The AJR was established on 20 July 1941 to support and represent the interests of the estimated 70,000 Jewish Refugees from German-speaking countries who fled to Britain to escape Nazi oppression before the Second World War. This number includes approximately 10,000 children who fled Nazi-controlled Germany, Austria and Czechoslovakia to Britain on the Kindertransport between December 1938 and August 1939.
As well as the refugees who arrived prior to the outbreak of the Second World War, AJR membership today includes several groups of post-war Jewish refugees from Europe including survivors from concentration camps and ghettos, child survivors as well as those who survived in hiding.
The children and grandchildren of refugees and survivors, the Second and Third Generations, are also entitled to be AJR members.
The AJR has specialist social care workers who attend to the daily needs of AJR members and arrange home visits to members throughout the country. As well as assisting with applications for social security benefits they advocate on behalf of clients. In addition to disbursing its own funds, the AJR, acting on behalf of the Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany (the Claims Conference), administers emergency social, welfare and care funds which are allocated to pay for a number of services and essential items and designed to enable members to continue to live with dignity in their own homes for as long as possible. The Claims Conference negotiates annual funding for these programmes.
The Homecare scheme, which contributes to a specific number of hours of care in a person's home, has been prioritised by the German government and the Claims Conference.
The allocated funds are used to pay for a number of services and essential items including dental treatment and specialist clothing as well as urgent house repairs, recuperative and respite breaks and homecare packages.
There are specific and separate funds for Austrian and Hungarian Holocaust survivors as well as a general Emergency Fund and a Homecare programme for survivors and refugees from any country who meet the eligibility criteria.
The AJR welcomes volunteers to help with a number of projects:
Many elderly AJR members, though still living in their own homes, are frail and often isolated. Some have few or no surviving family and can find themselves to be very lonely indeed. A befriender, who can make regular visits, be someone to talk to and possibly go on walks with, would be very welcome. Currently, befrienders visit between 1-2hrs weekly, fortnightly, or even monthly.
Supporting Clients with Memory Loss
Memory loss can often leave a person feeling misunderstood, lonely and isolated. If you feel you are sensitive, caring, calm and intuitive then you will find visiting somebody with memory loss extremely rewarding. Volunteer befrienders are required to visit up to one hour a week/fortnight. All volunteers will receive specialised training and regular supervision.
Computer Help Project
Many AJR members would like to learn how to use a computers to keep in touch with familiy and friend abroad or generally learn how to use Webpages such as Google or online newspapers. Volunteers with basic computer skills (Word, Exel, Internet, etc.) visit them and assist them in using their computer. The time commitment will be about one hour every week or fortnight.
Telephone Befriending Project
The AJR has more than 600 members over the age of 90. They may have been very active in their younger days, but many find that old age and ill-health means that they are less able to get out and often feel isolated and lonely. Theses volunteers keep in telephone contact with our members on a regular basis building up a rapport.
The purpose of this project is to tell the life stories of AJR members through the production of individual life story booklets to be kept as treasured memories and tools for reminiscence. Volunteers visit members to record their life stories. Other roles include transcribers, editors and designers. This project was piloted in Manchester and has been subsequently rolled out in London.
The AJR operates 44 regional groups throughout the country where its members can socialise and share their experience.
Through this outreach programme the AJR has reunited former friends and acquaintances from more than 60 years ago.
In addition to organising meetings, outings and coffee mornings as well as garden and tea parties, AJR outreach co-ordinators arrange national and regional get-togethers, which involve a full day’s programme, including lunch and guest speakers and group discussion.
An extension of the network of regional groups is the AJR’s Continental Friends programme, which brings together former refugees who live in the same village or part of town for local meetings.
Following the closure of the Paul Balint AJR Centre, AJR members can now attend the Jewish Care Sobell Centre, which offers a selection of freshly cooked meals and a range of activities.
In addition to art classes, a card club and day trips, AJR members benefit from the services of a chiropodist and an in-house shop. The monthly Luncheon Club combines lunch with guest speakers and artists performing musical programmes. Transport to and from the Centre can be arranged.
Through the AJR Centre, frozen kosher meals can be delivered twice-weekly to members in the London area. Additionally, AJR members can take home these meals from the Centre.
