Robert Rinder's grandfather and the Central British Fund

By Seth Burgess, 13 August 2018 - 3:14pm

Robert Rinder's grandfather survived the Holocaust and was brought to Britain by an organisation called the Central British Fund – now known as World Jewish Relief. The charity's head of communications, Rebecca Singer, reveals more about its archives

The Central British Fund made detailed notes on Morris Malenicky
The Central British Fund made detailed notes on Morris Malenicky (Credit: World Jewish Relief)

Robert Rinder's grandfather, Morris Malenicky, survived the Holocaust and was brought to Britain after the war by an organisation called the Central British Fund, which still exists today as World Jewish Relief.

Its archives hold some amazing stories of people like Morris, who came to start new lives in Britain before and after World War Two and is a resource available to family historians looking to discover new information about their relatives.

World Jewish Relief is an international humanitarian agency helping both the world's poorest Jewish communities, mainly in Eastern Europe, and responding to humanitarian disasters around the world. We also work in the UK, supporting Syrian refugees into employment.

Our history helping refugees goes back to 1933 when we were established to help Jews escape Nazi Europe. Hitler had come to power and prominent members of the Jewish community lobbied the British government to allow German refugees into the country. They also had to raise substantial amounts of money to support the refugees once they had arrived.

During the 1930s and 40s, the CBF was able to bring around 65,000 people to safety from Nazi occupied Germany and Austria. In 1938, alongside other faith groups, it helped arrange and fund the rescue effort of almost 10,000 children who came to the UK on the Kindertransport. And once the war had ended the CBF arranged for the rescue and rehabilitation of 732 orphaned children, most of whom had survived the concentration camps and became known as 'The Boys'.

For each new refugee that arrived, meticulous records were kept by the staff at the CBF. A registration card listed basic information including date and place of birth and date of arrival in the UK. Case files gave more detailed information about how they became refugees, the financial and social support they received from the CBF, what employment they were able to get and what became of them years later.

Many longer files, like those of 'The Boys', give an insight into life under the Nazis. They record the fate of their families, their journey through ghettos, camps and on death marches until their liberation. As well as providing fascinating personal history, these files also tell of the social conditions in Britain after the war, the difficulties readjusting to normal life after the ordeals of the Holocaust and the help given by the CBF to get jobs and establish new lives.

These documents would have been destroyed after the war had it not been for a CBF staff member who recognised their historical importance. For decades they were stored in garages and basements during which time many were lost or damaged but today, World Jewish Relief's archive contains the records of 35,000 of these people. Young and old, male and female - they came alone and in family groups, all desperate to escape the Nazis.

Through a recent digitisation project in partnership with the London Metropolitan Archives, these unique personal documents are now available to family members for free and are a valuable resource for anyone wanting to find out more about any family members who came to the UK from Nazi Europe in the 1930s and 40s.

It's quick and easy to make an enquiry on the archives section of the World Jewish Relief website at www.worldjewishrelief.org/archives.

The team of volunteers at World Jewish Relief need basic details to search the archive but the most important information is the refugee's name and approximate date of birth. Many people changed their names in some way so it's important to include any original names or changes in spelling. You can also include any other relatives you know came over at the same time.

Some of the documents contain sensitive and personal information and our team reviews them all before sending them out. The response to the files has been amazing with people discovering new information and learning about the experiences of their family members for the first time.

For World Jewish Relief, our work saving lives and giving assistance to refugees and Kindertransport children and 'The Boys' in the 1930s and 40s, informs everything we do now. We are very proud of our history and are determined to reunite as many people with their family histories as possible. 

 
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