Instructions about internees

Instructions about internees in the event of war, 1938, Catalogue ref: HO 144/21256

As the fear of invasion grew anyone in Britain who was German, Austrian or Italian was interned. This meant that they were put in prison because the government was very worried that foreigners from a country Britain was at war with might tell the enemy about troop movements or send them important industrial information. Many were refugees who had come to Britain because Hitler had threatened to kill them or put them in concentration camps.

  • What were immigration officers told to do concerning Germans living in Britain if war was declared?
  • Why did the government make these plans?
  • Read the appeal for Eduard Ries. Why was he interned? Do you think the panel was correct to continue his detention? See the appeal document: Catalogue ref: HO 214/26?




14th September, 1938.

To the Officer in Charge.

On receipt of either (1) a message (whether by telegram or otherwise) in the form EMPOL CIRCULAR 14th SEPTEMBER, 1938, NET PASSICS PARL LONDON; or (2) a notification of the outbreak of hostilities with a foreign power, you should immediately open the enclosed envelope and act in accordance with the instructions contained therein.

Arrangements should be made for the necessary action to be taken in your absence.


H.M. Chief Inspector,

Immigration Branch

To Immigration Officers,

The enclosed list gives the names of Germans whom it is desired to arrest at once. Instructions have been issued to the police accordingly and if any of the persons named are found endeavouring to leave the country, they should be arrested at the ports. If hostilities have already broken out, power of arrest will be based upon the general prerogative power to intern enemy aliens. If hostilities have not yet broken out, the arrests will be covered in due course, if necessary, by the issue of deportation orders by the Secretary of State. Persons arrested should be handed over to the local police, who should be asked to dispose of them in the manner laid down in the Home Office Circular 700463/7 of 13th September, 1938. The names of persons arrested should be forwarded to the Chief Inspector marked confidential.


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