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Burkill, Margareta, 1896–1984 (wife of Burkill, (John) Charles)



  • Existence: 1896–1984


Margareta (Greta) Braun married (John) Charles Burkill on 9 August 1928. They had a son and two daughters. A hint of the part that she was to play in his life is evident in the fact that from their marriage and at her insistence he was always known as Charles; hitherto he had been Charlie in the family, John outside it. In contrast to his completely English origins and upbringing, her background was comprehensively European. She was born on 1 December 1896, in Germany; her grandfather was an Austrian railway engineer, her father, Adolf Braun, a journalist in Germany, her mother a Russian, her mother's second husband an Englishman. Her schooling reflected this diversity: first in Germany and Russia, then at Harrogate Ladies' College and Newnham College, Cambridge (1917–20), where she read modern languages and economics. Her experiences at school in Nuremberg, where she was exposed to persecution because of her father's left-wing politics, bred in her a lasting sympathy with the underdog. This manifested itself both in her work for prisoners and refugees and later in the Burkills' joint efforts to improve the lot of those they saw as the underprivileged sections of Cambridge academic society, graduate students and visiting scholars. From 1933 onwards she helped to bring out of Germany and settle in England many hundreds of refugee children, and the Burkills themselves took into their family and assumed responsibility for the education of a German and an Austrian boy, who both went on to achieve positions in university departments of mathematics: (Gerd Edzard) Harry Reuter at Manchester, Durham, and Imperial College, London; Harry Burkill at Sheffield. Several other children became for a time in effect members of the Burkill family while being helped to build new lives.

Found in 1 Collection or Record:


Papers of Margareta (Greta) Burkill

Reference Code: GBR/0012/MS Add.8433
Scope and Contents

Papers concerning Margareta Burkill’s work with German and Austrian refugee children before, during and after the Second World War. The collection includes Burkill’s memoir and some correspondence. There are also notes on the children, including details of their accommodation during the war and their later careers. Also included is material relating to the Cambridge Refugee Committee.

Dates: 1938 - 1984
Conditions Governing Access: Readers must complete a data release form prior to consulting this collection.