German-speaking women and their Organisations in Wartime Britain

Charmian Brinson

This paper will examine the clubs and organisations set up by/for German-speaking refugee women in Britain during the Second World War. These ranged from organisations for specific professional groups, such as refugee domestics or nurses, through social and cultural clubs, to political organisations such as the Kriegshilfskomitee deutscher Flüchtlingsfrauen. Often set up under the aegis of the large-scale refugee organisations such as the Austrian Centre, women’s clubs tended to play a relatively subordinate role within the (largely male administered) parent organisations. These larger organisations were all concerned, however, to attract women into their ranks; and politically experienced women like Emmy Damerius-Koenen did their best to make their mark, for instance with the Frauen-Kommission der Freien Deutschen Bewegung for which she was responsible. Since women’s organisations in British exile have not previously been researched, it is hoped that this paper will throw new light on women’s lives and relationships in exile as well as on their contribution to collective activity and political action.