A graphic designed for 2023's Refugee Week, featuring motifs around the theme of compassion

Refugee Week is the world’s largest arts & culture festival celebrating the contributions, creativity and resilience of people seeking sanctuary. It’s been running in the UK since 1998 and is always the week around World Refugee Day (20 June).

As an organisation we have chronicled the lives of those who fled Nazism and our collections attest to the agony experienced by those who have had to flee persecution. We have previously spoken out about the plight of refugees to the UK in the modern day, and therefore welcome the focus of this year’s events on the theme of ‘compassion’.

To mark this year’s celebrations, we invite friends of the Library to read a recent statement made by the Library’s Director and the CEO of the Association for Jewish Refugees, urging the UK government to treat those seeking sanctuary with humanity and compassion.

Published by OpenDemocracy, the statement draws on our experiences as two organisations imbued with survivor’s accounts, and sensitive to the importance of the protections for refugees that were established in the wake of the Second World War and the Holocaust. You can read the statement in full here.

A black and white photograph of Judith Kerr as a child
Judith Kerr Photographed by Gerty Simon in Berlin c. 1929. Wiener Holocaust Library Collections.

A new Reading Room Exhibition: The Kerr Family in Flight

Our collections include countless stories of those who have fled oppression as refugees, including figures that loom large in the British cultural imagination. Judith Kerr was a successful children’s author, known for her illustrated books such as The Tiger Who Came to Tea and Mog the Forgetful Cat. Kerr was born in Berlin, Germany, into a Jewish family, the daughter of well-known theatre critic, poet and broadcaster, Alfred Kerr. Alfred, who had been a critic of the Nazi’s, fled Germany just before they came to power, in 1933. He was later joined by Judith, her brother Michael and her mother Julia.

Our new Reading Room exhibition, on display from 31 May, explores the Kerr family’s flight from Berlin through valuable items from our collection.

Judith Kerr would go on to author many children’s books, including a trilogy of books about her experiences fleeing from Nazi Germany and living in France and then Britain, including When Hitler Stole Pink Rabbit.

The Erosion of Human Rights Protections for Refugees in the UK

At the Library we have a unique position from which to consider and discuss the fates of refugees today. On the 22 June we welcome human rights charity René Cassin for a joint event exploring the erosion of human rights protections for refugees in the UK in 2023.

Both the recent Nationality and Borders Act and the Illegal Migration Bill currently being debated in Parliament contribute to an increasingly difficult situation for asylum-seekers and refugees. In this joint event we will build on this year’s theme to explore the UK’s attitudes and commitment to refugees over time – from attitudes, policy and practical implementation – and a hopeful and positive change to the current situation. Sign up to attend now.

The Refugee Map

A section of the Wiener Library’s Refugee Map showing pinpoints along the theme of ‘internment’

The Library’s innovative Refugee Map brings together hundreds of Family Papers collections selected from our archives.

Each collection on the map traces a refugee family or family member’s journey, with individual records related to a specific location and period within their travels. Each record includes fascinating material such as letters, emigration documents, memoirs, photo albums, newspaper clippings, and interviews, allowing us a unique insight into the refugee experience.

Sign up to our monthly newsletter and keep an eye on our website to stay up to date with what we have planned.