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The Central British Fund for World Jewish Relief

Joan Stiebel

<plain_text><page sequence="1">The Central British Fund for World Jewish Relief* JOAN STIEBEL A genealogical tree for the Central British Fund with its various suffixes would look very odd, for the most important of its children was born two months before the parent. I refer, of course, to the Jewish Refugees Committee, formed as the Jews Tempor? ary Shelter in March 1933 to help the first victims of Nazi oppression. There was no other organiza? tion equipped to do this, and Otto Schiff, the then President of the Shelter, founded it as the first refugees from Germany arrived and had nowhere to go. It seems appropriate to open this paper by mentioning the man to whom, to quote Leonard Montefiore's tribute to him on his retirement, 'more than any other man or woman was due the honour of securing the entry to this country of many thousands of human beings in peril of their lives at the hands of the Nazi Gestapo'. The trust he earned at the Home Office, with whom he had been in contact as early as the First World War in connec? tion with the Belgian refugees, stands the Jewish Refugees Committee and the Central British Fund in good stead to this day, and no one who worked as closely with him as I did will ever cease to be grateful for all he taught us of humanity and compassion. I went to Otto Schiff as his Private Secretary in his stockbroker's office in the City in May 1933, and my life was changed, for that was how I became involved in the work in which I consider it a privilege still to be engaged. As the situation became more acute, Neville Laski, President of the Board of Deputies, Leonard Montefiore, President of the Anglo-Jewish Associ? ation and Otto Schiff, went to the Home Office and an omnibus undertaking was given that no Jewish refugee admitted to this country would fall a charge on public funds. This guarantee was officially withdrawn after the Austrian Anschluss, except for cases sponsored by the Jewish Refugees Committee, but in practice it was maintained until the outbreak of war. The economic position and unemployment in the United Kingdom in the early 1930s was such * Paper delivered to the Society on 13 lune 1979 that it did not seem possible to absorb large numbers of refugees. All the same, those who were concerned with the problem - Jews and Christians alike - pressed for increased immigration facilities, both here and in our overseas territories. In April 1933, Jewish shops in Germany were boycotted and Jewish public feeling in this country ran high. Various organizations suggested appeals and, in order to prevent duplication, it was decided that the Central British Fund for German Jewry under the presidency of the Chief Rabbi, Dr Hertz, the first Marquis of Reading, Lionel de Rothschild, Dr Nahum Sokolov and Dr Chaim Weizmann should be set up to launch an appeal. At that time, only an Allocations Committee was formed and it was not until the end of 1934 that the Central British Fund was incorporated. It was agreed at the outset that, because of the benefit which German Jews were deriving from the institutions created by the Zionist Organization in Palestine and because of the agreement of the Keren Hayesod to suspend its collecting activities in this country during the appeal, an amount equal to the average annual sum raised in England for the Keren Hayesod should be voted for their work in Palestine. The initial Committee consisted of three Zionist representatives and three non-Zionists, with an independent chairman in the person of the late Sir Osmond d'Avigdor Goldsmid. This formula was followed as the numbers on the Council increased. It was not until 1957, when Oscar Joseph became chairman, that this artificial division in the Council was changed. The original members included Anthony de Rothschild, Sir Osmond d'Avigdor Goldsmid, Dr Chaim Weizmann, Leonard Monte? fiore, Otto Schiff, Harry Sacher and several other distinguished leaders of Anglo-Jewry. The appeal which was launched in May 1933 reached a figure of just over ?200,000 by March 1934. Emphasis was placed throughout on the retraining and resettlement, particularly of younger people, in Palestine. After a meeting of the League of Nations Committee of International 5i</page><page sequence="2">52 Joan Stiebel Assistance to Refugees, at which Otto Schiff represented the Central British Fund, and some additional pressure from Jewish organizations, including the cbf, the first High Commissioner for Refugees coming from Germany, James McDonald, was appointed in October 1933. However, the High Commissioner's authority was limited. He was not responsible to the League itself, but to a governing body consisting of representatives of twelve govern? ments interested in the German refugee problem. Throughout the six years before war broke out, help was given by the Central British Fund to the Jewish community in Germany, and special for? eign-exchange arrangements were made with the consent of the Bank of England which were benefi? cial to the German Jewish community. Visitors from there to Central British Fund Council meetings were frequent. In 1935, a letter from the late Max Warburg, head of the Hamburg Jewish community, read at one of these meetings, outlined a ten-year plan for the emigration of the young. Little did he or anyone at that meeting know that ten years later the war would have been won and six million would have perished. This was quickly followed by a report from another visitor