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The first written records of Jewish settlement in Englandmarker date from the time of the Norman Conquest, mentioning Jews who arrived with William the Conqueror in 1066 although it is believed that there were Jews present in Great Britain since Roman times. The Jewish population lived in England from the Norman Conquest until they were expelled in 1290 by a decree of King Edward I. England had no official Jewish presence, save for isolated individuals who practiced Judaism secretly, until the reign of Oliver Cromwell. While Cromwell never officially readmitted Jews to Britain, the small colony of Sephardic Jews living in London was unmasked in 1656, and, because of Cromwell's need of their financial assistance, they were allowed to stay. While the Jewish community in Britain remained comparatively small until the late nineteenth century, there had long been efforts to integrate Jews into British life legally. The Jewish Naturalisation Act of 1753 was in force for only a few months and would not have allowed for the naturalization of many, save a few wealthy businessmen. Historians commonly date Jewish Emancipation to 1858 when Jews were finally allowed to sit in Parliament though a few other minor pieces of legislation continued into the 1890s. Due to the lack of anti-Jewish violence in Britain in the nineteenth century, it acquired a reputation for religious tolerance. Britain became a haven for some Jews fleeing the Holocaust in the 1930s–40s, and the Jewish community in Britain continues to be vibrant today.

Early history

William I to Henry I: 1066–1135

There is no record of Jews in England before the Norman Conquest in 1066. The few references to Jews in the Anglo-Saxon laws of the Roman Catholic Church either relate to Jewish practices about Easter or apply to passing visitors, such as Gallo-Roman Jews, slave-traders who imported English slaves to the Roman market.

Believing that their commercial skills and incoming capital would make England more prosperous, William I (William the Conqueror) invited a group of Jewish merchants from Rouenmarker, in Normandy, to England in 1070. However, Jews were not permitted to own land nor to participate in trades (except for medicine). They were limited primarily to money lending. As Catholic doctrine held that money lending for interest was a sin, Jews dominated this activity.

Around 1093, Gilbert Crispin, the Abbot of Westminstermarker, issued a disputation about his exchange with a Jew, entitled "Disputation of a Jew with a Christian about the Christian Faith." Crispin wrote that:

"I wrote it recently putting to paper what a Jew said when formerly disputing with me against our faith in defence of his own law, and what I replied in favour of the faith against his objections. I know not where he was born, but he was educated at Mayencemarker; he was well versed even in our law and literature, and had a mind practised in the Scriptures and in disputes against us. He often used to come to me as a friend both for business and to see me, since in certain things I was very necessary to him, and as often as we came together we would soon net talking in a friendly, spirit about the Scriptures and our faith. Now on a certain day, God granted both him and me greater leisure than usual, and soon we began questioning as usual. And as his objections were consequent and logical, and as he explained with equal consequence his former objections, while our reply met his objections foot to foot and by his own confession seemed equally supported by the testimony of the Scriptures, some of the bystanders requested me to preserve our disputes as likely to be of use to others in future."

This disputation was notable for the even-handed presentation of both the Christian and Jewish points of view, and for the congenial tone of the exchange.

At first, the status of Jews was not strictly determined. An attempt was made to introduce the continental principle—that all Jews were the king's property—and a clause to that effect was inserted under King Henry I in some manuscripts of the so-called "Laws of Edward the Confessor."

However, during Henry's reign (1100–1135) a royal charter was granted to Joseph, the chief rabbi of Londonmarker, and all his followers. Under this charter, Jews were permitted to move about the country without paying tolls, to buy and sell goods and property, to sell their pledges after holding them a year and a day, to be tried by their peers, and to be sworn on the Torah rather than on a Christian Bible. Special weight was attributed to a Jew's oath, which was valid against that of 12 Christians, because they represented the King of England in financial matters. The sixth clause of the charter was specially important: it granted to the Jews the right of movement throughout the kingdom, as if they were the king's own property (sicut res propriæ nostræ).

Stephen to Henry II: 1135–1189

[[Image:Lincoln Jew's House.jpg|thumb|right|Frontage of the Medieval Jew's Housemarker in in Lincolnmarker,immediately below Jew's Courtmarker.]]

