World Refugee Day: Five refugees who made a huge impact
The world responded immediately to the Paris terror attacks by offering solidarity when it first became public. The French Tricolour was changed on Facebook, and #prayforparis became a trending topic on Twitter. buildings all over the globe were lit up in blue, white, and red. These noble sentiments soon gave way to fear and anger, as well as defensiveness.
People have begun to point fingers at refugees fleeing the exact same violence France was subject to in their search for scapegoats. For example, in the US, politicians are trying to shut down. A recent survey in the UK found that the public’s support for Syrian refugees has dropped since the attacks.
Both these countries have a long tradition of welcoming refugees fleeing persecution and war. This list shows that many of these refugees have made significant contributions to the country that granted them another chance.
- Albert Einstein
Albert Einstein, despite being the most prominent German scientist, was forced to leave Germany after Nazi party’s anti-Semitic policies made his work impossible.
The Nobel Prize-winning physicist, who moved to the USA with his wife, did everything he could to ensure that as many German Jews as possible were safe. He filed visa applications and provided personal recommendations. He was apprehensive about the fact that he was in safety, but many of his fellow citizens were not as fortunate. “It is almost embarrassing to live in such peace and all the rest suffer,” he said.
Sergey Brin is one of America’s most well-known entrepreneurs. However, he was not born in America. Sergey and his family were able to flee the Soviet Union in 1979 with the assistance of the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society. They had been subject to growing anti-Semitism. Sergey was six years old when he fled his home country.
He and Larry Page co-founded Google in 1998 after a difficult start.
- Madeleine Albright
Madeleine Albright recalls that “We came to America with nothing.” Her family fled the 1948 Czechoslovak coup.
It’s something she won’t forget. She said: “I will forever feel an immense gratitude towards this country. One that is shared by millions of refugees who have arrived on our shores in years past.” After moving to the USA, she became the first woman secretary of state.
- Henry Kissinger
Henry Kissinger arrived in New York in 1938 with his family and brother. American public opinion was strongly against giving refuge to Jews fleeing Nazi persecution. A poll taken in that year shows that 67% of Americans opposed the idea. Kissinger and his family were among those who were granted admission to the country.
He graduated from Harvard University and was later secretary of state and national security advisor to the United States. He also received the 1973 Nobel Peace Prize. In 2012, Kissinger spoke to the ICRC and stated that “turning away refugees would be incompatible with America’s values and our image about who we are”.
- Sigmund Freud
Sigmund Freud was already a well-known name when Nazi Germany invaded Austria in 1938. He had received the Goethe Prize eight years prior in recognition of his contributions to psychology and German culture. He initially refused to leave Vienna. However, Ernest Jones, a British psychoanalyst, convinced Freud to accept the danger and organized his departure.
Although he died one year after his arrival in England, was still selected as the refugee that made the greatest contribution to British society.