Teaching the Holocaust through the Jewish Country House

The Jewish Country Houses project is excited to be working with the Holocaust Educational Trust and J-Trails to deliver a new series of teachers’ study seminars focusing on the Messel family of Nymans (West Sussex) and the Rothschild family of Waddesdon Manor (Buckinghamshire).

Britain's relationship to the Holocaust is often overlooked in the school curriculum. Timed to coincide with “Refugee week”, this project will reclaim the Holocaust stories associated with the “Jewish country house”, and empower teachers to engage with these local stories in their classrooms.

The study units and site visits will examine the Messel family of Nymans whose German relatives fled or perished in the Holocaust, and the Rothschilds at Waddesdon Manor who provided key support for Jewish refugees to enter Britain, and a group of Kinder, known as “The Cedar Boys and Girls”, who found refuge on the Waddesdon estate.

At Waddesdon, teachers will be able to delve into the stories of these young people and their plight – including letters and photographs, a memorial in the grounds and their refuge: a house called The Cedars - in the village.

The project will also explore the reactions of Jewish politicians and philanthropists in Britain to the rising antisemitism which accompanied the large-scale immigration of Jews fleeing persecution and poverty in the Russian Empire in the late nineteenth century, and connect this earlier history to the experience of refugees fleeing Nazi rule in Europe.

Examination of the prejudice and antisemitism that underpinned the passage of the 1905 Aliens Act will provide a vital context for exploring British reactions to Nazism and the Holocaust in this period, and the significant barriers faced by German and Austrian Jews looking to escape to Britain in the 1930s. Archival materials will shed light on how knowledge of the Holocaust became known in Britain, and on efforts of British Jewish families and their friends to help Jews trapped in Europe.

This project has been supported by the University of Oxford: access to the Zoom seminars and entrance to the National Trust properties during the in-person site visits will be free for participating teachers.


Teaching the Holocaust through the Jewish Country House

Zoom seminars: Sunday 30 May and Tuesday 1 June 2021

Nymans (West Sussex): Sunday 6 June  2021(provisional)

Waddesdon Manor (Buckinghamshire): Sunday 13 June 2021 (provisional)

For more information please visit the Holocaust Educational Trust at https://www.het.org.uk/education/teacher-training/teacher-study-seminars.

Teachers wanting to register can email TeacherCPD@het.org.uk.

fam bruck



The Messels of Nymans were active in helping their family in Germany take refuge in Britain from the threat of Nazism. Alfred Messel’s daughter Irene, her husband Wolfgang, and their children, were brought over to England before the outbreak of war; Wolfgang’s parents and sister Vera, however, stayed in Kiel.  Eventually the dreaded order came for Vera to be deported to the concentration camp at Theresienstadt, by then little more than a staging post on the way to Auschwitz, but the family refused to be separated from one another. Father, mother and daughter committed suicide together on 7 July 1942. These three brass cobblestones now stand in their memory on the pavement in front of their family home.