Christian-Jewish relations in England were disturbed under King Stephen, who burned down the house of a Jew in Oxfordmarker (some accounts say with the owner in it) because he refused to pay a contribution to the king's expenses. It was also during this time that the first recorded blood libel against the Jews was brought in the case of William of Norwich (March, 1144).

While the crusaders in Germanymarker were trying their swords upon the Jews, outbursts against the latter in England were, according to the Jewish chroniclers, prevented by King Stephen.

With the restoration of order under Henry II, the Jews renewed their activity. Within five years of his accession Jews are found at Londonmarker, Oxfordmarker, Cambridgemarker, Norwichmarker, Thetfordmarker, Bungaymarker, Canterburymarker, Winchestermarker, Newportmarker, Staffordmarker, Windsormarker, and Readingmarker. Yet they were not permitted to bury their dead elsewhere than in London, a restriction which was not removed till 1177. Their spread throughout the country enabled the king to draw upon them as occasion demanded; he repaid them by demand notes on the sheriffs of the counties, who accounted for payments thus made in the half-yearly accounts on the pipe rolls (see Aaron of Lincoln).

Strongbow's conquest of Irelandmarker (1170) was financed by Josce, a Jew of Gloucester; and the king accordingly fined Josce for having lent money to those under his displeasure. As a rule, however, Henry II does not appear to have limited in any way the financial activity of Jews. The favourable position of the English Jews was shown, among other things, by the visit of Abraham ibn Ezra in 1158, by that of Isaac of Chernigov in 1181, and by the resort to England of the Jews who were exiled from Francemarker by Philip Augustus in 1182, among them probably being Judah Sir Leon of Paris.

In 1168, when concluding an alliance with Frederick Barbarossa, Henry II seized the chief representatives of the Jews and sent them over into Normandy, while tallaging the rest 5,000 marks (Gervase of Canterbury, ed. Stubbs, i. 205). When, however, he asked the rest of the country to pay a tithe for the crusade against Saladin in 1186, he demanded a quarter of the Jewish chattels. The tithe was reckoned at £70,000, the quarter at £60,000. In other words, the value of the personal property of the Jews was regarded as one-fourth that of the whole country. It is improbable, however, that the whole amount was paid at once, as for many years after the imposition of the tallage arrears were demanded from the recalcitrant Jews.

The king had probably been led to make this large demand upon English Jewry by the surprising windfall which came to his treasury at the death of Aaron of Lincoln. All property obtained by usury, whether by Jew or by Christian, fell into the king's hands on the death of the usurer; Aaron of Lincoln's estate included £15,000 of debts owed to him. Besides this, a large treasure came into the king's hands, which, however, was lost on being sent over to Normandy. A special branch of the treasury, constituted in order to deal with this large account, was known as "Aaron's Exchequer".

In this era, Jews lived on good terms with their non-Jewish neighbours, including the clergy; they entered churches freely, and took refuge in the abbeys in times of commotion. Some Jews lived in opulent houses, and helped to build a large number of the abbeys and monasteries of the country. However, by the end of Henry's reign they had incurred the ill will of the upper classes. The anti-Jewish sentiment fostered by the crusades, during the latter part of the reign of Henry, spread the anti-Jewish sentiment throughout the nation.

Massacres at London and York (1189–1190)

Richard I had taken the cross before his coronation (September 3, 1189). A number of the principal Jews of England presented themselves to do homage at Westminstermarker; but there appears to have been a superstition against Jews being admitted to such a holy ceremony, and they were repulsed during the banquet which followed the coronation. The rumour spread from Westminster to the City of Londonmarker that the king had ordered a massacre of the Jews; and a mob in Old Jewrymarker, after vainly attacking throughout the day the strong stone houses of the Jews, set them on fire at night, killing those within who attempted to escape. The king was enraged at this insult to his royal dignity, but took no steps to punish the offenders, owing to their large numbers. After his departure on the crusade, riots with loss of life occurred at Lynnmarker, where the Jews attempted to attack a baptised coreligionist who had taken refuge in a church. The seafaring population rose against them, fired their houses, and put them to the sword. So, too, at Stamford Fair, on March 7, 1190, many were slain, and on March 18 fifty-seven were slaughtered at Bury St. Edmundsmarker. The Jews of Lincolnmarker saved themselves only by taking refuge in a castlemarker.

