Introduce and discuss the term “refugee” as a class:

What is a refugee?
What circumstances might cause somebody to flee his or her home?
What circumstances might prevent a person from doing so?
What are examples of refugees from the present day?

Let students explore this page of the website or pre-assign Reading: Fragile Roots.

Students independently read the document in the “Fragile Roots” dossier titled:
“Do’s and Don’ts for Refugees.”

In pairs, students respond to the following questions:

What does the document recommend refugees do? Don’t do?
Who do you imagine produced and circulated the document?
How do you imagine a refugee would respond to the document?
What does the document reveal about the society in which it was produced?
Introduce and discuss the term “refugee” as a class:

What is a refugee?
What circumstances might cause somebody to flee his or her home?
What circumstances might prevent a person from doing so?
What are examples of refugees from the present day?

Let students explore this page of the website or pre-assign Reading: Fragile Roots.

Students independently read the document in the “Fragile Roots” dossier titled:
“Do’s and Don’ts for Refugees.”

In pairs, students respond to the following questions:

What does the document recommend refugees do? Don’t do?
Who do you imagine produced and circulated the document?
How do you imagine a refugee would respond to the document?
What does the document reveal about the society in which it was produced?

© 2012, Vancouver Holocaust Education Centre. All Rights Reserved.

Walter Igersheimer was among the first German Jewish students to arrive in England in 1933. By 1940, he had “begun to feel so at home [he] could not imagine wanting to live or practice medicine in any other country.”

Refugees lived in agricultural training centres, boarding schools, private homes and hostels across Great Britain. After Kristallnacht, Britain granted entry to 5,000 male refugees between the ages of 18 and 45 who had been released from concentration camps under the provision that they would emigrate from Germany. They were housed in Kitchener Camp, a deserted First World War army camp.

Refugees were aided by relatives and well-meaning individuals, as well as Jewish, Christian and non-denominational agencies. Many of the young refugees came from affluent families and were unaccustomed to the living conditions in British working class homes. Feeling unwelcome, some tried to assimilate quickly by hiding their Jewish roots and perfecting their English.

The refugees banded together to maintain a semblance of home and many tried to further their education and careers while awaiting an uncertain future. While creating self-help Read More
Walter Igersheimer was among the first German Jewish students to arrive in England in 1933. By 1940, he had “begun to feel so at home [he] could not imagine wanting to live or practice medicine in any other country.”

Refugees lived in agricultural training centres, boarding schools, private homes and hostels across Great Britain. After Kristallnacht, Britain granted entry to 5,000 male refugees between the ages of 18 and 45 who had been released from concentration camps under the provision that they would emigrate from Germany. They were housed in Kitchener Camp, a deserted First World War army camp.

Refugees were aided by relatives and well-meaning individuals, as well as Jewish, Christian and non-denominational agencies. Many of the young refugees came from affluent families and were unaccustomed to the living conditions in British working class homes. Feeling unwelcome, some tried to assimilate quickly by hiding their Jewish roots and perfecting their English.

The refugees banded together to maintain a semblance of home and many tried to further their education and careers while awaiting an uncertain future. While creating self-help organizations to support each other financially as well as emotionally, the young men desperately tried to find escape routes for their family and friends still in Europe.

© 2012, Vancouver Holocaust Education Centre. All Rights Reserved.

One half of page tells refugees what to do, and the other, what not to do while in Britain.

An advisory published by the Bloomsbury House outlining to German refugees the “DO’s and DON’T’s” of living in Britain during the war.

Courtesy The Wiener Library, Published by the Central Office for Refugees in Bloomsbury House

© 2012, Vancouver Holocaust Education Centre. All Rights Reserved.


Begin by introducing the term “enemy aliens.” As a class, students discuss what they think it might mean.

Introduce contextual information for the outbreak war, the perceived possibility of a German invasion, and anxieties about “fifth columnists,” or spies.
Let students explore this page of the website or pre-assign Reading: “Enemy Aliens.”

Copy and distribute copies of Document: “Refugee from Nazi Oppression Certificate” and Document: “Application for Consideration by Joint Recruiting Board.” Each student should have one document.

In journals, students reflect on what their document reveals about Britain’s treatment of “enemy aliens.” Use the following questions as prompts:

What is the document’s function?
Who do you think produced and circulated the document?
How do you imagine the recipient would have responded to the document?
What does the document reveal about the society in which it was produced?

