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The Central British Fund

Origins

It was Yvonne de Rothschild (1899-1977), wife of Anthony de Rothschild, who was one of the first to realise the implications of the European situation in the early 1930s. By the autumn of 1933, she had become president of a society 'to aid German Jewish women children'. The Central British Fund for German Jewry was founded by a group of Anglo-Jewish community leaders in the early months of 1933 for the purpose of assisting the Jews in Germany, in response to the appointment of Adolf Hitler as Chancellor of Germany on a political platform of anti-Semitism. Among the founders were Anthony and Yvonne de Rothschild, Leonard G. Montefiore and Otto Schiff; Lionel de Rothschild (1882-1942) was one of its Presidents, and Anthony de Rothschild (1887-1961) was Chairman of its Appeals.

The work of the Central British Fund

In October 1934 the Central British Fund was incorporated as a Company limited by guarantee having no share capital. The Central British Fund brought together respected members of the Jewish community in Great Britain and overseas who by virtue of their contacts with other Jewish organisations co-ordinated the work of all the Jewish bodies working to assist the Jewish victims of racial and religious persecution; from 1936 the Central British Fund served as the administrative machine for the Council for German Jewry and the Jewish Refugees Committee. The scope of the activities of the Central British Fund was expanded in 1938 to include the Jews of Austria, and after the outbreak of the war to include those Jews from other Eastern and Central European countries who came under Nazi domination. In December 1938 Anthony de Rothschild was appointed chairman of the Emigration (Planning) Committee, a subcommittee of the Council for German Jewry; he also served as Joint Chairman of the Central Office for Refugees, the case-working body of the Central British Fund. The purpose of this committee was to assist Jewish refugees from Central Europe arriving in the United Kingdom;  The Central British Fund assumed a blanket guarantee vis-à-vis the British government that the refugees from Nazi oppression would not become a burden on public funds. When the number of refugees from Germany and Austria reached 60,000 at the outbreak of the Second World War, the British government agreed to subsidise the work of the Central Office for Refugees.

Anthony de Rothschild became Chairman of the Central British Fund in 1939, succeeding Sir Osmond d’Avigdor-Goldsmid who resigned on grounds of ill-heath; Anthony himself did not miss a meeting until he fell ill in 1955. Anthony and Yvonne de Rothschild co-ordinated much of the activity of the Central British Fund through N M Rothschild & Sons’ office at New Court, and Ascott House. For some years, the Council had to borrow considerable sums to meet its immediate liabilities, on the security of pledged subscriptions; its bankers, N M Rothschild & Sons were unfailingly helpful. In 1944, the Central British Fund changed its name to the Central British Fund for Jewish Relief and Rehabilitation. The same year, it formed the Jewish Committee for Relief Abroad which sent teams of volunteers to work first in Italy and Greece, then in former concentration camps in Germany and Austria. It has been estimated that the Central British Fund rescued 65,000 people from Europe in the 1930s and 1940s, including 10,000 through the Kindertransport.

Post-war work

In the immediate post-war period, the Central British Fund extended help to the stricken Jewish communities in Europe, and in the summer of 1945 brought 750 orphaned children from concentration camps to the United Kingdom. The Central British Fund also aided settlement in Palestine and facilitated various emigration schemes. After the Suez crisis and the Hungarian uprising in 1956, the Central British Fund assisted the Jewish refugees from Hungary and Egypt admitted to the United Kingdom. From 1958 onward, the Central British Fund established close co-operation with the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee in North Africa, Iran, Poland, and in particular France, where it contributed to relief and the housing of Jewish refugees from North Africa. The Central British Fund  was instrumental in the creation of the United Restitution Organization in 1948, and the Jewish Trust Corporation for Germany in 1950; it was also one of the founding members of the Conference on Jewish Material Claims. Today under the name of World Jewish Relief, the organisation continues to provide assistance to beleaguered Jews in the Diaspora, especially in the former Soviet Union and Argentina.

Central British Fund archives held by the Wiener Library and the London Metropolitan Archives

The majority of papers of the Central British Fund are held by the Wiener Holocaust Library » and the London Metropolitan Archives » The Wiener Holocaust Library, London holds reports, minutes and correspondence of the Central British Fund and related organisations, and the London Metropolitan Archives holds papers of The Central British Fund and its scuccessors, 1933-2004 (Ref ACC/2793).

