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British Internment and the Internment of Britons
Second World War Camps, History and Heritage

This edited volume presents a cutting-edge discussion and analysis of civilian 'enemy alien' internment in Britain, the internment of British civilians on the continent, and civilian internment camps run by the British within the wider British Empire. The book brings together a range of interdisciplinary specialists including archaeologists, historians, and heritage practitioners to give a full overview of the topic of internment internationally.

Very little has been written about the experience of interned Britons on the continent during the Second World War compared with continentals interned in Britain. Even fewer accounts exist of the regime in British Dominions where British guards presided over the camps. This collection is the first to bring together the British experiences, as the common theme, in one study. The new research presented here also offers updated statistics for the camps whilst considering the period between 1945 to the present day through related site heritage issues.

'This volume is a genuinely original and innovative contribution to the study of civilian internment during World War II. Its comparative structure opens up productive new perspectives on a series of internment camps across the world.'

Dr Anthony Grenville, Chair, Research Centre for German & Austrian Exile Studies, University of London

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The Jews, The Holocaust, and The Public

The Legacies of David Cesarani

This book explores the work and legacy of Professor David Cesarani OBE, a leading British scholar and expert on Jewish history who helped to shape Holocaust research, remembrance and education in the UK. It is a unique combination of chapters produced by researchers, curators and commemoration activists who either worked with and/or were taught by the late Cesarani. The chapters in this collection consider the legacies of Cesarani’s contribution to the discipline of history and the practice of public history. The contributors offer reflections on Cesarani’s approach and provide new insights into the study of Anglo-Jewish history, immigrants and minorities and the history and public legacies of the Holocaust.


‘The late and very much missed David Cesarani was a colossus of an academic – in part, because of his contribution in advancing a range of fields of study. In exploring territories previously trod by Cesarani, this diverse collection offers new insights and perspectives on issues within Anglo-Jewish history, the study of minorities, and Holocaust studies. As a stimuli for further thought, discussion and research, the book duly represents a fitting tribute to the scholar and the man it is dedicated to.’

Andy Pearce, Associate Professor in Holocaust and History Education, University College London, UK

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Internment During the Second World War:

A Comparative Study of Great Britain and the USA

In the first comparative history of internment in Britain and the USA, memoirs, letters, and oral testimony help to put a human face on the suffering incurred during the turbulent early years of the war and serve as a reminder of what can happen to vulnerable groups during times of conflict. Internment during the Second World War also considers how these 'tragedies of democracy' have been remembered over time, and how the need for the memorialisation of former sites of internment is essential if society is not to repeat the same injustices.


'As the first volume to compare at length the official confinement of civilians in Great Britain and the United States, this book not only breaks new ground but propels readers into reflections on prejudice, citizenship, and ethnicity.'


Greg Robinson, Professor of History at the Université du Québec à Montréal, Canada


'The internment of 'enemy aliens' (those of German, Italian and Japanese origin) in Britain and America during the Second World War remains little known. In this superbly researched account, Rachel Pistol provides the first comparative study explaining why such illiberal policies were implemented. This books allows understanding of the processes, experiences and memories of internment with disturbing relevance to the twenty first century and the world of Donald Trump and Brexit.'


Tony Kushner, Marcus Sieff Professor of the History of Jewish/non Jewish Relations, University of Southampton



‘I can’t remember a more depressing time but I don’t blame anyone for that’: remembering and commemorating the wartime internment of enemy aliens in Britain

Until the last few decades, little was known about the internment of enemy aliens by the British during the war. However, in recent years, novels such as David Baddiel’s The Secret Purposes, published in 2004, and exhibitions such as ‘Schwitters in Britain’ at the Tate Britain in 2013, have introduced a wider audience to this oft-forgotten part of the British wartime narrative. Some of those interned in Britain were sent to Canada and Australia, which led to the greatest tragedy of the entire internment debacle, the sinking of the Arandora Star. The year 2015 marked the seventy-fifth anniversary of this tragedy, and the memory of those who were lost lives on in the British–Italian community. However, outside those affected by the Arandora Star disaster, little is commemorated or understood by the general public. Yet the legacy of the former internees is all around us. Who has not, on visiting the British Library, walked past former internee’s Eduardo Paolozzi’s statue of Newton? What connoisseur of classical music has not enjoyed the sound of the Amadeus Quartet, perhaps the only positive outcome of internment? This article examines the memory of the camps and consider the differences between how internment has been remembered and commemorated by former internees and the general public.

‘Heavy Is the Responsibility for All the Lives That Might Have Been Saved in the Pre-war Years’

British Perceptions of Refugees 1933–1940


How welcoming Great Britain was to refugees in the 1930s and 1940s depended on many factors, including the age, gender, class and profession of an individual. Members of some of the British professions did all they could to rescue their persecuted brethren from the continent, while others did all they could to bar those who might potentially cause competition in the job market. This article considers how welcoming the professions and general public were to the internees in the years preceding the Second World War, how popular opinion changed after the fall of France and the Low Countries, and how Eleanor Rathbone and some of her peers campaigned to debunk the popular myths surrounding the refugees. Much of the rhetoric from this time period will seem familiar to those reading the newspapers and listening to news reports nowadays, showing how much still needs to be learned from this turbulent time in history.


Enemy Alien and Refugee: Conflicting Identities in Great Britain during the Second World War

The speed at which France and the Low Countries fell in 1940 created a panicked situation in Great Britain. It was believed that the successful invasions could have only come about by the presence of ‘Fifth Columnists’ who subverted the French, Belgian, and Dutch efforts at defence. With the prospect of a German invasion of the British mainland a very real possibility, the media stirred up anti-alien hysteria, directed at the tens of thousands of German and Austrian refugees who had entered Great Britain in the years preceding 1939. In an effort to recognise the fact that most enemy aliens had fled persecution in their home country and therefore were unlikely to feel allegiance towards the Axis powers, tribunals had been instituted in early 1940 in order to separate genuine refugees from potentially hostile enemy aliens. However, the fall of France caused such panic that a policy of wholesale internment was instituted, regardless of tribunal classification. The majority of those interned were male, although several hundred female enemy aliens were interned, in some cases with their children. After Italy declared war, any Italians resident in Britain were also interned but without a tribunal. This article considers the effects of internment on the refugee population and how has this event been remembered in the years following 1940.


Channel 5 - No Place Like Home

Journalist and news broadcaster Victoria Derbyshire comes home to Greater Manchester, including a visit to the notorious former internment camp, Warth Mills.

The segment where Rachel discuss Warth Mills with Victoria starts at 28:15 in the video.

January 11, 2023

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BBC Radio 3

Anne McElvoy in conversation with Barbara Warnock, Rachel Pistol, Liza Weber and Daniel Lee about the preservation of historical documents and Holocaust research.

First Broadcast January 25, 2024

The 80th anniversary of the tragedy of the Arandora Star

BBC Radio Devon

First broadcast July 7, 2020

The 80th anniversary of the tragedy of the Arandora Star, 2nd July 1940 and internment camps in Seaton and Paignton during the Second World War.

Second World War Prisoners of War in Hong Kong

Excerpt from Heir Hunters, BBC1

First broadcast March 3, 2014

Discussion of Edward Harrison as a POW in Hong Kong and the Lisbon Maru

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