from Germany on the effect of the Nuremberg Laws which had deprived the Jews there of the rights of citizenship and produced an acceleration of their distress. The prospect of large-scale emigration from Germany loomed much nearer. Following this, it was decided that a far greater effort must be made to carry out a programme of regulated emigration over a period of years. Out? lines of a plan were prepared by Simon Marks and agreed at a meeting of the heads of Anglo-Jewry. To achieve its object of facilitating the departure of 25,000 mainly young persons a year for 4 years, and settling them partly in Palestine and partly in other overseas countries as well as in Europe, it was agreed that a fund of ?3 million should be raised over 4 years, the Americans to provide ?2 million and the British community, through the Central British Fund, ?1 million. The Central British Fund for German Jewry was to be merged in a larger Council, on which the principal bodies dealing with the problems would be represented. A provisional committee was constituted under the chairman? ship of Sir Herbert Samuel and he, together with the second Lord Bearsted and Simon Marks, went to the United States in January 1936 to consult with the leaders of the American Joint Distribution Com? mittee and the United Jewish Appeal in America. Thus the Council for German Jewry was established and was representative not only of the United Kingdom and America but of other countries. The legal entity, however, continued to be the Central British Fund for German Jewry and, to save confu? sion, I shall refer to the organization as the cbf. Norman Bentwich, referring to this appeal which, in this country and the Dominions brought in ?800,000 immediately, writes: 'The collection of millions of pounds for a Jewish charitable cause was a new development but it was to become a per? manent feature of Anglo-Jewish and American Jewish society for years to come . . .' It was agreed that ?175,000 should be provided for emigration to Palestine, but there were now many other calls on the cbf and its American counterpart. Emigration in 1936 increased considerably, roughly 24,000 coming out. Jews were fleeing across borders into countries with common frontiers with Germany, and the small communities in them needed help which both the cbf and the American Joint Distri? bution Committee gave. Immigration into Palestine had increased from 9553 in 1932, to 61,854 in 1935, and it was to increase still further. There were constant appeals at this period to the Foreign Office by members of the cbf and others for approaches to be made to the German government to allow emigrants to bring out at least some of their assets, but every scheme submitted to the German government failed and the emigrants were literally robbed of assets which would have made them more acceptable immigrants to governments the world over. James McDonald had resigned as High Commis? sioner, making clear in his widely publicized letter that only an organization directly under the auth? ority of the League of Nations could now cope with the German-refugee problem, a view the refugee organizations shared. It also pointed out in detail the measures of persecution employed against Germany's Jewish and non-Aryan population. A new High Commissioner, Sir Neil Malcolm, was appointed in 1936 and was charged with conven? ing an international conference whose main pur? pose was to define the legal status of refugees coming from Germany. His office was in London</page><page sequence="3">Central British Fund for World Jewish Relief 53 and, indeed, London was the centre of international endeavour in helping German Jewry. It was realized early on that there were many academics of very high calibre amongst the refu? gees. The Academic Assistance Council (later the Society for the Protection of Science and Learning) was formed in April 1933, largely on non-Jewish initiative, to help this group. The cbf worked closely with it and assisted financially. From the outset, there was close cooperation in all spheres with other bodies, notably the Quakers, working largely for so-called non-Aryan Christian refugees. Through the period from 1935 to 1938, help was given in many directions, but the first call on the funds was to meet the needs of the Jewish Refugees Committee in the United Kingdom, resettlement in Palestine and, of course, assistance to the Jewish communities in Germany through the Reichsvertre? tung. At the time of the Anschluss, there were approximately 11,000 people registered with the Jewish Refugees Committee, but by the outbreak of war that figure had reached over 60,000. Attempts were made when the Nazis took over Austria to assist the Austrian Jews through the German Embassy in London, the Foreign Office and finally the British Embassy in Vienna. All was to no avail, although the help which the British Passport Control Officers and Consuls gave both in Germany and Austria was exemplary. Assistance was given by the cbf to the Kultusgemeinde in Vienna, but it was a mere palliative. The introduction of visas for people coming to this country from Germany and Austria followed the Anschluss and, indeed, there were divided opinions in this country on the whole problem. Joshua Sherman writes: 'The clash of pro-refugee and anti-refugee opinion in Britain as reflected in the press formed a counterpoint to the diplomatic minuet which was about to proceed at Evian, a minuet which concealed one basic unpala? table fact: no country, in any part of the world wanted to add to its population destitute