Legal source for UK Internments


I have a family branch that emigrated from Germany to England in the 1936 - 1939 period. Around 1940, resident aliens in England (and I assume in other parts of the UK) were classified by local tribunals as either exempt from internment or interned. All of the family I'm researching, except one, were classified as exempt from internment. The exception was a 19-yr old man living and working in London since 1936. He had been sent by his parents to attend school, and was stil a student. The unfortunate young man was put aboard the infamous Dunera and transported to Australia, where he was interned for two years. In the middle of WWII, the UK decided they needed more manpower in the army, and gave the interned aliens the option to join the British Army in lieue of imprisonment, and a path to British citizenship. This young man took that opportunity, eventually returned to London and qualified as a Charted Accountant (similar to our CPA).

My question pertains to the legal basis for the roundups and internments. Was there an act of Parliament, or an emergency proclaimation by the PM? I've searched the UK Archives and found nothing pertaining to the legal basis. The digitized tribunal cards for exemptions are available at the UK archives, and the Australian Archives have digitized the complete record for this young man's internment, but I've found nothing about the British legal mandate for the internments in either place..
I am hoping that some members across the pond can provide suggestions of where to look.

Jeanette R Rosenberg OBE

Dear Judith


Actually there are countless sources of useful information about this topic, and not only on the website of the UK National Archives at Kew, although one reference there appears to me to be particularly helpful, setting the context from WW1 onwards:


This should also be read in the context of the 1905 Aliens Act which replaced the 1836 Act and set up a new system of immigration control and registration and giving responsibility to the Home Secretary for all matters of immigration and nationality.


There is a plethora of available reading material, but a good starting point is the excellent but now archived “Moving Here” Jewish Migration History website – see


Also, a book that I would particularly recommend is called Living with the Wire, which is now in its 3rd edition Edited by Yvonne M. Cresswell as well as other resources available from the Manx (Isle of Man) Government


You may find other information and background reading in the online Journal of the Association of Jewish Refugees


I spoke on this subject at the IAJGS Conference in Warsaw in 2018 – my talk was “Incarceration & Legal Restrictions on European Refugees in the UK during the 1930s and 1940s Refugee experiences in the UK before & during WW2”.  You can find a copy of the handout from my conference talk on my blog at


Please let me know if you have any further questions.


Kind regards



Jeanette R Rosenberg OBE

London UK


Eva Lawrence

I can't give you specific references, as I haven't studied the laws in detail. However,  I don't think that you will find any specific law that legalises those actions. They would have been  covered by a much more general act that gave the executive powers  for any measures that protected the security of the country under all circumstances. Also there was an Official Secrets Act,   so that everything like this was kept under wraps until quite recently.  Yes, I'm sure there was an emergency order from the Home Office, but certainly not a proclamation - secrecy was always a concern, and of course was one factor in Britain's eventual victory. Much of the wartime correspondence is now in the UK National Archives at Kew, and can be trawled through by interested researchers.  In particular, I've seen some an excellent overview of the Home Office interment policy, but I'm afraid I didn't notice the story of the Dunera being mentioned.   In the light of the population's  war-time  sacrifices and deaths from enemy action. it was "just one of those things". On your side of the pond, the phrase "there's a war on" didn't imply quite such a immediate threat. 
Eva Lawrence
St Albans, UK.

Tony Hausner

My parents who were Jewish were interned on the Isle of Man as well as other relatives, aunts, etc. from 1939 to 1940.  They had escaped from Austria after the anschluss. They were in separate camps as men and women were separated.  My mother kept my father's letter and they have been shared with several museums, etc.  The Isle of Man Manx Museum has extensive materials and an exhibit about both internment periods.  I can put you in touch with staff there if interested.  It would be useful to start a group of persons who's families were interned.  

Helen Krag

If anything comes from your suggestion of a group of people whose
relatives were interned on the Isle of Man, I would like to be included
as my father was interned from June 1940 until January 1942. Thank you

Helen Liesl Krag

Tony Hausner

Just remembered that a group was created a few years ago, but never really became active. I will see about doing that.  I will post more about that later.  In the meantime, here is some info that I just shared with that group. Please email me at thausner@... if interested in joining that group or send an email to interned-on-iom@... and ask to join.  

For what its worth, my parents left Vienna shortly after the anschluss.  They met in London, married and in 1939 were interned for a year in separate camps on the Isle of Man.  My father in Mooragh and my mother in Balmoral.  My mother kept my father's letter and I have donated copies to the Manx Museum as well as the USHMM and Yad Vashem.  
Here are photos of some of the letters at the USHMM
Here are my photos from the trip that we made to the Isle of Man in 2016.  
There is duplication between these albums
Here is their material on the WWII internment camps
The Manx Museum had a very moving exhibit on the camps when we visited in 2016 but do not know if still there.  A book "Living with the Wire" Edited by Yvonne Cresswell who was also the staff coordinator of the exhibit.  The book is available on Amazon.  

Kay Sharpe

I have documents showing details of my mum who was interned and her sister who wasn't obtained from Bad Arolsen 
Although I cannot suggest a legal reason for internment I understand that everyone who was to be interned was arrested around May 1940 due to an outcry in the British press about working alongside foreign spies. My poor, innocent,  quiet mum was put in Holloway until they were able to move her to the Isle of Mann. Having said that she was looked after and fed well and had freedom within the town. Sorry I cannot help more.  

Lewis, Megan


There a number of academic books on the topic such as "Totally un-English"? : Britain's internment of "enemy aliens" in two world wars edited by Richard Dove (2005) and Internment during the Second World War : a comparative study of Great Britain and the USA by Rachel Pistol (2017.)


Megan Lewis  Reference Librarian  202.314.7860
National Institute for Holocaust Documentation
United States Holocaust Memorial Museum


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Tony Hausner

If any of you are interested in joining our google email group devoted to the Isle of Man interment during World War II, please contact me at thausner@.... I have sent a couple of you an invite to join our group.