Equality and Human Rights Framework

Jewish people interned in the UK in the 1940s reflect on detention

Monday 25 April 2016

A video published by René Cassin- an organisation which promotes universal human rights drawing on Jewish experience and values- shows ex-internees reflecting on their experience of detention in the 1940s.

The video was brought to our attention by anti-detention campaign group Right To Remain, who Tweeted:

Text in the video explains: in the years preceding the Second World War approximately 80,000 German, Austrian, and Czechoslovakian refugees, many of them Jewish, found sanctuary in Britain. In May 1940, the British government under Winston Churchill first decreed the internment of male 'enemy aliens' between the ages of 16 and 60. He then issued the notorious order to 'collar the lot'. This ultimately caused the internment of some 27,000 people, including many who had been found by a tribunal to be 'genuine refugees'.

In the video, interviewee Fritz Lustig remarks of his journey to the internment camp:

"When we had arrived on Douglas, on the Isle of Man, there were people lining the streets, watching us being marched to the station, who obviously did not know who we were because they demonstrated a very hostile attitude which made us feel very uncomfortable.

[...] At the beginning of my internment I felt that I had to make some anti-internment gesture...the idea I had was that I might grow a moustache- not shave my upper lip at all...and the day before I left the internment camp to join the British army I shaved my upper lip for the first time, so that I could start my life as a British soldier without a moustache.

I don't think it was necessary to itnern us [...] we had been delcared so-called friendly enemy aliens' therefore after we had been vouched safe, why were we suddenly considered danerous? It was just a measure that was caused by the right-wing popular papers".

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