Since 2006 the Library has been involved in a collaborative microfilming project with the US Holocaust Memorial Museum (USHMM). The Museum, based in Washington DC, is the most comprehensive institution of its type in the world.
Its primary mission is to advance and disseminate knowledge about the tragedy of the Holocaust, to preserve the memory of those who suffered, and to encourage its visitors to reflect upon the moral and spiritual questions raised by the events of the Holocaust as well as their own responsibilities as citizens of a democracy. The USHMM teaches millions each year about the dangers of unchecked hatred and the need to prevent genocide. It undertakes leadership training, education programmes, exhibitions and commemorations. As a memorial, it works against genocide through its Genocide Prevention Task Force, training foreign policy professionals.
The USHMM also collects archival material relating to the Holocaust from all over the world, and in 2006 it approached the Library of the Society of Friends to request access to British Quaker archive collections. It had already cooperated with the American Friends Service Committee (AFSC), the main American Quaker organisation assisting refugees and war victims, which had provided a considerable quantity of lists, images and data to the Museum, including refugee case files 1933-1958 and records relating to humanitarian work in France.
Substantial British Quaker work was done from 1933 onwards in relation to Nazi and Fascist Europe. This work included reporting on conditions inside Germany after the Nazi Party gained power in 1933, particularly in relation to political prisoners and their families, providing assistance to the prisoners and families, supporting the small community of German Quakers, assisting Germans, Austrians, Czechs, Poles and others suffering persecution, prosecution, imprisonment or exile for political, racial and religious reasons, and helping refugees and dependants arriving in Britain with employment, sponsorship, training, education, and re-emigration matters. In the UK there were also Quaker efforts for the welfare of those foreign refugees and UK residents who had been detained as “Enemy Aliens” soon after war was declared.
- This Quaker work was done principally by three committees – Friends Committee for Refugees and Aliens (originally known as the Germany Emergency Committee), Friends Relief Service, and Friends Service Council (the international department of the Society of Friends in Britain at the time).
- During World War II and its immediate aftermath British and American Quakers also assisted civilian populations in many areas of Europe and elsewhere. This work from 1933 into the post-war period was recognized by the award of the Nobel Peace Prize in 1947 (see our online exhibition at http://www.quaker.org.uk/nobel-peace-prize-1947 ).
The Library’s collaborative project with USHMM began with a survey of our holdings and an inspection of large numbers of publications, minute books and file series by the USHMM’s British research assistant. This formed the basis of the ongoing microfilm project to produce master negatives (retained by the Library) and positive microfilm copies (sent to the USHMM for use in its library and research facilities). This long-term project has involved Library staff in the careful preparation of materials for microfilming, checking lists against records, page-counting, checking for filing-order and physical condition, as well as preparation of film titles, specific volume or file titles, headers and other markers.
So far at least 20 volumes of minute books and pamphlets, and 14 boxes or part-boxes of archives have been microfilmed. There are approximately 9 boxes (4000-5000 images) still to be filmed.
Among series already microfilmed are –
- Friends Committee for Refugees and Aliens (Germany Emergency Committee) minutes, publications, administrative and correspondence files on conditions and individuals in Germany in the 1930s and assistance to refugees, internees and others during World War II.
- Friends Service Council annual reports and internal correspondence files on British Quaker workers’ and local Quakers’ activities in assisting refugees and other victims of Nazism in (and from), China, Austria, France, Germany, Poland, Switzerland and Scandinavia from around 1933 onwards.
- Palestine Watching Committee and Friends Service Council Middle East files material on Palestine and the Middle East, reporting on the pre-war situation there, and undertaking assistance after World War II.
The project will not only make World War II Quaker materials more widely available for public research, but will help to educate people in the prevention of genocide and hatred. The Library looks forward to continuing its work with the USHMM. For more information about the project, please contact the Archivist (firstname.lastname@example.org)