Students work in pairs – each student with a different document – to discuss their journal entries. As a cl Read More
Begin by introducing the term “enemy aliens.” As a class, students discuss what they think it might mean.

Introduce contextual information for the outbreak war, the perceived possibility of a German invasion, and anxieties about “fifth columnists,” or spies.
Let students explore this page of the website or pre-assign Reading: “Enemy Aliens.”

Copy and distribute copies of Document: “Refugee from Nazi Oppression Certificate” and Document: “Application for Consideration by Joint Recruiting Board.” Each student should have one document.

In journals, students reflect on what their document reveals about Britain’s treatment of “enemy aliens.” Use the following questions as prompts:

What is the document’s function?
Who do you think produced and circulated the document?
How do you imagine the recipient would have responded to the document?
What does the document reveal about the society in which it was produced?

Students work in pairs – each student with a different document – to discuss their journal entries. As a class, debrief Britain’s policies toward “enemy aliens” as reflected by the documents.

© 2012, Vancouver Holocaust Education Centre. All Rights Reserved.

Following the outbreak of the Second World War in September 1939, the British government established tribunals to determine which German and Austrian nationals over the age of 16 posed a threat to national security. Meanwhile, the press fueled anxieties about “fifth columnists” (enemy spies) among the populace.

The tribunals, generally presided over by a county court judge or King’s Counsel, heard 73,000 cases. Only 569 were deemed “Category A” – a “significant risk” – and immediately incarcerated. The 6,700 classified as “Category B” were designated as “friendly enemy aliens” and a “slight risk.” They were restricted to travelling no more than fives miles from their homes and were forbidden to own cameras and bicycles. Approximately 66,000 were classified as “Category C” and judged to pose no risk to national security. Within this group, 55,000-60,000 were Jewish and declared to be “refugees from Nazi Oppression.”

The tribunals were hastily convened and informal affairs that used arbitrary guidelines, prompting criticism from many. In his 1940 bo Read More
Following the outbreak of the Second World War in September 1939, the British government established tribunals to determine which German and Austrian nationals over the age of 16 posed a threat to national security. Meanwhile, the press fueled anxieties about “fifth columnists” (enemy spies) among the populace.

The tribunals, generally presided over by a county court judge or King’s Counsel, heard 73,000 cases. Only 569 were deemed “Category A” – a “significant risk” – and immediately incarcerated. The 6,700 classified as “Category B” were designated as “friendly enemy aliens” and a “slight risk.” They were restricted to travelling no more than fives miles from their homes and were forbidden to own cameras and bicycles. Approximately 66,000 were classified as “Category C” and judged to pose no risk to national security. Within this group, 55,000-60,000 were Jewish and declared to be “refugees from Nazi Oppression.”

The tribunals were hastily convened and informal affairs that used arbitrary guidelines, prompting criticism from many. In his 1940 book, The Internment of Aliens, François Lafitte argued: “We [should] discriminate not between Britons and aliens or ‘enemy aliens’ and ‘friendly aliens’ but between those who stand for freedom and those who stand for tyranny in every country. ... The real ‘aliens’ are the ‘Nazis of the soul’ of all countries including our own.”

© 2012, Vancouver Holocaust Education Centre. All Rights Reserved.

Walter Igersheimer’s Refugee from Nazi Oppression certificate.

Walter Igersheimer’s “Refugee from Nazi Oppression” certificate, London, 1940.

Courtesy Walter W. Igersheimer

© 2012, Vancouver Holocaust Education Centre. All Rights Reserved.


Text document, Eric Koch’s Application for Consideration by Joint Recruiting Board.

Eric Koch’s “Application for Consideration by Joint Recruiting Board,” February 16, 1940. Koch is classified as a “refugee from Nazi oppression” by the government rather than an “enemy alien” on his application to become an officer in the British infantry.

Courtesy Eric Koch

© 2012, Vancouver Holocaust Education Centre. All Rights Reserved.


In pairs (or, as computers access permits, individually or in groups), students view Video: Collar the Lot, which features recollections of former internees about their sudden arrests as “enemy aliens” and internment in Britain. Students should watch the video twice; on the first viewing, students watch and listen carefully, while on the second viewing, students should note the incidents described by the interviewees.

