At my grandfather David Makofski’s shiva, the minister relayed the time my dad had taken him to West Yorkshire Archives in Leeds to see the ledger books and correspondence documenting David’s work as Chairman of Leeds Jewish Refugee Committee (formerly Council for German Jewry). Modest about this achievement, David spoke little of it and was likely the reason why the story hadn’t been retold in any detail within the family. However, hearing this sparked our interest to research further and in doing so, we discovered another archive of his correspondence at The Wiener Holocaust Library.
Prior to the Second World War, British immigration policy allowed entry of Jewish refugees as long as there was no cost to the State. David Makofski established a trainee scheme that involved finding positions as trainees by local employers as well as accommodation. The refugees had to be under 35 years old, and were also required to pay £100 (the equivalent of around £3000 today), or £50 in special circumstances, for the permit. Once all the requirements were met, David would then travel to the Home Office to secure the permit.
Happenstance led my grandfather to take on this task, and life experiences shaped his humanitarian values. A British soldier in the First World War, David’s injuries had left him with arthritis and during the 1930s, he frequently travelled to the Czech spa town Karlsbad (Karlovy Vary) to receive treatment. The area became part of Nazi Germany and David was initially approached by local Jews to see if he could help them escape. He also witnessed firsthand how Jews were being treated. By 1939, David had received hundreds of applications as word of his work spread through the communities in Germany and Austria, although this largely ceased once war broke out.
My family has digitised the archive to assist the descendants of those David helped and for this work to be used as an example of humanity in taking refugees facing persecution, which remains more relevant than ever today. Donated to West Yorkshire Archives in 2002, the David Makofski collection holds letters from the Jewish Refugee Committee at Bloomsbury House, the Home Office, the British Committee for Refugees from Czechoslovakia and other organisations that also help tell the story of David’s efforts. Linked below is a list of refugees (now in the public domain) from the Makofski archive who brought over by the trainee scheme. If you know of a person brought over by Leeds Jewish Refugee Committee who isn’t listed, please contact West Yorkshire Archives via email, referencing WYL5047.
The Makofski archive can be accessed online at the West Yorkshire Archives, reference WYL5047
The Wiener Holocaust Library holds a microfilm archive of correspondence and papers was created by the Leeds office of the Jewish Refugee Committee. Most of the correspondence is either addressed to David Makovski or written by him. The overwhelming majority of letters in this collection relate to the fate of individual refugees.
Uncovering Yorkshire’s Schindler, Jewish News, 21 March 2019.