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
Tuesday 02 December 2008
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.
Grace Dent on TV The Secret Life of the Pub is sexist, ageist and a breath of fresh air
Art Megumi Igarashi criticises Japan's 'backwards' attitude to women's sexual expression
tv Singer could become the most unlikely star of Westeros
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 I've been called an abusive and dangerous parent, when all I did was listen to my transgender child
- 2 Migrant crisis: Greek soldier saved 20 people singlehandedly off Rhodes beach
- 3 Sofyen Belamouadden murder: The inside story of a crime that horrified Britain
- 4 Company breaks open Apple Watch to discover what it says is 'planned obsolescence'
- 5 Ian Brady: Moors murderer announces his support for Ukip and the SNP
Poldark episode 8, review: How a costume drama became a Sunday night swoon-fest
Al Pacino admits he was nearly fired from The Godfather and it's still his most 'difficult role'
Warner Music owner Len Blavatnik tops Sunday Times Rich List
The day I starred in Only Fools and Horses
Peter Kay’s Car Share, TV review: The perfect vehicle for Kay’s comic talents
General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
The sickening truth about food banks that the Tories don't want you to know
Migrant boat disaster: Ukip candidate mocks victims in sickening Twitter post
Nigel Farage wants the BBC to stop making programmes like Doctor Who, Strictly Come Dancing, and Top Gear
Global warming: Scientists say temperatures could rise by 6C by 2100 and call for action ahead of UN meeting in Paris
General Election 2015: Britain would become a 'communist dictatorship' under Ed Miliband and Nicola Sturgeon, claims wife of Michael Gove