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Nazi Persecution: Britain's Rescue of Academic Refugees

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  14 April 2011

Ralph Kohn*
14 Harley Street, London W1G 9PQ, UK. E-mail:


In the 1930s, as the power of the Nazis grew, many leading German academics and scholars sought refuge in other countries, including. the UK, the USA and many countries in Europe. Some of the refugees were already well known for their achievements, such as Einstein, Fermi, Schoenberg, Bartok, Brecht and Weill. The more established figures had easier access to those countries offering them refuge, whereas others at that time had fewer choices. The Academic Assistance Council in London and the Royal Society played a significant role in helping academic refugees find places in universities and other institutions where they could continue their research. The USA favoured distinguished academics, whereas the UK and other European countries were more open to younger academic refugees, who would subsequently make their name. There was, however, also opposition from various quarters, including State Department officials in the USA and certain British Noble Lords. Without the dedication and determination of many establishment figures on both sides of the Atlantic, the wealth of talent that had until that time been nurtured in Germany would have been lost. This article describes some of the prominent British figures who played such a significant and, as it turned out, life-saving role during this crucial period.

Focus: Academia Europaea: Founders and Founding Visions
Copyright © Academia Europaea 2011

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References and Notes

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Further Reading

Bentwich, N. (1959) The Rescue and Achievement of Refugee Scholars (The Hague: Martinus Nyhoff).Google Scholar
Beveridge, Lord (1959) A Defence of Free Learning (Oxford: Oxford University Press).Google Scholar
Lanouette, W. with B. Szilard (1992) Genius in the Shadows: A Biography of Leo Szilard, The Man Behind the Bomb (Chicago: University of Chicago Press).Google Scholar
Minnion, J. (2004) Hitler's Degenerates: An Illustrated Guide to Degenerates (Liverpool: Checkmate Books).Google Scholar
Seabrook, J. (2009) The Refuge and the Fortress: Britain and the Flight from Tyranny (Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan).CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Snowman, D. (2002) The Hitler Emigrés (London: Chatto & Windus).Google Scholar