 standard archival boxes on 99 linear metres of shelving. After the indexing had got underway, a digital assistant was appointed for 18 months to digitise the files producing 220,850 individual scans in the course of their work. The project also involved the digitisation of the microfilm of 315,191 alphabetical registration slips and the painstaking naming of the resulting images. Following the completion of the project in September 2014, the index and scans were handed over to World Jewish Relief with backup copies retained at LMA for security and safekeeping.

LMA worked with World Jewish Relief throughout the project to keep it up to date on developments and to keep funders and other partners informed of progress. This included an event in February 2013 when the project was presented to a range of interested parties and including one of the people whom World Jewish Relief had helped who spoke very movingly about her personal experience.

The case files

The case files consist of:

  • ACC/2793/numerical series: German series
  • ACC/2793/A: Austrian Series
  • ACC/2793/DP: Displaced persons
  • ACC/2793/REC: Chief Rabbi’s Emergency Relief Council Series

The files in the German series (ACC/2793/numerical series) and Austrian series (ACC/2793/A) document the German and Austrian Jewish refugees who arrived in the UK both before and during the Second World War. They record the assistance provided by the Jewish Refugees Committee (JRC) to each individual as well as giving brief details of their experiences prior to arriving in the UK and how they adapted to their new lives. Many of the files also note if they re-emigrated. The files relate to those arriving in the UK on valid visitor and work permits, as well as those who arrived illegally after having fled the continent after the outbreak of the war. A number of the files relate to children who came to Britain as part of the Kindertransport movement. These files provide information on their parents, where they came from, what transport they arrived on, where they stayed upon their arrival in the UK and what employment (if any) they took up. The files often include forms of personal identification such as passports and certificates of identity, as well as photographs and personal correspondence.

The Displaced Persons files (ACC/2793/DP) document the arrival and subsequent movements of children who had survived the concentration camps and were brought the United Kingdom for rehabilitation, training and eventual re-emigration abroad. Most of these children arrived on transports from Czechoslovakia or Belsen-Bergen. The British government granted visas allowing 1000 children who had survived the concentration camps to enter Britain. Originally they were granted only temporary residence in the expectation that they would re-emigrate to countries such as America, Canada, Australia and Palestine. While a large proportion of the children did emigrate, a number of them remained in Britain becoming naturalised and eventually British citizens.

The Chief Rabbi’s Emergency Relief Council series (ACC/2793/REC) contains case files relating to children who were originally brought from Europe to the United Kingdom and Ireland in Kindertransports organised by the Chief Rabbi’s Religious Emergency Council. Responsibility for the children was transferred from the Chief Rabbi to the JRC in 1949.

Indexing methodology and file content

The indexers extracted the case number, name, covering dates and whether a Kindertransport case, from each existing case file, and added notes about the contents of the files and any cross references. The clerks had done an excellent job in keeping records up to date when other members of subject’s family later became subjects themselves and case numbers for relatives and spouses were clearly written on the main file, along with clarification of the relationship which greatly helped the indexers.

The notes record interesting material within the files. For example, there are numerous references to various tragedies and events throughout the war, from the sinking of the Arandora Star and the controversy of the St. Louis, to the transport of internees to Australia on the HMT Dunera, which provide a more in depth understanding of these events.

There are a number of files relating to the residents of the Kitchener Camp at Richborough, their experiences, support, and eventual re-emigration/enlistment in the army. Kitchener Camp was a former army camp in Sandwich in Kent. It was adapted by the Council of German Jewry to house mostly single Jewish men from Germany and Austria who had been released from concentration camps in the aftermath of the infamous November Pogrom on the proviso that they would leave Germany immediately, often without their families.

The files also show that many refugees attempted to trace family members. There are many cases of young refugees searching for their parents. Enquiries were made via correspondence with other individuals and organisations such as the Red Cross. There are many cases where individuals are informed of the death of family members or relatives in concentration camps.

It is evident therefore that the files are rich with a wide range of information not only useful for personal family history research. The files provide excellent insight into the workings of and relationship between the JRC, the Home Office, and other refugee organisations. They also provide information on the social conditions in Britain after the war, the support system provided by the JRC and the difficulties of readjusting to normal life after the ordeals both adults and children went through. Additionally, much can be learnt about the re-emigration process and the systems and processes set up to search for lost family members.

The World Jewish Relief archive project

The hundreds of thousands of digitised document pages produced as a result of the collaboration with LMA can be easily searched by World Jewish Relief, downloaded and emailed to the families of the people they supported over 70 years ago. There is no charge for this service which is run by World Jewish Relief volunteers. For more details about how to apply for a search please visit the World Jewish Relief website.

Jerry Springer with parents Richard and Margot

​Jerry Springer (right) with his parents Richard and Margot

In July 2015, the popular American television host Jerry Springer attended a private dinner to support World Jewish Relief, where he spoke of the effect of the Holocaust on his family: 27 members were murdered by the Nazis. Linda Rosenblatt, World Jewish Relief’s Vice-Chair, presented Jerry with a copy of his parents’ immigration documents created by the Central British Fund in 1939.

Jerry Springer said: “I was deeply touched when I received the records of my parents’ WWII immigration. These papers are a piece of family history which I will treasure forever. I am delighted to support the organisation which helped my parents in 1939. World Jewish Relief is still doing critical life-saving work around the world some 70 years later. I am grateful that World Jewish Relief is making available this important archive and I hope the tens of thousands of families World Jewish Relief helped will discover the records of their families also.”

Linda Rosenblatt said: “We are immensely grateful to Jerry Springer for giving his time to us and supporting our archive project. We want to make these family records available, without charge, to the Jewish community around the world. I urge anyone who thinks we might have helped their family to get in touch.”

Important note: Access to the case files is through World Jewish relief website websiteonly.

Additional information

Other archives of World Jewish Relief are available for research at London Metropolitan Archives. Further details can be found on LMA’s online catalogue using the reference ACC/2793.

To find out more about all Jewish records held at LMA, go to the LMA Collections catalogue and browse the archive by the category name 'Jewish Organisations'. You can also read our research guide Records of the Anglo-Jewish Community at LMA for a general guide.

Published:
14 October 2015
Last Modified:
16 September 2019

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