Isle of Man Holiday
This fascinating treasure, from the Manx National Heritage Library & Archives, shows a group of Jewish holidaymakers from either Manchester or Liverpool vacationing on the Isle of Man in 1956. The photo is taken where they were staying: at the CHA Guesthouse, Peel Headlands. This location has a very particular resonance: the hotel was requisitioned by the British Government as an internment camp for potential enemy aliens during World War Two. Many German and Austrian Jews, who had fled Nazi persecution and sought refuge in Britain on the Kindertransport or via other means, found themselves rounded up and sent to the Isle of Man (plus other locations in mainland Britain, Canada and Australia). So these holidaymakers are staying where an earlier generation of Jews were interned.
Internment was initiated by security concerns regarding suspected fascist spies or sympathisers, and distrust of political activists such as communist aliens in Britain before and during World War II. Implementation began in October 1939, following a review of German and Austrian nationals, but was mainly carried out in spring and summer 1940. With public support, however, most internees were released between May and July 1941, except known Nazis. Many Italians were also interned when Italy sided with Germany 1940–1943).
Internment locations included racecourse stables, disused mills, holiday chalets and prisons. The Isle of Man was the key location, holding thousands of internees, and was especially worrying for aliens registered as a ‘Refugee from Nazi oppression on racial grounds’, should Germany invade Britain.
The Manx National Heritage Library & Archives is publicly-accessible and holds a wide variety of resources relating to the Isle of Man, its history and culture.
We love this treasure for the layers of history encapsulated, and for the light it sheds on what is still a relatively-unknown aspect of British Second World War experience. To have fled persecution in Nazi Europe, only to find oneself incarcerated for being a one-time citizen of those nations, was brutal and traumatic for internees and their families.
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Hidden Treasures: Celebrating the documents, photos and artefacts in British archives that tell the story of Jews in Britain