and demoralised outcasts A conference was held in Evian in July 1938 at the suggestion of President Roosevelt. The United States, which had stopped immigration after the world economic crisis in the early thirties, announced the reopening of their gates and conso? lidation of German and Austrian quotas which would make 27,370 visas available in any one year. Furthermore, it urged the establishment of an intergovernmental committee in London for the resettlement of refugees, which was agreed. The Munich crisis, when war seemed imminent, found men and women who had arrived here as refugees coming forward anxious to take their part in any struggle against Hitler and registering at Blooms bury House, the London headquarters of the cbf, for national service. But, in the event, Chamberlain compromised and a temporary, uneasy peace remained. The mass immigration of Jews from Austria as well as Germany was, by October 1938, taxing the resources of the cbf and Jewish Refugees Committee to the limit, when in November a young Polish Jew (whose parents had been deported) shot and fatally wounded the third Secretary of the German Embassy in Paris. This was the official excuse for the organized pogrom in Germany and Austria on 9 and 10 November - Kristall? nacht - and the last terrified flight from the Reich started. It was agreed that every effort must be made to bring out as many people as possible and this effort was concentrated on the children. The Refugee Children's Movement was established, a non-deno? minational body which saved over 9000, not all Jewish, and was, at its inception, largely financed from monies collected through the general appeal made by Lord Baldwin. The Government decided to admit all children and, in his speech to the House of Commons when this had been agreed, the Home Secretary Sir Samuel Hoare said: 1 venture tonight to take the opportunity of commending this effort to my fellow countrymen in general. Here is a chance of taking the young generation of a great people, here is a chance of mitigating to some extent the terrible sufferings of their parents and friends.' As early as 7 December a deputation from the cbf led by Viscount Samuel informed Lord Winterton, Chairman of the Intergovernmental Committee for Refugees, that it was convinced that Jews remain? ing in Germany were in immediate peril of physical destruction and asked that camps be set up in Britain and elsewhere to rescue refugees and retrain them for overseas settlement. Lord Winter ton was obviously much concerned and saw the prime minister and the chancellor of the exchequer to put before them 'the views of these very influen? tial Jews, who represent everything that is best in</page><page sequence="4">54 Joan Stiebel British Jewry.' Despite the fact that the United Kingdom, then, as now, was not a country of immigration, and it was very difficult to get labour permits, the authorities gave every help. The procedures of the Home Office were streamlined in order to speed up the admission of transmigrants, trainees, domestics and refugees over the age of 60-a scheme evolved by the Jewish Refugees Committee which undoubtedly saved many lives, as did the opening of Kitchener Camp at Richbor ough to house and train up to 3 500 males between the ages of 18 and 35. A special Cabinet Committee on Refugees was set up by the government to keep the whole question under review. At that time, fleeing refugees were stranded in ports and boats, mainly in Europe. The most notable was the ss St Louis, which had taken 907 refugees to Cuba on costly landing permits issued by Cuban immigration. On arrival, they were informed that these had been cancelled and they were refused entry. No country in South or North America would take them and they wandered desperately from port to port. Finally, Belgium, Holland and France agreed to take two thirds, if Britain would take one third. This, after an impassioned cabled plea from the Passenger Committee, they agreed to do and the cbf assumed financial responsibility towards the authorities. This was, however, under? written by the American Joint Distribution Com? mittee. The invasion of Czechoslovakia by the Nazis in March 1939 brought more and more refugees to these shores, including many Jews. The govern? ment provided ?4 million for the relief of Czech refugees in general, and the Czech Refugee Trust was created, Jews - where they qualified - benefit? ing as well as non-Jews. The establishment, at the request of the Home Office of a Co-ordinating Committee for Refugees under the chairmanship of Lord Hailey, brought the various refugee com? mittees together in Bloomsbury House early in 1939. The cooperation was strengthened; the help which the non-Jewish Committees gave was con? siderable. During the six years of its existence, the cbf had frequently been short of money, but massive emig? ration from Germany had brought a totally differ? ent dimension to the needs. Shortly before the war it became necessary to arrange borrowing facilities, and these were provided by the Prudential Assur ance Company which lent the Fund ?356,000, secured by future instalments and tax repayments accruing to it and by a guarantee from the Rothschilds. Soon after war broke out, the Christian Council for Refugees made a loan of ?25,000 to the Council. It was now evident that it would be increasingly difficult to raise funds by voluntary effort and, supported by the Christian Council for Refugees, the cbf approached the government for financial assistance. The negotiations were pro? longed and