Respect to the Jewish refugees who gave us fish, chips and M&S

By Jennifer Lipman, June 20, 2013
M&S as advertised by Twiggy

M&S as advertised by Twiggy

Jewish refugees have made the most significant contribution to British life, according to a new national survey looking at the different groups that have settled in the UK to escape persecution.

Polling commissioned to coincide with the 15th annual Refugee Week reveals that more than half of the British public consider psychiatrist Sigmund Freud — who escaped from the Nazis — to be the refugee who has had the most important impact on British life.

The celebrated Austrian thinker and founding father of psychoanalysis was granted asylum in this country after British academics and supporters of his work interceded with the authorities on his behalf. He set up home in Hampstead, where he saw patients and wrote some of his most influential books.

The Britain Thinks poll asked 2,000 people across the UK to select from a list of famous individuals from Europe, Asia and Africa, as well as inventions and innovations introduced by newcomers to the UK.

Immigrants who were lauded included German-Jewish doctor Sir Ludwig Guttman, for establishing the Paralympic Games, and the many Jews who fled to Britain from Portugal in the 16th century, bringing the recipe for fish and chips with them.

Although there are competing claims for the introduction of what is now a staple British food, perhaps the earliest documented example of fried fish being sold with chipped potatoes is in 1860 at the East End shop of Jewish immigrant Joseph Malin.

Another, more famous shop, was selected by 10 per cent of those questioned. Marks & Spencer is a fixture on almost every high street but the chain’s origins lie in a stall set up in Leeds 129 years ago by Russian-born market trader Michael Marks and his partner Thomas Spencer.

Surprisingly, perhaps, 44 per cent of the respondents said they regarded the invention of radar as the key benefit brought to British life by a refugee, and praised Austrian-born Jew Hermann Bondi for his role in developing it.

One in five of the respondents rated the Nobel Prize-winning physicist and developer of quantum mechanics, Max Born — also a refugee from Nazi Germany — as making the most significant contribution.
The Red Cross-backed Refugee Week, which concludes on Sunday, has focused this year on the theme “Our History and Heritage”.

Among events taking place under its banner is a display of miniature statues of prominent refugees at London landmarks, including a diminutive version of the artist Lucian Freud — grandson of Sigmund — placed outside the National Gallery in Trafalgar Square.

“The UK has enjoyed a proud tradition of welcome for those seeking sanctuary,” said Maurice Wren, chair of Refugee Week.

“Throughout the centuries, refugees have brought a wealth of talent, skills and knowledge with them to help make the UK the rich, diverse, and vibrant nation it is today,” declared Mr Wren.

Last updated: 3:32pm, June 20 2013