The AJR offers advice and assistance with claims for Holocaust-era compensation and the restitution of appropriated assets. As well as information about pensions, property and insurance policies, help is available for enquiries related to dormant bank accounts and lump sum reparations paid by individual governments or commissions. Although the deadlines for many reparation schemes have expired it is still possible to apply to certain programmes.
In addition to this guidance, the AJR lobbied the British Government to ensure that certain compensation awards are exempt from income, capital gains and inheritance taxes and that lump sum reparations are disregarded when calculating entitlement to social security benefits.
Through the Claims Conference, AJR assisted former forced and slave labourers with their claims to receive compensation from the Foundation "Remembrance, Responsibility and Future".
The Kindertransport (KT) is a special interest group of AJR. It represents those victims who arrived in Britain as children by Kindertransports fleeing from Nazi-occupied Germany, Austria and Czechoslovakia prior to the start of the Second World War. The group arranges monthly meetings including guest speakers and regular activities. Current chairman of the Kindertransport planning committee is Sir Erich Reich.
The Child Survivors Association (CSA) is also a special interest group of the AJR. The CSA committee arranges for guest speakers and the group offers mutual support in a relaxed social atmosphere where members can come together to discuss their experiences. The CSA is an affiliated member of the World Federation of Jewish Child Survivors of the Holocaust.
The AJR supports various projects to commemorate the Holocaust and to educate future generations.
The AJR Charitable Trust has given grants to institutions to develop programmes for the formal teaching of the Holocaust in schools, colleges and universities. It has also made grants to organisations that arrange and organise commemorative events, programmes and exhibitions.
AJR has produced an audio-visual testimony archive entitled Refugee Voices, which is a collection of 150 filmed interviews.
Refugee Voices enables Holocaust researchers and scholars to watch up to 450 hours of Holocaust testimony and read fully edited and transcribed accounts. Researchers are assisted by a catalogue with 44 separate categories and time-codes that, together with a summary sheet and key words section, direct users to specific sections of the films.
Each interview is accompanied by still shots of photos of family members and friends, places of importance for the interviewee and of other items or documents of special significance in the interviewee’s life.
In addition to exploring the contribution to Britain made by the refugees, the interviews cover the wide range of experiences of refugees and survivors and features interviews with Jewish Nazi victims who have rarely spoken about their experiences.
The project was directed Dr Anthony Grenville and Dr Bea Lewkowicz directing and is a resource for academics, researchers, educationalists and others with a professional interest in the field of refugee, migration and Holocaust studies. The collection has been designed precisely with the requirements of scholars and other professionals in mind.
In conjunction with the Jewish Museum in London, the AJR produced the exhibition Continental Britons - Jewish Refugees from Nazi Europe, which presents the story of Jewish refugees who fled Nazi persecution in the German-speaking countries before the Second World War and came to Britain.
Continental Britons us illustrated with documents, photographs, personal memoirs, artefacts and art works, and has a concise and authoritative commentary. The exhibition follows the journey of the refugees, how they arrived, where they settled, and their experience of hostels, foster families and internment as ‘enemy aliens’. It also touches on the dilemmas and challenges faced by all refugees, past and present, such as the loss of a secure home, the difficulties of adjusting to a new culture and the reception by British society.
The AJR has produced a series of Holocaust Memorial Books that honour the families of individual AJR members living in different areas of the country.
The AJR commissioned and has now published the survey Making New Lives in Britain which has recorded the Continental background, journey to Britain, reception and subsequent experiences and lives of more than 1,300 former refugees who escaped to Britain on the Kindertransport.
AJR Chief Executive Michael Newman is a member of the UK delegation to the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) (formerly the Task Force for International Cooperation on Holocaust Education, Remembrance, and Research (Holocaust Task Force), which consists of representatives of government, as well as governmental and non-governmental organisations.
All members of AJR receive the monthly AJR Journal that presents topical news analysis with feature articles as well as books, theatre and film reviews. It also contains profiles of personalities with a connection to the refugee community and promotes forthcoming AJR events and activities. Leslie Baruch Brent is a frequent contributor.
The AJR hosts the archive of the Jewish Refugees Committee (part of the Central British Fund for World Jewish Relief). This archive contains the extensive confidential records of some 70,000 refugees who arrived in Britain to escape Nazi persecution.