eventually succeeded with the active support of Sir Herbert Emerson, the High Commis? sioner for Refugees. But in December 1939, Anthony de Rothschild, chairman of the cbf, informed the Permanent Under-Secretary Sir Alex? ander Maxwell that if help was not forthcoming, the Refugee Committee must close down on the follow? ing Monday - or at latest a week later - and put people on local rates. On condition that the cbf itself raised some funds, the government made a grant and, indeed, insisted that the voluntary organiza? tions must continue. The Central Committee for Refugees was established to administer the govern? ment grant in aid. It was representative of the various refugee committees and had on it three government nominees. The grant, which literally saved both the cbf and the Jewish Refugees Committee, was originally 50% of the expenditure of the voluntary organizations from 1 January 1940, in addition to a block grant of ?100,000 to cover the expenditure from the out? break of war to that date. From 1 October 1940, however, the government grant was increased to 100% of the cost of maintaining refugees on a scale assessed by the Assistance Board and 75% of the cost of administration, welfare and immigration. The payments to the refugees and the control of the work was left in the hands of the voluntary organizations, a departure from the usual proce? dure of government when making 100% grants, which was to insist on complete control. The government grant in aid continued until 1949 and, in the case of certain special expenditure, 1950. The outbreak of war saw the end of the cbf's first chapter and the start of the second. Its work underwent a radical change as, although another appeal was needed, it had, of necessity, to be a limited one. The Keren Hayesod gave notice at the end of 1939 that it did not wish to renew its</page><page sequence="5">Central British Fund for World Jewish Relief 5 5 arrangements concerning the appeal with the cbf and proposed to make its own drive, but, in fact, it did not do this until 1941. Some Jews from Germany and Austria were able to leave for the United States and Palestine. In this country special shipping facilities were provided through the government and something over 6000 emigrated in 1940, mainly to the usa. Although the staff of the Jewish Refugees Com? mittee which had numbered over 600 was halved, and its records and half its remaining staff were evacuated, it was kept busy first by the Aliens Tribunals which classified these so-called 'Enemy Aliens' and, later, after the fall of the Low Countries, by the problems of Special Areas and then Intern? ment. In due course, release followed, and enlist? ment in the Alien Pioneer Corps and work of national importance - sometimes of a very humble nature - gave those who had the greatest reason to hate the Nazi regime the chance of fighting against it. The refugees' contribution to the war effort is perhaps known, although the benefit which the arrival of the whole group brought to this country is sometimes forgotten. However, there were also those who could not work and needed care, such as the old, the sick and the children. Among them were a large number of transmigrants who were awaiting their quota number for America when war broke out, and they could not leave. This added to the financial burden of the Jewish Refugees Committee. In 1942, news began to come out of Europe of atrocities being perpetrated by the Nazis. As early as 1940 the Allied Governments in exile established a council to prepare for relief and rehabilitation on a massive scale as soon as the Allied armies freed their various countries. The council, in turn, set up an Inter-Allied Bureau which was directed by British civil servants. The big voluntary organiza? tions in this country then pressed for a part in the relief operations once hostilities ceased. Because the government was concerned to have only one overall body dealing with this work, the Council of British Societies for Relief Abroad (cobsra) was formed to work in cooperation with the Inter-Allied Bureau. All the large voluntary organizations, such as the British Red Cross, St John's, the ymca and ywca, the Salvation Army and so on, were in? cluded, and the cbf also became a member. By that time, following a conference called in 1943 through the initiative of a committee appointed by the Joint Foreign Committee of the Board of Depu? ties and the Anglo-Jewish Association, the Jewish Committee for Relief Abroad had been set up and it, too, joined cobsra. The cbf accepted full financial responsibility for this committee's operations, although later it received a substantial grant from the Foreign Office. At the end of the war the cbf had three principal activities. In the first place, through the Jewish Refugees Committee, it still had some responsibility for pre-war refugees, many of whom were now able to obtain naturalization and most of whom had become financially independent. Secondly, there was the work of the Jewish Committee for Relief Abroad. A first team of workers had left for Cairo in the early part of 1944, and, after working in the desert, had moved to Italy and, later, some of the team moved on to Greece. Their work continued after the war ended when it transpired that despite the mass murders which had taken place there were still a substantial number of survivors, amounting to well into six figures. These unfor? tunate people were housed in camps pending their resettlement, and responsibility for their main? tenance was in the hands of unrra and, later, the