Students in Action: Students and Antifascist Relief Efforts, 1933–1939

  • Georgina Brewis
Part of the Historical Studies in Education book series (HSE)


In summer 1938, over five hundred student and youth delegates from 45 nations meeting at Vassar College for the second World Youth Congress signed the “Vassar Peace Pact” condemning “any war of aggression” as well as specific tactics such as bombing of civilian populations.1 Delegates judged that although the primary aim of the world youth peace movement was to prevent war, practical aid to victims of war and oppression was an essential part of the movement. This chapter argues that in the 1930s students sought to collaborate on relief efforts as a practical contribution to the fight against fascism and a means of building a broad-based national and international student movement. International politics, the threat of war and the rise of fascism increasingly impinged on student life through key events including the election of Hitler as Chancellor of Germany in 1933 and his remilitarization of the Rhineland in 1935, the Italian invasion of Abyssinia in 1935, the outbreak of the Spanish Civil War in 1936 and the start of the Sino-Japanese war in 1937. Communist-supporting students took a lead in developing a strong antiwar movement across British universities that by the mid-1930s had succeeded in drawing a wider range of students into a broad coalition. Traditional “support” type activities such as fundraising and collecting gifts-in-kind continued alongside new forms of student social and political action such as boycott and protest.


Relief Effort German Student Student Movement Jewish Student British Student 
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© Georgina Brewis 2014

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  • Georgina Brewis

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