Police put clamp on immigrant archives

By Jonathan Kalmus, February 22, 2013

Police records giving details of hundreds of Jewish immigrants entering the UK, including Holocaust survivors, are being barred from public access until "sensitive information" has been removed.

Historic "alien files" from West Yorkshire Police's immigration records show officers describing one incomer as a "self- opinionated Jew' and a "dim-witted peasant." They also record 17-year- old Barnet Jacobson, from Romania, being barred from the UK in 1908 because he was "illiterate", while Rifka Yafe, a Turkish immigrant who came in 1936, was only granted citizenship in 1967, some 30 years later.

The police are refusing to allow the West Yorkshire Archive Service to release nearly 3,000 records they have been cataloguing, dating from the 19th century until as recently as the 1960s.

Despite some politically incorrect content, archivists see the files as a rare chronicle of Jews fleeing persecution in Russia in the late 19th century. They also provide some of the richest ancestry records of the Leeds Jewish community.

Large numbers of Holocaust survivors are also shown to have been given refuge, such as Herman Anspacher from Achim in Germany, making a lonely entry into the UK without his wife Frederika and 16-year-old daughter, Rosa Maria, who were murdered by the Nazis in Minsk in 1942.

John Scothern, principal data management officer for West Yorkshire Police, defended the decision to withhold the records..

"We really can understand why so many people will be interested in this archive. Just seeing the ledger that shows 2,700 records of where people came from is fascinating.

"The problem is that we have not scoped out any sensitive information or any harm that could be done by releasing these records. They are relatively old, but many entries are from WWII. Memories of this time are quite recent and tender," he added.

Last updated: 8:45am, February 22 2013