International Refugee Organization, working in conjunction with the military authorities, but it was realized that additional help was required from the voluntary organizations, in order to boost the morale of the Displaced Persons living as they were in very primitive and often cramped conditions. The Jewish Committee for Relief Abroad speeded up its recruitment and, at one time, had 125 workers in the field. Some of them were qualified doctors and nurses, but others were largely untrained, moti? vated by a desire to be of assistance. In Austria, Italy and the American zone of Germany they were attached either to unrra or the American Joint Distribution Committee and, in the British zone of Germany, where the Jewish Committee for Relief Abroad's principal efforts were concentrated, it had its own team. The Jewish Committee for Relief Abroad maintained its activities until the creation of the State of Israel and then, as the number of emigrants increased, gradually wound up. The cbf's third post-war activity began when it decided to ask the Home Office for permission to</page><page sequence="6">56 Joan Stiebel bring some of the orphan children who had been in concentration camps to this country, an undertak? ing in which the Friends Committee for Refugees and Aliens cooperated. Permission was given for iooo children to come, but only 732 arrived. The early days of that particular project must still be fresh in the minds of those of us who were deeply involved in it. Rehabilitating young people who thought that the first meal they were given when they were settled in the Reception Centre on Lake Windermere would also be the last, and smuggled bread out under their jerseys, was not always easy. It was a long hard haul back to normal living for those who had survived under conditions such as they had known. The arrivals at Windermere were only the first. Two more transports came, one to Southampton and one to Belfast. After the initial screening, came the dispersal to hostels and, even? tually lodgings in various parts of the country. The age-limit set by the authorities had been sixteen, but many proved to be older. Not all of them remained here permanently. Some went to the Western Hemisphere and a not inconsiderable number to Israel, but many of those who settled in this country have made an outstanding contribu? tion in the arts, the academic world and in business. In an entirely different sphere, one of our Joint Treasurers, Ben Helfgott, twice represented the United Kingdom in weight-lifting in the Olympics. It was, I think, due to his initiative that the '45 Aid Society was set up, with the idea of helping those of its members who needed assistance. In addition, it now helps the cbf as well as other organizations. There was a fourth dimension to the cbf's immediate post-war work, and that was the finan? cial assistance which it gave in the rebuilding of Jewish life on the Continent which had been almost totally destroyed. Naturally, fresh leaders appeared in various communities to replace those who had perished. The cbf's help was mainly connected with the restoration of religious and communal life and the care of orphan children and destitute students. The Anglo-Jewish community can be proud that it played its part, through the cbf, in ensuring the continuation of such communities which are now, as is the cbf, members of the European Council of Jewish Community Services. All these activities necessitated funds, and it was decided that an appeal for ?1 million should be launched early in 1945- A second appeal was made in 1947, result? ing in a total, from the two campaigns, of ?1,600,000. It was not only in this country and Europe that events were affecting the course of the cbf's work. The riots in Aden in 1947, when the synagogue, Jewish schools and shops were burned down and over 100 Jews were killed, saw the beginning of the Jewish exodus, although it was not until twenty years later that the last Jews left. This was the beginning of cbf help to communities in Arab countries which, through political events, have needed aid of one kind or another ever since. At that time this continuing assistance could not be fore? seen; on the contrary, the cbf began to plan its demise. Although there were those who urged that it must continue to exist and become, as the American Joint Distribution Committee had done earlier, a general overseas relief body, the majority of the Council felt that it had been formed for one purpose and that purpose was completed. Negotia? tions were begun for the permanent communal bodies to take over the welfare of the pre-war refugees. Discussions went on from 1948 to 1951, when it was finally decided to close down the appeal and gradually to wind up its activities. By 1956, the distribution of any ultimate surplus funds to bodies taking over responsibility for the refugees had been agreed. Even before the end of the war, the possibility of eventually reclaiming property misappropriated by the Nazis, and claims for suffering, was exercising the minds of a number of lawyers, themselves refugees. It was realized that many victims would not be able to afford to engage individual lawyers, and to meet this difficulty the United Restitution Organization was established in London in 1948, with the cbf providing the first working capital. In the event, this body was successful in recovering very substantial amounts. Two organizations, the Jewish Restitution Successor Organization, and the Jewish Trust Corporation were established to re? claim the heirless and