Welcomed with open arms? The experience of refugees who emigrated from Nazi Europe to New Zealand in the years 1935-1945
Degree GrantorUniversity of Canterbury
Degree NameBachelor of Arts (Hons)
If one considers the event of recent years, as in Syria or with the Rohingya peoples, the world is struggling to deal with refugee crises. In this age of uncertainty, perhaps looking at the examples of our ancestors may offer some guidance. In doing so we can glean knowledge of the difficulties and implications that come out of resolving such a crisis and hopefully avoid past mistakes. For New Zealand, the exodus from Nazi Europe that occurred in the years 1938 and 1939 provides a valuable perspective. It is an event which tends to get overshadowed by the rise of Hitler and World War Two but offers important insights into the response of the world to a humanitarian crisis. This dissertation examines New Zealand’s role in the crisis itself and the role of humanitarian organisations within the country in looking after refugees and sheltering them from Nazi oppression. This is done through an examination of the interactions between refugees, humanitarian organisations such as the REC, the government and ordinary New Zealanders. Groups like the REC proved invaluable to the refugee effort as they aided refugees in almost every aspect of their asylum and served as important advocates for their entry. Their propaganda campaigns were pivotal in guiding public opinion to receptiveness but as war broke out New Zealanders became highly suspicious and fearful of refugees. Wartime regulations and the classification of refugees as ‘Enemy Aliens’ disrupted a highly effective relief effort but did not dent its enthusiasm. The REC displaying great aptitude and ability in defending refugee rights and playing a pivotal role in caring for a group that would go on and become an integrated part of New Zealand society.