A genealogical tree for the Central British Fund with its various suffixes would look very odd, for the most important of its children was born two months before the parent. I refer, of course, to the Jewish Refugees Committee, formed as the Jews Tempor? ary Shelter in March 1933 to help the first victims of Nazi oppression. There was no other organiza? tion equipped to do this, and Otto Schiff, the then President of the Shelter, founded it as the first refugees from Germany arrived and had nowhere to go.
It seems appropriate to open this paper by mentioning the man to whom, to quote Leonard Montefiore's tribute to him on his retirement, 'more than any other man or woman was due the honour of securing the entry to this country of many thousands of human beings in peril of their lives at the hands of the Nazi Gestapo'. The trust he earned at the Home Office, with whom he had been in contact as early as the First World War in connec? tion with the Belgian refugees, stands the Jewish Refugees Committee and the Central British Fund in good stead to this day, and no one who worked as closely with him as I did will ever cease to be grateful for all he taught us of humanity and compassion. I went to Otto Schiff as his Private Secretary in his stockbroker's office in the City in May 1933, and my life was changed, for that was how I became involved in the work in which I consider it a privilege still to be engaged.
As the situation became more acute, Neville Laski, President of the Board of Deputies, Leonard Montefiore, President of the Anglo-Jewish Associ? ation and Otto Schiff, went to the Home Office and an omnibus undertaking was given that no Jewish refugee admitted to this country would fall a charge on public funds. This guarantee was officially withdrawn after the Austrian Anschluss, except for cases sponsored by the Jewish Refugees Committee, but in practice it was maintained until the outbreak of war. The economic position and unemployment in the United Kingdom in the early 1930s was such that it did not seem possible to absorb large numbers of refugees. All the same, those who were concerned with the problem - Jews and Christians alike - pressed for increased immigration facilities, both here and in our overseas territories.
Paper delivered to the Society on 13 lune 1979.
In April 1933, Jewish shops in Germany were boycotted and Jewish public feeling in this country ran high. Various organizations suggested appeals and, in order to prevent duplication, it was decided that the Central British Fund for German Jewry under the presidency of the Chief Rabbi, Dr Hertz, the first Marquis of Reading, Lionel de Rothschild, Dr Nahum Sokolov and Dr Chaim Weizmann should be set up to launch an appeal. At that time, only an Allocations Committee was formed and it was not until the end of 1934 that the Central British Fund