Isolated attacks on Jews also occurred at Colchestermarker, Thetfordmarker, and Ospringemarker, but the most striking incident occurred at Yorkmarker on the night of March 16 (the day of the Jewish feast of Shabbat ha-Gadol, the shabbat before Passover) and March 17, 1190. The Jews of York were alarmed by the preceding massacres and by the setting on fire of several of their houses by the anti-Jewish rioting in the wake of religious fervor during crusaders' preparations for the Third Crusade against the Saracens, led by Richard. Their leader Josce asked the warden of York Castlemarker to receive them with their wives and children, and they were accepted into Clifford's Towermarker. However, the tower was besieged by the mob of crusaders, demanding that the Jews convert to Christianity and be baptized. Trapped in the castle, the Jews were advised by their religious leader, Rabbi Yomtov of Joigney, to kill themselves rather than convert; Josce began by slaying his wife Anna and his two children, and then was killed by Yomtov. The father of each family killed his wife and children, and then Yomtob stabbed the men before killing himself. The handful of Jews who did not kill themselves surrendered to the crusaders at daybreak on March 17, leaving the castle on a promise that they would not be harmed; they were also killed. In the aftermath the wooden tower was burnt down.

Ordinance of the Jewry, 1194

During Richard's absence in the Holy Land and during his captivity, the Jews of England were harassed by William de Longchamp. The Jewish community was forced to contribute toward the king's ransom 5,000 marks, more than three times as much as the contribution of the City of London. On his return, Richard determined to organise the Jewish community in order to ensure that he should no longer be defrauded, by any such outbreaks as those that occurred after his coronation, of his just dues as universal legatee of the Jewry. Richard accordingly decided, in 1194, that records should be kept by royal officials of all the transactions of the Jews, without which such transactions would not be legal. Every debt was to be entered upon a chirograph, one part of which was to be kept by the Jewish creditor, and the other preserved in a chest to which only special officials should have access. By this means the king could at any time ascertain the property of any Jew in the land; and no destruction of the bond held by the Jew could release the creditor from his indebtedness. This "Ordinance of the Jewry" was, in practice, the beginning of the office of Exchequer of the Jews, which made all the transactions of the English Jewry liable to taxation by the King of England, who thus became a sleeping partner in all the transactions of Jewish money lending. The king besides demanded two bezants in the pound, that is, 10 per cent, of all sums recovered by the Jews with the aid of his courts.

At this point in time Jews had many of the same rights as gentile citizens. However, their loans could be recovered at law, whereas the Christian money lender could not recover more than his original loan. They were in direct relation to the king and his courts; but this did not imply any arbitrary power of the king to tax them or to take their money without repayment, as is frequently exemplified in the pipe-rolls. They were the king's "men," it is true, but no more than the barons of the time; and they had the privilege of baronial rank, and thus could move and settle anywhere.

Under John, 1205–1216

As early as 1198 Pope Innocent III, had written to all Christian princes, including Richard of England, calling upon them to compel the remission of all usury demanded by Jews from Christians. This would render the Jewish community's very existence impossible.

On July 15, 1205, the pope laid down the principle that Jews were doomed to perpetual servitude because they had crucified Jesus. In England the secular power soon followed the initiative of the Church. John, having become indebted to the Jewish community while in Irelandmarker, at first treated Jews with a show of forbearance. He confirmed the charter of Rabbi Josce and his sons, and made it apply to all the Jews of England; he wrote a sharp remonstrance to the mayor of London against the attacks that were continually being made upon the Jews of that city, alone of all the cities of England. He reappointed one Jacob archpriest of all the English Jews (July 12, 1199).

