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World War II Evacuee Communities

With the outbreak of war in 1939, the UK government initiated an evacuation plan designed to protect the civilian population, especially children (under the name "Operation Pied Piper"), from the risk of enemy aerial bombardment of major population centres by moving them to areas thought to be less at risk. In addition, in many instances, whole families self evacuated to escape the German Blitz.

The majority of Britain's Jews at the time lived in poor densely populated neighbourhoods of the major cities, in particular the East End of London, which was also close to the London Dockland, a prime target for the Luftwaffe bombers. Accordingly, many Jews were among those evacuated to these safer areas. In many instances the numbers were supplemented by recently arrived Jewish refugees from Nazi persecution, including in some cases children who reached Britain on Kindertransport.   With the move of these relatively small country towns, most of which had not previously had Jewish inhabitants, the new arrival set up their own communal organisations and congregation, intended to be of a temporary nature, although some continued to exist for some time after the cessation of hostilities.

In particular, the United Synagogue, in recognising the needs of these evacuees, established over 20 new affiliated temporary "congregations", known as Membership Groups, primarily in the home counties and southern England. Most of the other evacuee congregations were unaffiliated, although a few were affiliated to the Federation of Synagogues or the Union of Orthodox Hebrew Congregations (UOHC).

The table below lists those evacuee congregations established during World War II.

Evacuee Congregations



  • Dr. Judith Grunfeld - Shefford: A Story of a Jewish School Community in Evacuation 1939-1945 (1980)

  • Yanky Fachler - Jewish Letchworth: Microcosm of the Jewish Communal Experience (2023)

  • Yanky Fachler - The Vow (2003, 2014)

  • Helen Fry - Jews in North Devon During the Second World War (2005)

  • Basil Jeuda - Macclesfield's Jews in World War Two (2016)

  • Michael Rouse - Bernstein's Boys - The story of the Evacuation in 1939 of the Jews' Free School to Ely (2021)

  • Vivien and Deborah Samson - The Rabbi in the Green Jacket: Memories of Jewish Buckinghamshire 1939-1945 (2015)

List of Synagogues destroyed by German air raids during World War II

Page created: 10 September 2023
Page most recently amended: 2 May 2024

Formatting by David Shulman



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