Edith Wildorf
Edith Wildorf and Trudi Ascher, German refugees who worked as domestic servants (EXS.2.WIL.2)

The then Institute of Germanic Studies began to collect archival material related to the subject of exile following the establishment of the Research Centre for German & Austrian Exile Studies (RCGAES) at the Institute in 1995-96. Personal papers, artistic scripts and official documents were donated to the Library mainly by individual exiles or their families, often through the intermediary of RCGAES committee members, such as Professor Charmian Brinson, Professor Richard Dove and Professor Hamish Ritchie. Most of these deposits, particularly those comprising of a small number of documents extracted from wider sets of personal papers, were put into this thematically-based collection, the Exile Archive (EXS).

As part of the Institute's acquisitions policy, it is intended to expand this collection, and anyone who has interesting material which he/she would like preserved in this way is invited to contact the Miller Archivist, Dr Clare George.

The Archive will not confine its interest to Nazi refugees however, but will also expand to provide a historical perspective of German migration to the United Kingdom generally, and London in particular. This historical perspective will focus on the emigrant communities which settled from the 18th century onwards.

The Papers

This collection contains personal papers, correspondence, official documents and literary and autobiographical scripts created by or relating to German-speaking exiles and exile-related organisations mainly in the UK. Some of the material dates from the period before and during the Second World War, such as a biography of Hitler by Rudolf Olden dating to the 1930s, and records of the activities of prisoners in internment camps on the Isle of Man in the early 1940s. A significant proportion of the collection is material created in the post-war period on the subject of exile, such as autobiographical accounts of exile by individual refugees, and the research papers of the Research Centre for German & Austrian Exile Studies. There are also records (including some copies of publications) of literary and other scripts focusing on the experience of exile and the events leading to it, written by exile poets, scholars and journalists and others before and after they emigrated.

Archival Arrangement

This fonds was created by the Institute of Germanic Studies in the 1990s as a collection of material from a variety of sources related to the theme of exile. The material does not share any provenance above file- and sub-series-level groupings. These groups have been arranged into two series: material created by or relating to organizations and material created by or relating to individuals.


Material Created By or Relating to Organizations

This series contains records created by a variety of organisations related to the subject of refugees and exiles from Nazi-occupied Central Europe. The organizations can be broadly classified into the following groups:

1. Refugee organizations funded by the British government (the Czech Refugee Trust Fund);

2. Grass-roots level refugee groups like the the Birmingham Jewish Refugee Club, and the culturally-oriented Freier Deutscher Kulturbund and the Heinrich Heine Club, as well as informal groups of prisoners in the internment camps;

3. Refugee organizations affiliated to non-governmental international movements (PEN Centre of German-speaking Writers Abroad); and

4. Organizations carrying out research into exile-related subjects, such as the Kurt Hiller Gesellschaft and the Research Centre for German and Austrian Exile Studies at the Institute of Germanic Studies (now the Institute of Modern Languages Research). The records of the latter organisation form the greatest proportion of this series, and include the audio recordings and transcripts of an oral history project on German-speaking exiles in the UK carried out in the mid-1990s.

The records of organizations in the first of these two categories date mainly from the period 1940 to 1946; the records of the organizations in groups 3) and 4) date from the post-war period (mainly from the 1980s and 1990s). All but one of the organizations, the Kurt Hiller Gesellschaft, are UK-based.

Material Created By or Relating to Individuals

The latter series (records of individuals) contains records created by or relating to individual German-speaking exiles from Nazi-occupied Central Europe (mainly Germany, Austria and Czechoslovakia). Most of the material fits into one of the following two categories:

1. Official documents, personal papers and memoirs of ordinary refugees who came to the UK in the 1930s;

2. Correspondence, plays, poems and other scripts (for example for radio broadcasts) of political activists, scholars, journalists, poets and other writers who went into exile in the UK and other countries. Notable amongst this material are the papers of the journalist Rudolf Olden, which include a draft copy of his biography of Hitler; poems and letters by the Austrian writer Fritz Gross; and correspondence between the British Germanic Studies scholar Professor C.P. Magill and the Austrian writer Felix Braun covering the period 1939 to 1970. There are also records of the cultural activities of internees in Mooragh Internment Camp, Isle of Man, and the autobiography of the scholar and activist Berhand Herzberg.

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