But with the loss of Normandy in 1205 a new spirit seems to have come over the attitude of John to his Jews. In the height of his triumph over the pope, he demanded the sum of no less than £100,000 from the religious houses of England, and 66,000 marks from the Jews (1210). One of the latter, Abraham of Bristol, who refused to pay his quota of 10,000 marks, had, by order of the king, seven of his teeth extracted, one a day, until he was willing to disgorge.

Though John squeezed as much as he could out of the Jewish community, they were an important element on his side in the triangular struggle between king, barons, and municipalities which makes up the constitutional history of England during his reign and that of his son. Even in the Magna Carta, clauses were inserted preventing the king or his Jewish subjects from obtaining interest during the minority of an heir.

Increasing persecution, 1200s

With the accession of Henry III (1216) the position of the Jews became somewhat easier, but only for a short time. Innocent III had in the preceding year caused the Fourth Council of the Lateran to pass the law enforcing the Badge upon the Jews; and in 1218 Stephen Langton, Archbishop of Canterbury, brought it into operation in England, the badge taking the form of an oblong white patch of two finger-lengths by four. The action of the Church was followed by similar opposition on the part of the English boroughs.

Petitions were accordingly sent to the king in many instances to remove his Jews from the boroughs, and they were expelled from Bury St. Edmundsmarker in 1190, Newcastlemarker in 1234, Wycombemarker in 1235, Southamptonmarker in 1236, Berkhamstedmarker in 1242, Newburymarker in 1244. Jews were expelled from the lands of Queen Dowager Eleanor in January 1275 ( which included towns such as Guildfordmarker).

With the outbreak of the Barons' war violent measures were adopted to remove all traces of indebtedness either to the king or to the higher barons. The Jewries of London, Canterburymarker, Northamptonmarker, Winchestermarker, Cambridgemarker, Worcestermarker, and Lincoln were looted (1263–65), and the archæ either destroyed or deposited at the headquarters of the barons at Elymarker. Simon de Montfort, who had at an early stage expelled the Jews from his town of Leicester, when at the height of his power after the battle of Lewesmarker annulled all indebtedness to the Jews. He had been accused of sharing the plunder, but issued edicts for their protection after the battle. Both the Jewry and the king as its representative must have suffered incalculably by this general wiping out of indebtedness.

The value of the Jewish community to the royal treasury had become considerably lessened during the thirteenth century through two circumstances: the king's income from other sources had continually increased, and the contributions of the Jews had decreased both absolutely and relatively. Besides this, the king had found other sources from which to obtain loans. Italian merchants, "pope's usurers" as they were called, supplied him with money, at times on the security of the Jewry. By the contraction of the area in which Jews were permitted to exercise their money-lending activity their means of profit were lessened, while the king by his continuous exactions prevented the automatic growth of interest.

By the middle of the thirteenth century the Jews of England, like those of the Continent, had become chattels of the king. There appeared to be no limit to the exactions he could impose upon them, though it was obviously against his own interest to deprive them entirely of capital, without which they could not gain for him interest.

Further prejudice had been raised against the Jews just about this time by the revival of the blood libel, a charge of ritual murder. The king had sold the Jewish community to his brother Richard of Cornwall in Feb., 1255, for 5,000 marks, and had lost all rights over it for a year. But in the following August a number of the chief Jews who had assembled at Lincoln to celebrate the marriage of a daughter of Berechiah de Nicole were seized on a charge of having murdered a boy named Hugh. Ninety-one were sent to London to the Tower, eighteen were executed for refusal to plead, and the rest were kept in prison till the expiry of Richard's control over their property.

