Jewish Immigration (Blackwood’s, 1901 and 1903 and Daily Mail, 1911)

1.666-67. Anon., ‘Foreign Undesirables’, Blackwood’s Magazine, Vol. CLXIX, No. MXXIV (Edinburgh), February 1901, 282-83; Anon., ‘The Alien Immigrant’, Blackwood’s Magazine, Vol. CLXXIII, No. MXLVII (Edinburgh), January 1903, 135; The Daily Mail, (London), 10 January, 1911, 7.

Extracts from three articles on Jewish immigration into Britain.

Attitudes to Jewish immigration into Britain between 1880 and 1905 were complex and divided. There was little immigration from Germany, which had taken place in the 1870s above all, though Haines’s specification of German Jews, if an instance of anything other than the casual fabrication of uninformed racism, may owe something to the fact that Germany was widely perceived as regulating Jewish immigration much more efficiently than Britain, or possibly to the fact that Eastern European Jews often arrived on German emigrant-ships. On the one hand, more than 30,000 Jewish immigrants into Britain were repatriated to Russia and Eastern Europe between 1880 and 1905. On the other hand the Balfour Government at least resisted ‘anti-alienist’ militancy, maintained a policy of selective immigration and refused to have the British-born children of Jewish immigrants categorised as anything other than British. ‘Anti-alienism’, however, was widespread and often fierce. There were plenty of British versions of the Citizen. Here is an anonymous contributor to Blackwood’s in 1901, pausing “to deal with the objection that we are preaching rank anti-semitism”:

We admit it, in the sense that the foreign undesirables, apart from anarchists and criminals, really resolve themselves, for the most part, into Polish and Russian Jews. . . . Every European country except our own has the Hebrew it deserves, but we get them all in turn. The Jewish aristocracy, the Sephardim of Portugal and Spain, who gave us a Disraeli in the third generation, have ceased to arrive. The Dutch Jews, with their long pedigrees, are stationary. Even the more plebeian German Jews are fast giving place to the outcasts of Russia and Poland — the wild, hunted-looking creatures, with fur caps and baggy, greasy clothes, who may be seen gaping about them most days at the London Docks. It is a proverb that the nearest the East a Jew dwells the more degraded he is.

The writer summarises his general argument in his essay of 1903:

If the argument of “England for the English” carries any weight at all, the intrusion of a compact alien element into the heart of London cannot be considered, at the same time, other than a calamity.

This is a later example, from Nora Barnacle’s favourite English paper, the Daily Mail:

We cannot consent longer to admit these thousands of undesirables to the cruel injury of our own people or permit indefinitely the scum of Europe to be poured into our country to replace the very cream that has been skimmed off by emigration. That way lies the moral and spiritual death of our race.

See also: David Feldman, Englishmen and Jews: Social Relations and Political Culture, 1840-1914, (New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 1994) [BL YC.1994.b.2684].