BBIH research case study: Kindertransport and the Holocaust

The Bibliography is an excellent way to discover new fields of historical research. It's therefore an ideal resource for students writing dissertations, providing comprehensive coverage of academic publications for a literature review.

Here Tom Keidan, a BA History Student from Leicester University (2017), discusses his use of BBIH in writing his undergraduate thesis on kindertransport and the Holocaust.

Tom's story

This is a discussion of my experience with the Bibliography of British and Irish History (BBIH) as a tool for university research. By utilising the various search tools and methods to narrow down search material, I was able to find vital material relating to my chosen dissertation subject concerning the Kindertransport movement of refugee children to Britain in the immediate period before the beginning of the Holocaust.

Firstly, when inputting a free text search of the term ‘Holocaust’, it is clear to see why effective utilisation of BBIH search terms is required; the 371 entries provided for this term are useful for establishing wider historiographical patterns as well as analysing the methodology and approaches used in such studies but can quickly become overwhelming and difficult to work with for a more specific investigation such as mine. Thus, I will illustrate how I was able to narrow down my search criteria to provide more useful and manageable entry data.

Initially, a simple free text of anything containing the term ‘Kindertransport’ provided me with 15 entries which directly featured this term; this amount was not particularly high considering the wealth of material written about this subject from a British perspective. Additionally, many of the search entries provided including Der olle Hitler soll sterben!' Erinnerungen an den jüdischen Kindertransport nach England [Memories of the Jewish Kindertransport to England] proved to be autobiographical accounts of individual’s experiences on the Kindertransport which did not prove to be useful for my wider investigation concerning Britain’s role in facilitating the immigration of refugee children.

However, through utilising the ‘period covered’ search tool I was able to input broader search terms which directly related to the period my investigation covers; for example, through setting the ‘period covered’ to 1933-1945 and inputting broader terms such as ‘refugees’, I was provided with a wealth of entries which directly related to the Kindertransport programme to Britain. In particular, Judith Tydor Baumel-Schwartz’s Never Look Back: the Jewish refugee children in Great Britain, 1938-1945 proved to be an essential addition to my secondary reading list which I may have missed if I continued to utilise a narrow search criteria.

Interestingly, through utilising the previously mentioned search terms I was provided with examples of concurrent refugee programmes which also proved useful as comparative examples within my investigation. When searching for titles containing the term ‘refugee’ between 1933-194 I was provided with studies concerning the Basque refugee programme during the Spanish Civil War which primarily facilitated the movement of young children to Britain, much like the Kindertransport; I had previously been unaware of this movement, but through confining the time period of my search I was able to identify this concurrent refugee programme.

Monographs such as Peter Anderson’s The Struggle over the Evacuation to the United Kingdom and Repatriation of Basque Refugee Children in the Spanish Civil War: Symbols and Souls were highly useful additions to my reading list which enabled me to draw comparisons and differences between two simultaneous child refugee programmes; in particular, through analysing the titles of monographs concerning the Basque refugee programme such as Don Watson’s Politics and Humanitarian Aid : Basque Refugees in the North East and Cumbria in the Spanish Civil War, I was able to identify such efforts as more politically charged, with broader support at both a governmental and public level.

Ultimately, through adjusting my search criteria and utilising various search-terms mentioned in previous articles, I was able to extract more information from BBIH which proved highly useful to my investigations.

To keep up to date with my research I also set up three email alerts for "Kindertransport" (search anywhere), subject tree search for "Holocaust" (to keep abreast of historiographical developments) and subject tree search "Exiles and refugees" with the period covered "1933-1945" to make sure I covered the broader aspects of my research.