Persecution and survival: Oxford and the wartime experience of the Jewish refugee Paul Jacobsthal

Persecution and survival helped participants piece together the social history of refugees living in Oxford during the Second World War. 

This project was run in collaboration with Oxford City of Sanctuary Group, the Association of Jewish Refugees, local schools and numerous volunteers.

The subject focused on exploring and making publicly available the wartime correspondence of Paul Jacobsthal (1880-1957). The archive offers an extensive but previously untapped resource, and consists of personal letters, notebooks, writings, photographs and drawings. Workshops helped people learn about individual experiences and different cultural traditions; the histories of people who have sought refuge in the UK; the effects of war and persecution; the importance of archives; and the effects of ideas from outside the UK on the UK's cultural heritage. The project also ensured all 1680 letters of the Paul Jacobsthal Archive have been catalogued both on paper and an online database. 

In total eight oral histories by Jewish refugees and their descendants were recorded. Of these, four were used in an exhibition 'Persecution and Survival: a war-time refugee story' which was held at Oxford Town Hall and Museum. Volunteers were introduced to the concepts of oral histories in three training workshops where they were involved in different stages of the process.

A schools outreach programme was set up and several schools visited the archives at Oxford. As well as designing the exhibition poster, pupils provided works of art and a timeline of the Second World War.

More on the project can be found on the University of Oxford School of Archaeology website.

“A magnificent achievement, pulling together such an interesting story from a collection of ignored papers”

“Very moving, happy to see how Oxford has been a melting pot of cultures”
Back to top of page