The "Statutum de Judaismo", 1275

Shortly after his coronation Edward I., in 1275, made some experimental decrees. The Church laws against usury had recently been reiterated with more than usual vehemence at the Second Council of Lyon (1274), and Edward in the "Statutum de Judaismo" absolutely forbade Jews to lend on usury, but granted them permission to engage in commerce and handicrafts, and even to take farms for a period not exceeding ten years, though he expressly excluded them from all the feudal advantages of the possession of land. This permission, however, regarded as a means by which Jews in general could gain a livelihood, was illusory. Farming can not be taken up at a moment's notice, nor can handicrafts be acquired at once. Moreover, in England in the thirteenth century the guilds were already securing a monopoly of all skilled labour, and in the majority of markets only those could buy and sell who were members of the Gild Merchant. By depriving the Jews of a resort to usury, Edward was practically preventing them from earning a living at all under the conditions of life then existing in feudal England; and in principle the "Statute of Judaism" expelled them fifteen years before the final expulsion. Some of the Jews attempted to evade the law by resorting to the tricks of the Caursines, who lent sums and extorted bonds that included both principal and interest. Some resorted to highway robbery; others joined the Domus Conversorum (see below); while a considerable number appear to have resorted to coin clipping as a means of securing a precarious existence. As a consequence, in 1278 the whole English Jewry was imprisoned; and no fewer than 293 Jews were executed at London.

Leadership of the Chief Rabbis, 1200s

Jews were allowed to have their own jurisdiction, and there is evidence of their having a beth din with three judges. Reference is made to the parnas (president) and gabbai (treasurer), of the congregation, and to scribes and chirographers. A complete system of education seems to have been in vogue.

At the head of the Jewish community was placed a chief rabbi, known as "the presbyter of all the Jews of England" ; he appears to have been selected by the Jews themselves, who were granted a congé d'élire by the king. The latter claimed, however, the right of confirmation, as in the case of bishops. The Jewish presbyter was indeed in a measure a royal official, holding the position of adviser, as regards Jewish law, to the Exchequer of the Jews, as the English legal system admitted the validity of Jewish law in its proper sphere as much as it did that of the canon law.

Six presbyters are known in the thirteenth century: Jacob of London, reappointed 1200; Josce, 1207; Aaron of York, 1237; Elyas of London, 1243; Hagin fil Cresse, 1257; and Cresse fil Mosse.

The expulsion, 1290

After the failed experiments in legislation which Edward I made from 1269 onward, there was only one option left: If the Jews were not to have intercourse with their fellow citizens as artisans, merchants, or farmers, and were not to be allowed to take interest, the only alternative was for them to leave the country. He immediately expelled the Jews from Gascony, a province still held by England and in which he was traveling at the time; and on his return to England (July 18, 1290) he issued writs to the sheriffs of all the English counties ordering them to enforce a decree to the effect that all Jews should leave England before All Saints' Day of that year. They were allowed to carry their portable property; but their houses escheated to the king, except in the case of a few favoured persons who were allowed to sell theirs before they left. Between 4,000 and 16,000 Jews were expelled. They emigrated to countries such as Poland that protected them by law.

Between the expulsion of the Jews in 1290 and their formal return in 1655 there is no official trace of Jews as such on English soil except in connection with the Domus Conversorummarker, which kept a number of them within its precincts up to 1551 and even later.

Antisemitism did not disappear with the expulsion of Jews. Jeremy Cohen writes about accusations of host desecration:
"The story exerted its influence even in the absence of Jews... the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries saw the proliferation of the Host-desecration story in England: in collections of miracle stories, many of them dedicated to the miracles of the Virgin Mary; in the art of illuminated manuscripts used for Christian prayer and meditation; and on stage, as in popular Croxton Play of the Sacrament, which itself evoked memories of an alleged ritual murder committed by Jews in East Anglia in 1191."

Jews remained in England, albeit clandestinely. Henry VIII imported two great musical dynasties from Venice: the Bassanos and the Lupos. originally both these families had been expelled from Spain in 1492. Many members of the Bassano and Lupo were composers, musicians and instrument makers. Anthony Bassano, a direct descendant, is a professional musician in London today. Elizabeth I had a Jewish physician.

Resettlement period, 1655–1800s

Hidden Jews in England

Toward the middle of the seventeenth century a considerable number of Marrano merchants settled in Londonmarker and formed there a secret congregation, at the head of which was Antonio Fernandez Carvajal. Samuel Maylott, a French merchant, has many descendants in England. They conducted a large business with the Levant, East and West Indiesmarker, Canary Islandsmarker, and Brazilmarker, and above all with the Netherlandsmarker, Spainmarker, and Portugalmarker.