communal forfeited property in the American and British zones of Germany - there was also a French branch of the Jewish Trust Corporation to deal with property in the French zone - and the cbf took a leading role in the Jewish Trust Corporation which recovered dm 160,500,000, of which almost a quarter-dm</page><page sequence="7">Central British Fund for World Jewish Relief 5 7 28,000,000 - was made available in this country for the benefit of former refugees. Here I should mention the several old-age homes, the block of flatlets and the home for mental after-care which have been established with these funds, and which are run with the assistance of the Association of Jewish Refugees, by the cbf. These have provided homes for the victims of Nazi oppression in their old age or time of special need. The cbf was also a founder member of the Conference on Material Claims against Germany which comprised 23 worldwide organizations and whose duty it was to distribute to persons and organizations in the diaspora some Si 15 million over a period of years. The aftermath of the war had left many unsolved problems. Not the least of these were those Dis? placed Persons still in camps in Europe whom it had not been possible to resettle. At the request of the Home Office, Foreign Office and the International Refugee Organization, the British Council for Aid to Refugees was established to look after refugees already in this country and to bring over refugees and Displaced Persons, of whom the first were the 2000 dps from Europe the government agreed to accept. The cbf joined this body and undertook responsibility for 50 Jewish hard-core cases from the camps, in an effort to help clear them. World events can change plans overnight, and that was what happened when the Russians walked into Hungary after the uprising towards the end of 1956 and tens of thousands fled, coming however they could to Vienna, crossroads for so many frightened people. The cbf gave immediate help. Money was sent to the kultusgemeinde in Vienna for Hungarian relief; two workers went out to assist the American Joint Distribution Committee and preparations were made to help those Jews who came to this country, numbering finally about 2000. All the Hungarians were taken to reception camps and the Lord Mayor of London launched an appeal. The British Council for Aid to Refugees assumed overall responsibility, but following some anti-semitic incidents in the camps asked the cbf to arrange for the Jews to be accommodated else? where. The Hungarian flight was quickly followed by the Egyptian exodus after the Suez incident. Again, oddly enough, there were about 2000 Jews. They were mainly expellees and British subjects, although there were others. Later, the Home Office gave the cbf permission to bring over a stateless group who had ties with this country, on condition that the Fund guaranteed their maintenance. This particular operation was accomplished with the assistance of the International Red Cross, under whose auspices a non-Jewish social worker went to Egypt to interview those who wanted to come here. The flight of Hungarians and Egyptians started a series of movements out of North Africa and, later, Eastern Europe, which not only changed the demo? graphy of the world Jewish community but, once again, left Jewish refugees dependent on interna? tional Jewish help for their very existence. This, in its turn, changed the direction of the cbf's work. It could no longer say that it was only created to help the victims of Nazi oppression, but had to be prepared to help Jewish refugees wherever they were. It could not even wait until some disaster occurred before giving help. At a council meeting in November 1958, a policy committee was set up and, as a result of its recommendations, it was officially decided in January 1959 that the cbf should continue and that, after providing for the care of Jewish refugees who had found or might in the future find sanctuary in this country, certain priorities for help overseas should be set. The third chapter in the cbf's history had begun; a whole new area of endeavour opened up for it, but it had made no appeal for six years, and resusci? tation is more difficult than continuation. More? over, other appeals had started and competition in the fund-raising field was fierce. The scheme devised by four young members of the Bow Group, notably Christopher Chataway and Timothy Raisen, to draw world attention to the plight of refugees everywhere and to raise funds to help them, resulted in the creation of World Refugee Year. About the same time, the cbf, ort ('Organiza? tion for Rehabilitation through Training') and ose ('Jewish Health Organization') decided on a joint appeal to the Anglo-Jewish community, using the title corra. It was felt that this was right for it meant only one appeal for overseas - as opposed to purely Israel - relief; it was also hoped that it would strengthen the fund-raising efforts of the organiza? tions. World Refugee Year, on the British com? mittee of which all three bodies were represented, helped. It was an outstanding success in this</page><page sequence="8">58 Joan Stiebel country, the total raised here being in excess of ?9 million. Of this sum corra collected approximately ?220,000. But the marriage between the three organizations did not last long, ort withdrew two years later, although ose remained cbf's partner in appeal and in 1975 merged with it, and became its Medical Committee. Those of us who had hoped for great things from the joint appeal, and a more disciplined