Many Central British Fund archives, containing the records of 35,000 people, including birth certificates, immigration papers, school records, and many other documents, have been digitised by World Jewish Relief, (successor to the Central British Fund), and are available on the World Jewish Relief website »

Central British Fund archives held by The Rothschild Archive

Papers concerning Jewish refugees and work of the Central British Fund will be found in papers of the London banking house: the XI/35 series, Partners' Room, Special Correspondence files: Anthony de Rothschild, and the Secretariat Department, Correspondence Files, 1 series files. A single file, containing papers relating to funds and appeals of Central Fund for German Jewry will also be found in the Loans Department, Loan Contracts series, file 000/401O/1.

N M Rothschild & Sons were bankers to the Central British Fund. Papers registered into NMR file series, (mainly relating to financial accounts of the Central British Fund held with N M Rothschild & Sons) will be found listed below, together with some sundry published material.

Papers of Anthony de Rothschild and Yvonne, Mrs Anthony de Rothschild concerning their work with Jewish refugee support organisations will be found in 000/2628, The Ascott Collection IV. These files include papers concerning Anthony's chairmanship of the Central British Fund, correspondence, press cuttings, appeals and campaign material and publications concerning Jewish affairs.

Secondary sources

See also the volumes below, copies of which are available in the Reading Room.

  • They Found Refuge, an account of British Jewry’s work for victims of Nazi oppression, by Norman Bentwich, (London: The Cresset Press, 1956)
  • Men of Vision: Anglo-Jewry's Aid to the Victims of the Nazi Regime, 1933–1945, Amy Gottlieb (Weidenfeld and Nicolson, 1998).

Partners' Room, Private files, Anthony de Rothschild, Central British Fund (45 series), 1932-1939

000/1110 (45/1), 1 file

File from the Partners' Room, NMR: Private files, Anthony de Rothschild, Central British Fund (45 series). The file contains correspondence, reports and papers relating to Central British Fund Emigration Schemes.

Further papers concerning support for Jewish charities and causes in the period leading up to the Second World War will be found in papers of the the Secretariat Department, Correspondence Files, 1 series and the XI/35 series, Partners' Room, Special Correspondence files: Anthony de Rothschild.

Central British Fund, Charity screening of 'The House of Rothschild', programme, 1934

000/346/4, 1 item

Original programme for a gala charity screening of the film The House of Rothschild (United Artists Corporation) at the Tivoli Theatre, Strand, London, 24 May 1934. The event was in aid of the Fund for German-Jewish Women and Children. [The programme co-incidentally features an image of the actress Jeanne Stuart (1908-2003) modelling for Harvey Nichols; Ms Stuart would later marry Eugène von Rothschild (1884-1976), in 1952]. From a small collection of press cuttings and magazines with articles concerning the Rothschild family and business that originated in the NMR Secretary's Department.

The Central British Fund for German Jewry, Allocations Committee: reports, 1934

000/1557/2, 000/1671/1, 2 volumes

The Central Fund for British Jewry, Allocations Committee reports:

  • First Report of the Allocations Committee of the Central British Fund for German Jewry, 1934. (000/1557/2)
  • Second Report of the Allocations Committee of the Central British Fund for German Jewry, March-December, 1934. The back page has an Appeal for The Central British Fund for German Jewry, Woburn House, Upper Woburn Place, London W.C.1., requesting that 'Contributions should be sent to Messrs. N. M. Rothschild & Sons, New Court, E.C.4, envelopes marked 'Appeal''. (000/1671/1)

The Central Council for Jewish Refugees, reports and publications, 1939-1940

000/1557/3-4, 2 items

The Central Council for Jewish Refugees: publications. The Central Council for Jewish Refugees was based at Woburn house, Upper Woburn Place, LondonW.C.1:

  • Council for Jewish Refugees, Report for 1939; 
  • Speeches delivered at a meeting of Anglo-Jewry, convened by the Central Council for Jewish Refugees, at Woburn house, Upper Woburn Place, W.C.1, 6 February 1940, (London: Central Council for Jewish Refugees, 1940).

