This is the story set in a time of turmoil for Europe, when the lives of millions of people were in danger from the threat of Hitler's Third Reich, through invasion or as a result of the Nazi's maniacal pursuit of the Aryan dream. Under the shadow of the swastika, Jews, people of Jewish descent and political opponents faced imminent danger. Tens of thousands of refugees, mainly Jews, were given shelter in Britain between 1933 and 1939. Millions of those who did not or could not escape were to face the ultimate terror that became known as the Holocaust. After the outbreak of war it was the remote seaside towns of Westward Ho! and Ilfracombe in North Devon that eventually became home to more than 3000 Jews. Here they settled for a time, the majority as refugees in uniform, in former holiday camps or requisitioned hotels. They brought with them a uniquely continental intellect and culture, not only overcoming the natural suspicion of the local population against largely German-speaking refugees, but also coming to terms with their own fears and sense of loss (for many had left families in Europe, never to be seen again).
As German troops overcame much of free Europe and Britain turned from defence to attack, so many of the Jews of North Devon were enlisted into the war effort. Men joined the Pioneer Corps, women worked on the land or with the ATS, others became vital members of the scientific apparatus of war, or took part in heroic acts of espionage. At the same time their North Devon home became a coherent community with the establishment of cultural and religious activities that became an integral part of the life of the evacuees, as well as the immigrants and their British hosts.
Helen Fry has devoted many years to researching the history of the Jews in the Westcountry and her book The Lost Jews of Cornwall (edited with Keith Pearce) will be known to many. Jews of North Devon arises directly from her earlier research - here was a story that simply had to be told. In writing the book she has carried out an extensive number of interviews with Jews who were in North Devon in the period covered by the book and by whom much of the unique illustrative content has been provided. As the author herself has said: 'This book will provide a window on to an extremely dynamic, fascinating and unpublished period of North Devon history which has generated so much interest from Jewish and non Jewish people alike.'