attitude to Jewish communal fund-rais? ing in this country, were disappointed. In moving into the wider field of relief and resettlement, the cbf became involved in other organizations: the European Council for Jewish Community Services, set up to help rebuild Con? tinental Jewry, become self-supporting; the Inter? national Council on Jewish Communal and Welfare Services, established as an international base for Jewish relief, which now has consultative status with the Economic and Social Council of the United Nations and its related agencies; and the Standing Conference of Refugees formed here after World Refugee Year to maintain the cooperation between all refugee bodies in this country. Since the cbf's inception, it had worked closely with the American Joint Distribution Committee and, indeed, members of the latter's committee and staff had attended the cbf council meetings. With the cbf's enlarged scope, however, this cooperation became much closer and, through its various operations in Eur? ope, the cbf also became involved with the relief committees on the Continent. The early 1960s saw the flood of refugees to France, starting with those from Tunisia, many of whom had been evacuated from Bizerta and Menzel Bourguiba. The departure of roughly half the European population after the end of the civil war in Algeria included about 120,000 Jews. Emigration from Morocco to Canada in particular had started in 19 5 7, and now Jews came, too, to France, largely in transit for Israel. French Jewry, which before the war had numbered about 300,000, perhaps 90,000 at the end of the war and, in 1955, was back to its pre-war level, more than doubled in a relatively short time. There had been little tradition of communal philanthropy in France, but the community did its best to assist the newcomers and the central organization, the Fonds Social Juif Unifie, organized a massive reception operation in conjunction with the French government and other voluntary agencies. Nevertheless, without the help of the cbf and, to a much larger degree, the American Joint Distribution Committee, it would have been quite unable to face such a huge task. It seems ironical that France, which has certainly not been helpful to Israel, is the only other country which has, up till now, accepted Jewish refugees, wherever they came from, without question. The 1967 War brought new problems for the cbf, but in the early stages the part it played was a different one. It was asked by the Israel Embassy to collect much-needed blankets and other supplies, and to this day I cannot walk down Drummond Street, where we had our depot, without recalling the first consignment which was dispatched. It was taken to the docks by taxi drivers who refused payment, who found the dock gates which should have already been closed held open for them by the police, and the goods they brought were loaded on to the boat which was about to leave, by dockers who should have been off duty but who had stayed behind to help in this errand of mercy. The problems, however, concerned the 20,000 Jews in Egypt. Men between the ages of eighteen and fifty-five, and often older, were put into prison, tortured and generally ill-treated. Some were released as a result of intervention by foreign governments, some were allowed to come here to join relatives on cbf's guarantee. For many, how? ever, it was several years before they were finally released. The invasion of Czechoslovakia by the Russians, after the Dubcek government had begun liberaliz? ing many policies there, started yet another exodus. The Jewish community there was small, but never? theless 8% of those who left were lewish. The Western powers reacted at once and accepted those who fled from the invasion. In this country, apart from the newcomers, there was a large group of Jewish students who suddenly found themselves penniless and who turned to the Jewish Refugees Committee for help. Oscar loseph, the chairman of cbf, went to Vienna immediately after emigration started, and help was given with the work which was being done there for the refugees. In 1967, a new exodus of Jews from Poland had started, brought about by a fresh explosion in anti-semitic propaganda. This increased and reached a crescendo in 19 70 when it was estimated</page><page sequence="9">Central British Fund for World Jewish Relief 59 that 4000 Jews left between September and December. Academics, professionals, businessmen and civil servants who had always considered themselves Polish Communists first and foremost, suddenly found themselves deprived of their liveli? hood and left. Temporary asylum was given in Vienna and Rome, pending arrangements being made for their future. Some went to Israel, some came here. Many went direct from Poland to Sweden and Denmark. The upheaval in Iraq in 1968 and 1969 also reacted on the Jewish community. In January !9D9, 15 people were hanged, 9 of them Jews. Some governments immediately offered to provide those of the remaining Jews - between 3000 and 3500-who wanted to leave with passports, but the Iraqis would not give them exit visas. In the summer of that year, they said they would allow lews to emigrate, and 1500 registered. The cbf approached the Home Office who immediately agreed to admit those with relatives in the United Kingdom, on the Fund's guarantee for their main? tenance, but the Iraq government did not allow any Jews to leave. On the contrary, many were arrested and some were taken to the prison known, with reason, as the Palace of No Return. However, late in the summer of 1970, a