As pairs or groups, students discuss their notes generated in response to the video and consider the following questions:

•    How are the stories of arrest similar? Which one struck you most and why?
•    How long did the individuals believe that they would be interned?
•    How did the individuals respond to their internment?
•    What were the conditions of the British internment camps?

As a follow up, students read the pages of the website titled “Calling on the Colonies” and “Restricted Immigration” to lear Read More
In pairs (or, as computers access permits, individually or in groups), students view Video: Collar the Lot, which features recollections of former internees about their sudden arrests as “enemy aliens” and internment in Britain. Students should watch the video twice; on the first viewing, students watch and listen carefully, while on the second viewing, students should note the incidents described by the interviewees.

As pairs or groups, students discuss their notes generated in response to the video and consider the following questions:

•    How are the stories of arrest similar? Which one struck you most and why?
•    How long did the individuals believe that they would be interned?
•    How did the individuals respond to their internment?
•    What were the conditions of the British internment camps?

As a follow up, students read the pages of the website titled “Calling on the Colonies” and “Restricted Immigration” to learn about how Canada came to accept the internees, and about Canadian polices toward Jewish refugees at the time.

© 2012, Vancouver Holocaust Education Centre. All Rights Reserved.

In early 1940, the British Cabinet debated about whether to intern German “enemy aliens,” including refugees from Nazism.

Stage a debate in the classroom, as a “4 Corners Debate.” Students are to engage in the debate as if is the spring of 1940, when the threat of a German invasion of Britain seemed likely.

Present students with the statement: Britain should intern all German nationals, including refugees of Nazism.

Ask students if they agree or disagree, and to write a paragraph or list of points explaining their opinion. In the meantime, post four signs around the room: Strongly Agree, Agree, Disagree and Strongly Disagree.

Ask students to stand under the sign that describes their opinion. Allow for debate; encourage students to justify and explain their position; students are able to move between positions.

Debrief the process. Consider how the debate would be different if argued from the perspective of the present day. In the post-debate discussion, consider how shifting historical perspectives affects understanding of the issues.
In early 1940, the British Cabinet debated about whether to intern German “enemy aliens,” including refugees from Nazism.

Stage a debate in the classroom, as a “4 Corners Debate.” Students are to engage in the debate as if is the spring of 1940, when the threat of a German invasion of Britain seemed likely.

Present students with the statement: Britain should intern all German nationals, including refugees of Nazism.

Ask students if they agree or disagree, and to write a paragraph or list of points explaining their opinion. In the meantime, post four signs around the room: Strongly Agree, Agree, Disagree and Strongly Disagree.

Ask students to stand under the sign that describes their opinion. Allow for debate; encourage students to justify and explain their position; students are able to move between positions.

Debrief the process. Consider how the debate would be different if argued from the perspective of the present day. In the post-debate discussion, consider how shifting historical perspectives affects understanding of the issues.

© 2012, Vancouver Holocaust Education Centre. All Rights Reserved.

In March 1940, British Home Secretary Sir John Anderson stated:

“The newspapers are working up feelings about aliens. I shall have to do something about it, or we will be stampeded into an unnecessarily oppressive policy. It is very easy in war time to start a scare.”

Students write a journal response to this statement. They then research other historical or contemporary moments where wartime panic led to the persecution of a particular group. Students describe the perceived threat and the policies or actions undertaken as a response, and formulate a written response defending or arguing against the policies.
In March 1940, British Home Secretary Sir John Anderson stated:

“The newspapers are working up feelings about aliens. I shall have to do something about it, or we will be stampeded into an unnecessarily oppressive policy. It is very easy in war time to start a scare.”

Students write a journal response to this statement. They then research other historical or contemporary moments where wartime panic led to the persecution of a particular group. Students describe the perceived threat and the policies or actions undertaken as a response, and formulate a written response defending or arguing against the policies.

© 2012, Vancouver Holocaust Education Centre. All Rights Reserved.

Learning Objectives

Use Primary Source Evidence
Students analyze documents relating to Britain’s policies regarding German nationals following the outbreak of the Second World War, as well as the testimonies of former internees.

Take Historical Perspective
Students consider the idea of classifying and interning “enemy aliens” from the perspective of the British in 1940.

Understand the Ethical Dimensions of History
Students reflect on Britain’s decision to arrest and intern all German nationals.

Identify Continuity and Change
Students research other groups that have been “enemy aliens” during Canada’s wars. Did the policies change? Did the thinking change?

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