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Book review: Finding Refuge

By Routed Magazine | Issue 24

Hammel, Andrea. 2022. Finding Refuge. Aberystwyth: Honno Press.

ISBN: 978-1-912905-68-3

£12.99 (also available as ebook)

In the late 1930s, around 90,000 people found refuge in the United Kingdom, having fled persecution in Germany and Austria. In Finding Refuge, Andrea Hammel shares the stories of some of those who eventually reached Wales.

Most of them were children who never saw their parents again. Through portrait after portrait, she depicts their departures and the persecution they and their relatives endured. Placing the individual circumstances of the child refugees within the historical context, she sheds a personal light on the daunting history of Nazism.

In Wales, children found adoptive parents: some for the best, others for the worst. Adults carried on with their lives. Some did business or art, others joined the armed forces. Others yet were sent to the Isle of Man as ‘enemy aliens’: traumatised by persecution in their birth country, they were now chastised from their place of refuge.

In each of the 17 portraits, Professor Hammel details how these children all built their lives in the aftermath of World War II and to this day. She exposes how they have shaped contemporary Wales and shows how they, or their children, are still contributing to today’s Welsh social fabric.

Finding Refuge is remarkably balanced. It links global history with individual fates and circumstances. It links past with present, without ever falling into caricature. And it advocates for more open UK migration policies today, while encouraging individual readers to think about the positive change they can bring around them. Academically informed, it reads nicely and is accessible to the general public.

The back cover reads that the book ‘will resonate with people of all ages who are interested in the history of Wales, those who have experience of similar situations, those looking to understand the refugee experience, and those fascinated by the history of the displaced’. Routed strongly recommends Finding Refuge to all those who will recognise themselves in this description.


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