8. Culture and Identity
The assimilated, German-speaking Jews brought their culture with them to Britain, enriching their new homeland immeasurably. In the immediate post-war years, the refugees from Central Europe were almost the only recognisable immigrant group in Britain, which was still a largely homogeneous, monocultural society. Their accents, dress, tastes and customs became part of public life in North-West London.
The refugees transformed the British arts scene. In music, refugees created Glyndebourne and played a key part in establishing the Edinburgh Festival, while the Amadeus Quartet became the leading string quartet in the land and refugees thronged the Wigmore Hall.
Famous artists from Central Europe included the writers Arthur Koestler and Elias Canetti, the painter Lucian Freud, the actor Anton Walbrook and the singer Richard Tauber. The philosophers Ludwig Wittgenstein and Karl Popper, the historian Geoffrey Elton, the sociologists Karl Mannheim and Norbert Elias and the art historians Ernst Gombrich and Nikolaus Pevsner added lustre to British intellectual life.
Paul Hamlyn, Weidenfeld & Nicolson, André Deutsch, Thames & Hudson and Phaidon Press reinvigorated British publishing. There were refugee art galleries, bookshops and music publishers. Stefan Lorant created a new dimension to British journalism with Picture Post, and Vicky was the outstanding political cartoonist of his day. Hans Keller and Martin Esslin became arbiters of culture at the BBC.
In the 1950s the modernising, cosmopolitan impact of the refugees on British culture was unmistakable. The old insularity had gone forever.