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Oral history: Jewish experience in Britain and Holocaust testimonies

The British Library holds several key oral history collections documenting Jewish experiences in Britain, including testimonies of pre-Second World War Jewish refugees to Britain, those fleeing from Nazi persecution during the Second World War, and Holocaust survivors and their children.

Holocaust testimonies

  • Living Memories of the Jewish Community (C410), one of the first National Life Stories projects, collected the personal testimonies of the Jewish Holocaust recorded with Jewish survivors now living in Britain and from the children of survivors..
  • Testimony: video interviews with British Holocaust survivors (catalogue no: C533) is a collection of more than 170 video interviews with Holocaust survivors recorded in collaboration with Yale University's Fortunoff Video Archive for Holocaust Testimonies.
  • Holocaust Survivors' Centre Testimony Recording Project (C830) is a National Life Stories collaborative project with the Holocaust Survivors' Centre, a Jewish social centre in north London for survivors who were in Europe during the Second World War or who came to the UK as refugees.
  • The Anton Gill Collection (catalogue no: C551) comprises 59 interviews, some in German or French, carried out between 1985 and 1986 with survivors of Nazi concentration camps including Jewish inmates, political prisoners and non-Jewish prisoners.
  • Herbert Levy German Jewish refugees interviews (catalogue no: C958) collection comprises of oral history interviews with German Jewish refugees to Britain recorded 1994-1997.
  • The Central British Fund Kindertransport interviews (catalogue no: C526) collection looks at the efforts to help Jewish children escape Nazi Germany and the experiences of children who came to Britain as part of the Kindertransport.

Jewish experience in Britain

  • The London Museum of Jewish Life Oral History Interviews (catalogue no: C525) collection comprises more than 100 interviews giving accounts of Jewish life in London in the twentieth century.
  • Chief Rabbi's Office Recordings (catalogue no: C496) include recordings of the Conference of European Rabbis, readings, speeches and musical interludes.
  • Pascall Theatre Company: Mothers and Daughters - A Jewish Archive (catalogue no: C1242) collection comprises 50 interviews with Jewish women of various ages and cultural backgrounds recorded by the Pascal Theatre Company in collaboration with the London Jewish Cultural Centre. The recordings were made as part of a film and exhibition entitled 'Jewish mothers and daughters: a personal history of the 20th century through 50 Jewish women's lives'.
  • Sephardi Voices UK (catalogue no: C1638) is a collection of oral histories of the Sephardi Jewish community in the UK and is part of a global initiative to record oral histories with the Sephardi community.  The aim of Sephardi Voices UK is to ensure that the testimonies and stories of the Jews from North Africa, the Middle East, and Iran who came to the UK in different waves of emigration, will be recorded and documented and that they will become an integral part of the history of British Jewish settlement in the UK.

Voices of the Holocaust

The British Library interactive learning resource Voices of the Holocaust, aimed at Key stage 3 pupils who have already made an initial study of the Holocaust, consists of 28 oral history testimonies gathered from men and women living in Britain today, together with associated background text, biographies, information, and student activities.

Related recordings

Accessing the collections

To access oral history material:

  • Search for oral history recordings held at the British Library using the online Sound and Moving Image Catalogue (see useful advice on searching the oral history collections).
  • Onsite access to oral history recordings: The Listening and Viewing Service in St Pancras provides free public access to the oral history collections on an appointment basis. Many digital recordings are also available via SoundServer, a computerised listening facility located in the Humanities Reading Rooms.  SoundServer is also available at the British Library’s site in Boston Spa in Yorkshire.
  • Internet access to selected oral history recordings: The British Library Sounds website gives remote access to a selection of interviews from the Library’s oral history collections. Some recordings are currently only licensed to Higher and Further Education users in the UK, others are available for full public access.

Further information

Contact us

Oral History
The British Library
96 Euston Road
London
NW1 2DB
United Kingdom

T +44 (0)20 7412 7405 (Rob Perks, Lead Curator, Oral History  / Director of National Life Stories)
T +44 (0)20 7412 7406 (Mary Stewart, Curator, Oral History / Deputy Director of National Life Stories)
T +44 (0)20 7412 7404 (Elspeth Millar, Archivist, Oral History)
E oralhistory@bl.uk