Tuesday 31 March 2015

Bertha Bracey

Bertha Bracey (1893-1989) was a Quaker who did a lot to help German Jews. She came from Birmingham and worked as a teacher.

In 1921 she went to Nuremberg and set up several clubs for young people. She helped with relief work and also helped with reconstruction work at the Quaker centre.  The Quaker aim was to create centres of reconciliation and peace. She also worked in Berlin and eventually returned to London in 1929.
When problems began for the Jews in 1933, she became the secretary of the Germany Emergency Committee. She organised Quaker help for Jews persecuted by the Nazis in Germany, Austria and Czechoslovakia, and destitute Jewish refugees in Paris. She helped them to flee these countries and found work and accommodation for them in Britain. She spoke fluent German, had a large network of useful contacts. All Jewish aid organisations were  brought together under one roof in Bloomsbury House and Friends Committee for Refugees and Aliens moved into 25 rooms there with 80 staff and 14,000 case files.
In 1934 she helped to establish a Quaker school in Holland for 100 Jewish children. The school provided employment for Jewish and Quaker teachers. She also helped to establish Stoatley  Rough School in Surrey in the same year. This school catered for Jewish refugees.   

After the Kistallnacht, Jewish parents were desperate to get their children to safety. It was too dangerous for British Jews to go to Germany, so six Quakers were sent out to report on the situation. On 21 November Bertha Bracey joined a delegation to the Home Secretary, Sir Samuel Hoare, and Hoare obtained the consent of Parliament to the admission of the children. The first group arrived on 2 December.
In 1945 just before the end of the war three hundred orphans were found alive in the Theresienstadt concentration camp in Czechoslovakia and with the assistance of RAF Bomber Command she had them flown to a reception camp by Lake Windermere.

In 1942 Bertha Bracey received the OBE for her work for refugees. In 1946 she was appointed by the Allied Control Commission in Germany to handle refugee affairs, and was later put in charge of women’s affairs in the British and American Zones, and there she remained until she retired in 1953 at the age of 60.
The importance of what she did, in particular in her help in organising the Kindertransport was honoured in 2010 by Gordon Brown.  

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