Palgrave Macmillan, £9.99 Order (free p&p) on 0870 079 8897
The Refuge and the Fortress, By Jeremy Seabrook
A gut-wrenching view of the changing face of refugee Britain
This well-researched book marks the 75th anniversary of the Council for Assisting Refugee Academics (Cara). It charts British reactions to refugees, from 1915, when passports were required, to the present. While the emphasis is on fugitive scholars, a broader insight is given into those seeking asylum here.
Most of the historical background is devoted to academics escaping Nazi persecution, including Gombrich, Freud, Einstein, Popper and Pevsner. Jeremy Seabrook makes the point that Hitler's loss was Britain's and the Americas' intellectual gain. As well as focusing on Jewish immigrants, he reminds us of complex cases, the most extraordinary being that of the Communist Klaus Fuchs, a gentile who found refuge here but later gave the Soviets details on the hydrogen bomb.
Seabrook captures the miserable atmosphere of pre-war and wartime Britain and the indifference of most people, but also records acts of kindness that alleviated feelings of estrangement. He reveals the two faces of Britain: one officially hostile to immigrants, and one that welcomes the individual. Although he is implicitly critical of the government's unwillingness to allow entry to all who applied during the Hitler years, he shows how Cara, the Quakers and others bent the rules to facilitate entry.
Disappointingly, there is no critique of the White Paper that limited Jewish entry into Palestine under the British Mandate. Ernest Bevin's draconian decision resulted in the loss of thousands of lives in the Nazi death industry. Apart from this convenient amnesia, there are fascinating connections that link the saving of top brains from Nazi Europe to the next wave of refugees.
Salvadore Allende's Chile gave hope for the country's intellectuals, but the US-backed murder of democracy by Pinochet in 1973 resulted in wide-scale torture. Linking the l930s to the l970s, Seabrook describes Helen Bamber's journey, from helping those who came out of Belsen to aiding those who survived Pinochet's terrorism.
Testimony from those tortured worldwide gives a modern, often gut-wrenching view of asylum-seeking. This is a stimulating book that should be read by all who mask the truth behind sensationalist headlines.
Arts & Ents blogs
Even though there was a complete absence of our favourite odd couple Brienne and Jaime, we got anoth...
If you had any doubt where Binky gets her brilliantly brassy disregard for social graces, episode se...
Kate Simko is a lady who has constantly worked towards to pushing herself musically. Though she make...
This is the end... Keyboard player of The Doors Ray Manzarek dies of cancer aged 74
Coronation Street triumphs over EastEnders at British Soap Awards 2013
School-gate mums: 2013's Fifty Shades
Andy Warhol's 'Jewish geniuses' still fuelling debate
Arrested Development returns but can the new episodes capture the show's glory days?
- 1 Tottenham to smash pay scale with £150,000-a-week contract in attempt to tie Gareth Bale to club
- 2 Austerity has hardened the nation's heart
- 3 Gay couple beaten in park urge MPs to moderate language on gay marriage
- 4 Be more professional! GCHQ staff rapped as WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange reveals messages that he says point to 'fit up'
- 5 Top A&E doctors warn: 'We cannot guarantee safe care for patients anymore'
BMF is the UK’s biggest and best loved outdoor fitness classes
Find out what The Independent's resident travel expert has to say about one of the most beautiful small cities in the world
Win anything from gadgets to five-star holidays on our competitions and offers page.