The Jacobsthal Project

Persecution and survival: the experience of the German Jewish refugee Paul Jacobsthal

Principal Investigator: Professor Chris Gosden
Project Directors: Dr Sally Crawford and Dr Katharina Ulmschneider
Education and Outreach Officer: Dr Megan Price

‘Persecution and survival’ was a social history project which enabled us to piece together the lives of refugees living in Oxford during the Second World War. We focused on one émigré in particular, Paul Jacobsthal, an eminent archaeologist who was forced to flee Nazi Germany because of his Jewish origins.

The project was funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund and the Reva and David Logan Foundation.

Professor Jacobsthal found refuge in Oxford, and was a senior academic in the University until his death in 1957. He made his name as a world leading expert in Celtic Art, publishing a ground-breaking book Early Celtic Art in 1944. He also left a stack of personal letters, which reveal his and his wife’s experience as refugees in Oxford. 

Schools joined in with the project through the Paul Jacobsthal Public Speaking Competition, organized by students and hosted by Christ Church, Oxford.

The project, in collaboration with the Oxford City of Sanctuary Group, the Association of Jewish Refugees, local schools and volunteers resulted in an two-month exhibition (live link) in the Town Hall Gallery, Oxford, from January to March 2012. The exhibition contained information from Professor Jacobsthal’s own archive of his wartime and refugee experiences. It also featured oral histories from volunteers who came forward with their own memories of the period.

As well as the exhibition, the project has made Professor Jacobsthal’s letters held at the Institute of Archaeology available to the public through a database.

A huge thank you to our funders, to the volunteers at the Institute and at the Town Hall Museum, to the schools who helped with the project, to the survivors and families who helped us with reminiscences and memorabilia, and to the thousands of people who visited the exhibition.