The resettlement, 1655

In the 1650s, Menasseh Ben Israel, a rabbi and leader of the Dutch Jewish community, approached Oliver Cromwell with the proposition that Jews should at long-last be readmitted to England. Cromwell agreed, and although he could not compel a council called for the purpose in December 1655 to consent formally to readmission, he made it clear that the ban on Jews would no longer be enforced. In the years 1655–56, the controversy over the readmission of Jews was fought out in a pamphlet war. The issue divided religious radicals and more conservative elements within society. The Puritan William Prynne was vehemently opposed to permitting Jews to return, the Quaker Margaret Fell no less passionately in favour. In the end, Jews were readmitted in 1655, and, by 1690, about 3,000 Jews had settled in England.

Jews in England during the 1700s

The Jew Bill of 1753

The Jewish Naturalization Act 1753 was an Act of Parliament of the Parliament of Great Britain, which received royal assent on 7 July 1753 but was repealed in 1754 due to widespread opposition to its provisions.

During the Jacobite rising of 1745, the Jews had shown particular loyalty to the government. Their chief financier, Samson Gideon, had strengthened the stock market, and several of the younger members had volunteered in the corps raised to defend London. Possibly as a reward, Henry Pelham in 1753 brought in the Jew Bill of 1753, which allowed Jews to become naturalized by application to Parliamentmarker. It passed the Lordsmarker without much opposition, but on being brought down to the House of Commonsmarker, the Tories made a great outcry against this "abandonment of Christianity", as they called it. The Whigs, however, persisted in carrying out at least one part of their general policy of religious toleration, and the bill was passed and received the royal assent (26 Geo. II., cap. 26).

Improvement of relations with the Jewish community

Emancipation and prosperity, 1800s

With Catholic Emancipation in 1829, the hopes of the Jews rose high; and the first step toward a similar alleviation in their case was taken in 1830 when William Huskisson presented a petition signed by 2,000 merchants and others of Liverpool. This was immediately followed by a bill presented by R. Grant on April 15 of that year which was destined to engage the Parliament in one form or another for the next thirty years.

In 1837, Queen Victoria knighted Moses Haim Montefiore; four years later, Isaac Lyon Goldsmid was made baronet, the first Jew to receive a hereditary title. The first Jewish Lord Mayor of London, Sir David Salomons, was elected in 1855, followed by the 1858 emancipation of the Jews. On July 26 1858, Lionel de Rothschild was finally allowed to sit in the British House of Commonsmarker when the law restricting the oath of office to Christians was changed; Benjamin Disraeli, a baptised Christian of Jewish parentage, was already an MP.

In 1868, Disraeli became Prime Minister having earlier been Chancellor of the Exchequer. In 1884 Nathan Mayer Rothschild, 1st Baron Rothschild became the first Jewish member of the British House of Lordsmarker; again Disraeli was already a member. (Though born a Jew, Disraeli's baptism as a child qualified him as eligible for political aspirations, presenting no restrictions regarding a mandated Christian oath of office.)

By 1882, 46,000 Jews lived in England and, by 1890, Jewish emancipation was complete in every walk of life. Since 1858, Parliament has never been without Jewish members.

Modern Times

Through the First World War

From the 1880s through the early part of the 20th century, massive pogroms and the May Laws in Russia caused many Jews to flee the Pale of Settlement. By 1919, the Jewish population had increased from 60,000 in 1880 to about 250,000 Jews, who lived primarily in the large cities, especially London. Originally, the Jews lived primarily in the Spitalfieldsmarker and Whitechapelmarker areas, which made the East Endmarker a Jewish neighbourhood. Manchestermarker, and neighbouring Salfordmarker, were also areas of heavy Jewish settlement—especially in the Strangewaysmarker, Cheethammarker and Broughtonmarker districts. Unlike much of the Jewish community in Poland, the Jewish community in England generally embraced assimilation into wider English culture. They started Yiddish and Hebrew newspapers and youth movements such as the Jewish Lads' Brigade. Immigration was eventually restricted by the Aliens Act 1905, following pressure from groups such as the British Brothers League.