small group managed to escape illegally, with the help of the Kurds, into Iran. Other groups followed, but these escapes were stopped by the snows which blocked the mountain passes. In December 1970, 18 more Jews were executed and the position of the community became increasingly difficult until finally the Iraqis started to issue passports. In all 600 people had visas for this country, although perhaps a third went elsewhere. But the work which the cbf, in its new role, undertook, was not confined to those fleeing from persecution. It was also concerned with the aged, the sick, the needy and the children of many countries, including North Africa, Iran and Syria as well as the Falashas in Ethiopia and the Bene Israels in Bombay. Natural disasters such as the floods in Florence and Romania and the earthquakes in Agadir, Yugoslavia and Romania necessitated im? mediate aid. In its early days, the cbf had worked closely with the Keren Hayesod and other bodies in Palestine and had given a great deal of help to refugees going to that country. Because of the many calls upon it and the fact that the United Palestine Appeal (now the jia) was raising very large sums exclusively for Israel, the cbf had not, since the end of the war, given help to Israeli projects. However, in 19 71 it was decided that some continuation of the assistance which had been given to groups, mainly North African, in their countries of origin should be extended to them in Israel. Consequently, pilot welfare-projects and special programmes for physically handicapped immigrants have been sup? ported over the years. In 19 71 the cbf's activities moved still further into Eastern Europe. The American Joint Distribu? tion Committee had been allowed to return to Romania and it became possible to assist the community there. Just as needy were the sick and aged in other Iron Curtain countries where assist? ance could be given through a specially created Swiss organization of which cbf was a founder member. Emigration of Jews from the ussr had over the years been very small, there being no right of departure in the Russian constitution, but in 19 71, after the Brussels Conference, a larger group-some 13,000-were allowed to leave for Israel on the basis that they were going to their homeland. Applications for exit visas poured in, and in 19 73 nearly 3 5,000 were given. The price of this concession was and is heavy, both in terms of payment for exit visas and in human terms. It is usual for an applicant to lose his or her job or to be demoted when applying for an exit visa and it may be years before they can leave. Even this does not deter applicants, and in 1978, after several lean years following the peak in 1973, over 29,000 came out. From the start of this emigration there have been some people who wanted to go elsewhere than Israel, and if the Jewish Agency are satisfied that they will not change their minds after several interviews on their arrival in Vienna, they are sent to Rome for processing for the country of their choice. The cbf has three workers in Italy at the moment, helping with the large number of transmi? grants waiting there for visas. The majority of this group want to go to the usa. Having referred to the small pre-war quota of visas available, it is interest? ing to record that following some piecemeal legisla? tion after the war concerning refugees, America in 1965 incorporated into the regular immigration laws a provision for refugees, although at present it</page><page sequence="10">6o Joan Stiebel is limited to those from communist countries and the Middle East. Little did I think, when asked to read this paper a year ago, that another group of refugees would be added to our list. I refer to the Jews from Iran for whom we are naturally all concerned, particularly since the execution of Mr Elganian for so-called crimes to which was added that of 'Zionism'. The Home Office has asked that all applications from Iranian Jews who are here and want to stay should be concentrated through the cbf. It has also given permission to the cbf to bring over one family, and others are being considered. Had it not been for the sympathetic help of the Aliens Department at the Home Office throughout the lifetime of the Fund, it would have been impossible for it to assist as it has done. At the cbf dinner in September 1969, Lord Goodman said: 'Nothing more dreadful can befall a human being than to be uprooted from his home. We are witnessing whole Jewish communities in flight from persecution . . . The Central British Fund can provide these people not only with material help but also with a sense of hope for the future in their bleak present.' That is what I believe the cbf and the Jewish Refugees Committee are doing today for their newest group of refugees. Their work changes over the years, but they have already written several pages in Anglo-Jewish history and, I fear, will have to live on to write more. ACKNOWLEDGMENTS In the first place I want to thank Oscar Joseph who has done so much to help me get my material into shape and has himself been responsible for parts of the paper. Without his encouragement I doubt if it would ever have been finished. Secondly, I would like to say that I have drawn very freely on, and in places quoted from two books: They Found Refuge, by the late Norman Bentwich, and Island Refuge, written by Joshua Sherman after the official government records of the early period of cbf's existence became available to the public.</page></plain_text>

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