A matter of intelligence: MI5 and the surveillance of anti-Nazi refugees, 1933–50

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A matter of intelligence: MI5 and the surveillance of anti-Nazi refugees, 1933–50 – Book presentation

  • Tue 17 Mar 2015
  • 7:00PM
Imported 2100
Imported 2100

Austrian Cultural Forum London

28 Rutland GateLondon SW7 1PQ


T 020 7225 7300

F 020 7225 7300

E office@acflondon.org


Based on their recent book A Matter of Intelligence: MI5 and the Surveillance of Anti-Nazi Refugees 1933-1950 Charmian Brinson and Richard Dove will discuss MI5's surveillance of some of the 25.000 Austrian refugees who fled to Britain, in particular the political refugees among them. This surveillance exercise formed an important part of MI5's work during this period, however it does not figure in the official history of MI5, nor in any of the unofficial ones. The talk will trace the development of MI5's surveillance of the refugees through case files recently released to the National Archives files on individuals and refugee organisations; and finally it will assess how successful or useful the exercise actually was.

This is an unusual book, telling a story which has hitherto remained hidden from history: the surveillance by the British security service MI5 of anti-Nazi refugees who came to Britain fleeing political persecution in Germany and Austria. Based on the personal and organisational files that MI5 kept on political refugees during the 1930s and 1940s – which have only recently been released into the public domain – this study also fills a considerable gap in historical research. Telling a story of absorbing interest, which at times reads more like spy fiction, it is both a study of MI5 and of the political refugees themselves. The book will interest academics in the fields of history, politics, intelligence studies, Jewish studies, German studies and migration studies; but it is also accessible to the general reader interested in Britain before, during and after the Second World War.

Written by Charmian Brinson, Professor of German Studies at Imperial College, London and Richard Dove, Emeritus Professor of German, University of Greenwich.