We Built Up Our Lives: Education and Community Among Jewish Refugees Interned by Britain in World War II

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Bloomsbury Academic, Aug 30, 2001 - History - 261 pages

Fearing an imminent Nazi invasion, the British government interned 28,000 men and women of enemy nationality living in Britain in the spring of 1940. Most were Jewish refugees who, having fled Nazi persecution, were appalled to find themselves imprisoned as potential Nazi spies. Using oral histories, unpublished letters and memoirs, artifacts and newspapers from the camps, and government documents, We Built Up Our Lives tells the compelling story of sixty-three of these internees. It is a seldom-told part of the history of World War II and the Holocaust and a classic tale of human courage and resilience.

We Built Up Our Lives describes the survival mechanisms relied upon by the Jewish refugees. Although the internees, imprisoned in Britain, the Isle of Man, Canada, and Australia, were adequately housed and fed and rarely mistreated, they were cut off from family, friends, school, and work--everything that had given meaning to their lives. Resisting boredom, anger, and despair, the internees made the best of a bad situation by creating education, culture, and community within the camps. Before and after as well as during the internment--in Nazi Germany and in Britain--educational resources and social networks were essential to the refugees' efforts to build up their lives. Equally important were personal qualities of courage, ingenuity, assertiveness, and resilience.

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We Had to GoLife in the Third Reich
From Refugees to Internees
Making the Best of It

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About the author (2001)

MAXINE SCHWARTZ SELLER is Professor in the Department of Educational Leadership and Policy and Adjunct Professor in the Department of History at the University at Buffalo, State University of New York. She has published extensively in Jewish history, immigration history, and the history of education. Among the books she has written or edited are To Seek America: A History of Ethnic Life in the United States, Immigrant Women, Ethnic Theater in the United States, and (with David Gerber, et al.), Identity, Community and Pluralism in American Life. Former President of the History of Education Society, she has also been elected to offices in the Immigration History Society, the American Educational Research Association, and the American Historical Association.

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