BBC HomeExplore the BBC
This page has been archived and is no longer updated. Find out more about page archiving.

18 June 2014
Accessibility help
Text only
Legacies - Oxford

BBC Homepage
 UK Index
Your stories
 Site Info
 BBC History
 Where I Live

Contact Us

Like this page?
Send it to a friend!

Immigration and Emigration
Oxford's "Hitler émigrés"

Frederick Lindemann is best known to history as Lord Cherwell, Churchill's wartime scientific advisor. An Englishman of partly German origins, Lindemann was Professor of Physics at Oxford between the wars and Director of its Clarendon Laboratory. A friend of Einstein, Lindemann had excellent contacts in Germany and was fully aware of the dangers represented by Nazism.

A continental "shopping expedition"

Nicholas Kurti
Physicist Nicholas Kurti also made Oxford his home.
Shortly after Hitler came to power in 1933, Lindemann drove in grand style across Germany on a "shopping expedition", returning to Oxford having bagged for the Clarendon some of the finest scientists in Central Europe. In due course, Oxford became home for the physicists Francis (Franz) Simon, Nicholas Kurti and Kurt Mendelssohn, the biologist Ernst Chain, one of the co-discoverers of penicillin, and many others.

By the time war broke out in 1939, Hitler's Reich had stretched to include not only Germany itself but also Austria and other adjacent territories. A total of something over 50,000 people managed to get out and find permanent refuge in Britain, not a large number (it is fewer than the number of asylum seekers the UK has received annually in recent years).

Ernst Chain, c.1960
Ernst Chain was one of the co-discoverers of penicillin.
© Studio Cantera, Rome
Many, but by no means all, were Jewish. Most settled in and around London. But a disproportionate number gravitated towards Oxford. Perhaps the old university town reminded them of happier days in Heidelberg or Gottingen, or maybe they thought that even Hitler wouldn't bomb a city so beautiful and venerable. And, of course, with many young English academics away in the forces, the university provided job opportunities. Whatever the reason, Oxford was a veritable hive of émigré activity during and after the war.

Words: Daniel Snowman

Pages: [ 1, 2, 3 ] Next

Your comments

Print this page
Look back into the past using the Legacies' archives. Find nearly 200 tales from around the country in our collection.

Read more >
Internet Links
Phaidon history
Oxford University history
World War Two
The BBC is not responsible for the content of external Web sites.
hills of sounthern Italy
Related Stories
Jewish massacre in 1190 was York’s blackest day
An insular approach to immigration?
Liverpool: more Irish than Ireland?

About the BBC | Help | Terms of Use | Privacy & Cookies Policy