Saturday, December 2, 2017

I'm Jewish, Desperate - Get Me Out! German-Austrian Refugees of 1938-39

September 1st, 1939 was the beginning of the war in Europe. As in most countries that ultimately experience crisis, there are those that sense the impending doom long before its time. For those of German Jewish descent, this was especially true.

Britain was particularly generous in allowing Jewish refugees from the German/Austrian areas. However, as in most emigrant situations, they had to arrive having a domestic service job awaiting them, have a temporary British Visa stating they would move on to another country, or a Permit of Guarantee. (Children could be placed in the Kindertransport program of which we will discuss later).

The Permit of Guarantee was purchased by a British citizen (typically an unknown benefactor) for the cost of 50 pounds. Fifty pounds in 1939 was equivalent to £3079 pounds in 2017, a sum not easily paid.

For those without benefactors, placing an ad in the Times of London was the next best attempt to escape Nazi Germany. Well educated couples, many of whom had never provided domestic service, did their best to convince British families that they could tend their household needs.

This practice continued until September 1, 1939, when Germany was closed to emigration.

If you are searching your ancestors who may have escaped beforehand, here are a few associations you may wish to visit:

  • The National Archives is working diligently to create databases for those who escaped WWII by emigrating to Britain and other countries through Visa, or classified ads.
  • Research of children placed for emigration through the Kindertransport program can be found on FamilySearch.org, though they state it isn't complete (and may never be due to lost documentation).
  • The Hamburg Passenger Lists, 1850 to 1934, provide a database for those who departed Hamburg Germany for other parts of the world.

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