About 50,000 Jews served in the British Armed Forces during World War I, and around 10,000 died on the battlefield, while Britain's first all-Jewish regiment, the Jewish Legion fought in Palestine. An important consequence of the war was the British conquest of the Palestinian Mandate, and the Balfour Declaration promising the area to a new Jewish nation.

Before and during World War II

Though there was some growing anti-semitism during the 1930s, this was counterbalanced by strong support for British Jews in their local communities leading to events such as the Battle of Cable Streetmarker where anti-semitism was strongly resisted. There was never wholesale persecution of the Jews before or during World War II in Britain. At the same time, however, Britain was not particularly receptive to Jewish refugees fleeing the Nazi regime in Germany, and the other fascist states of Europe. Approximately 40,000 Jews from Austria and Germany were eventually allowed to settle in Britain before the War, in addition to 50,000 Jews from Italy, Poland, and elsewhere in Eastern Europe. Despite the increasingly dire warnings coming from Germany, at the Evian Conference of 1938, Britain refused to allow further Jewish refugees into the country. The notable exception allowed by Parliament was the Kindertransport, an effort on the eve of war to transport Jewish children (their parents were not given visas) from Germany to Britain. Around 10,000 children were saved by the Kindertransport, out of a plan to rescue five times that number.

With the declaration of war, 74,000 German, Austrian and Italian citizens in the UK were interned as enemy aliens. After individual consideration by tribunal, the majority, largely made up of Jewish and other refugees, were released within six months.

Even more important to many Jews was the permission to settle in the British-controlled Mandate of Palestine. In order to try to maintain peace between the Jewish and Arab populations, especially after the 1936-1939 Arab revolt in Palestine of the 1930s, Britain strictly limited immigration. This limitation became nearly absolute after the White Paper of 1939 all but stopped legal immigration. During the War, Zionists organised an illegal immigration effort, conducted by "Hamossad Le'aliyah Bet" (the precursor of the Mossad) that rescued tens of thousands of European Jews from the Nazis by shipping them to Palestine in rickety boats. Many of these boats were intercepted and some sank with great loss of life. The efforts began in 1939, and the last immigrant boat to try to enter Palestine before the end of the war was the Struma, torpedoed in the Black Sea by a Soviet submarine in February 1942. The boat sank with the loss of nearly 800 lives.

Many Jews joined the British Armed Forces, including some 30,000 Jewish volunteers from Palestine alone, some of whom fought in the Jewish Brigade. Many formed the core of the Haganah after the war.

By July 1945 228,000 troops of the Polish Armed Forces in the West, including Polish Jews, were serving under the high command of the British Army. Many of these men and women were originally from the Kresy region of eastern Poland and were deported by Stalin to Siberia 1939–1941. They were then released from the Soviet Gulags to form the Anders Army and marched to Persia to form the II Corps . The Polish II Corps then advanced to the British Mandate of Palestine, where many Polish Jews, including as Menachem Begin, deserted to work on forming the state of Israelmarker, in a process known as the 'Anders Aliyah'. Other Polish Jews remained in the Polish Army to fight alongside the British in the North Africa and Italy campaigns. Around 10,000 Polish Jews fought under the Polish flag—and British High Command—at the Battle of Monte Cassinomarker. All of them were eligible to settle in the UK after the Polish Resettlement Act 1947, Britain's first mass immigration law.


  • David S. Katz, The Jews in the History of England, 1485–1850 (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1994) xvi, 447 pp.

  • David S. Katz Philo-Semitism and the Readmission of the Jews to England, 1603–1655 (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1982) x, 286 pp.

See also


  1. Per William of Malmesbury
  2. (Roger of Wendover, ii. 232; but see Ramsay, "Angevin Empire," p. 426, London, 1903
  3. Kingsford, "Song of Lewes," pp. 59, 80, Oxford, 1890
  4. Jeremy Cohen (2007): Christ Killers: The Jews and the Passion from the Bible to the Big Screen. Oxford University Press. p.103 ISBN 0-19-517841-6

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