Refugee Week 2024 Poster

Refugee Week is the world’s largest arts & culture festival celebrating the contributions, creativity and resilience of refugees and people seeking sanctuary. Established in 1998 in the UK, this annual festival aligns with World Refugee Day, celebrated globally on June 20th.

This year we’re hosting events, exhibitions, and presenting online resources reflecting this year’s theme:  “Our Home”.

Virtual Student and Teacher Talk: Refugees from Nazism in Britain

17 June, 4 – 5pm

In Europe in the 1930s and 1940s, economic and political breakdown and the rise of extremist politics turned citizens into refugees. From 1933 onwards, Jews fled Nazi persecution in Germany and later Austria, Czechoslovakia and Poland. By 1946, war, genocide and forced population movements had created millions of refugees.

Around 80,000 Jewish refugees arrived to the UK between 1933 and 1945. Aimed at GCSE and A-Level students, this talk will utilise sources from the Library’s unique archive to trace some of the journeys made by these 80,000 refugees, focusing on ‘ordinary’ people. It will also explore British responses to these refugees, including governmental actions and the activities of community and voluntary organisations.

Sign up to attend here.

Refugee policy from the Kindertransport to the present day, with René Cassin

Child refugees, c. 1938. Wiener Holocaust Library Collections

17 June, 6:30 – 8pm

Between November 1938 and September 1939, the UK’s Kindertransport Scheme helped 10,000 Jewish children travel to Britain and escape the Holocaust. A voluntary scheme led by organisations including the Central British Fund for German Jewry (now known as World Jewish Relief) welcomed fleeing children and oversaw their welfare, ensuring them a safe home in the UK.

The government has repeatedly spoken of the illegal ways refugees and asylum seekers enter the UK today, without providing safe and legal routes for them after their often dangerous fleeing from persecution. This hostile environment undermines the Refugee Convention and Universal Declaration of Human Rights, set out in response to Jewish experience in the Holocaust. The government has failed to learn from history, and it is imperative that we remind it of its lessons.

via René Cassin

This panel, hosted by René Cassin, will take us from the Kindertransport to the present day, exploring how and why vulnerable refugees and asylum seekers risk their lives to make the UK their home and what we can do about the implementation of safe and legal routes.

Speakers will include Enver Solomon, CEO of Refugee Council, Zoe Gardner, refugee and migration expert, and Debora Singer MBE, Human Rights in the UK Lead at René Cassin.

Sign up here.

Safe Haven – the Leslie Brent story: Travelling Exhibition and Talk

20 June – Exhibition open 10am – 5pm, evening talk 6:30 – 8pm

In September 2022 a statue was unveiled at Harwich quayside of 5 figures of refugee children to represent the journey to England and the first taste of freedom of nearly 10,000 Kindertransportees from Europe rescued from Nazi tyranny.

The Harwich Kindertransport Memorial and Learning Trust (HKMLT) raised the funding  and commissioned this statue to realise the aim of celebrating the role of Harwich and also nearby Dovercourt in the new and free lives of so many Jewish child refugees.

The mobile exhibition Safe Haven – the Leslie Brent story gives some context to the new memorial by describing Leslie’s journey from Berlin to England, his brief stay in the Dovercourt holiday camp, and his life from childhood in a new and strange place to his adult career as a distinguished immunologist.

Sign up for the evening event here.