The Central British Fund: NMR accounts, Account Ledgers, (209 series), 1938-1947

000/2318 (209/1-7), 7 volumes

The Central British Fund: NMR accounts, Account Ledgers, 209 series. A series of ledgers recording accounts managed by NMR on behalf of the Central British Fund

  • 209/1 Central British Fund for German Jewry, Accounts: No 1 Account; Austrian Appeal Account; No 2 Account; German and Austrian Peace Offering Appeal  Account; Emigration Sub-committee Expenses Account; No.3 Account, 1938;
  • 209/2 Central British Fund for German Jewry, Accounts: No 1 Account; Austrian Appeal Account; No 2 Account; German and Austrian Peace Offering Appeal  Account; Emigration Sub-committee Expenses Account; No.3 Account; Special Children’s Account; Special Loan Account, 1939;
  • 209/3 Central British Fund for German Jewry, Accounts: No 1 Account; Austrian Appeal Account; No 2 Account; German and Austrian Peace Offering Appeal Account; No.3 Account; Special Loan Account, 1940;
  • 209/4 Central British Fund for German Jewry, Accounts: No 1 Account; Austrian Appeal Account; No 2 Account; German and Austrian Peace Offering Appeal Account: No 3 Account; Special Loan Account, 1941-1943; 
  • 209/5 Central British Fund for German Jewry, Accounts: General Account; No 4 Account; Special Loan Account; General B Account, 1944-1946;
  • 209/6 Central British Fund for German Jewry, Accounts: General Account; No 4 Account; General B Account, 1947;
  • 209/7 Central British Fund for German Jewry, Prudential Accounts, 1939-1943.

The Central British Fund: NMR accounts, Account Ledgers, (223 series), 1939-1945

000/2318 (223/1), 1 volume

The Central British Fund: NMR accounts, Account Ledgers, 223 series. A series of ledgers recording accounts managed by NMR on behalf of the Central British Fund

  • 223/1 Central British Fund, Cash Suspense Accounts, 1939-1945.

The Central British Fund: NMR sundry correspondence and papers, (189, 220 and 240 series), 1933-1952

000/2030 (189/1); 000/2318 (220/1-3, 240/1) , 5 files

Central British Fund: NMR sundry correspondence and papers, NMR registered files:

  • 189/1 Central British Fund: correspondence, banking slips and covering letters concerning payments made into Central British Fund accounts held with NMR, 1933-1938;
  • 220/1 Central British Fund for German Jewry: Emigration Sub-Committee Expenses Account, 1938-1939;
  • 220/2 Central British Fund for German Jewry Report, 1938; Articles of Association for the Central Briitish Fund Inc., 1934, sundry papers, deeds and covenants, 1938;
  • 220/3 Central British Fund for German Jewry: Lists of Covenanted Payments (numbers 1-1008), 1950-1952;
  • 240/1 Central British Fund: correspondence, 1936-1940, Christmas Gifts. 1936-1940.

The Central British Fund: NMR sundry correspondence and papers, (239 series), 1938-1947

000/2318 (239/1-10), 34 files

Files in the NMR 239 series, Central British Fund: sundry correspondence:

  • 239/1 Central British Fund: correspondence, 1934-1935. No 1 account, 1934-1935;
  • 239/2 Central British Fund: correspondence, 1936-1937;
  • 239/3 Central British Fund: correspondence, 1936-1938. Includes a file ‘Austrian Appeal’, 1938; 
  • 239/4 Central British Fund: correspondence, Lists of Subscriptions, 1939;
  • 239/5 Central British Fund: correspondence, Lists of Subscriptions, 1940;
  • 239/6 Central British Fund: correspondence, Lists of Subscriptions, 1941; 
  • 239/7 Central British Fund: correspondence, Lists of Subscriptions, 1942;
  • 239/8 Central British Fund: correspondence, Lists of Subscriptions, 1943; 
  • 239/9 Central British Fund: correspondence, Lists of Subscriptions, 1944-1948; 
  • 239/10 Central British Fund: correspondence, 1949-1954.