Oral History Collection Sheds New Light on JDC's Past
JDC’s Oral History Collection offers new perspectives on JDC history from the people who helped to shape the organization.
In August 1946, Jacob (Jack) Joslow, JDC’s Director of Education for the U.S. Zone in Germany, was asked to procure 35,000 prayer books for Rosh Hashanah. The New Year was just weeks away, and JDC wanted desperately to supply the prayer books to Jews in German DP camps. In his oral history, Joslow recalls how against all odds, 35,000 prayer books were printed, assembled and finally delivered on Erev Rosh Hashanah.
Joslow’s story, along with other dramatic narratives, has been uncovered in JDC's Oral History Collection. JDC has partnered with the Mémorial de la Shoah to digitize and catalogue more than 100 interviews with the organization's leaders and staff members. The oral histories were recorded between 1966 and 2003, and include stories about JDC’s humanitarian work across the globe. The collection includes interviews with long-time JDC staff members (a.k.a. Jointniks), such as Paulette Fink (1911-2005), who organized housing for 1,500 child survivors of the Holocaust; Samuel Haber (1903-1984), JDC Director in the U.S. Zone in Germany from 1947 to 1953; and Monroe Goldwater (1885-1980), a prominent attorney and a member of JDC's Board of Directors.
The Oral History Collection offers new and unique perspectives on the history of JDC from the people who helped to shape the organization. In addition to more than 300 audio recordings, the collection also contains paper documents, e.g. transcripts, correspondence and newspaper articles. All of the audio recordings and documents have been digitized. A finding aid is being prepared and will be available to the public online.
Through the Curator’s Lens: Leslie Fried Identifies JDC Materials for Opening Exhibit at the Alaska Jewish Museum
When Leslie Fried began her research on Operation Magic Carpet, the airlift of some 48,000 Yemenite Jews from Aden to Israel from December 1948 to September 1950, material from the JDC Archives was instrumental in shaping her research. From the start she knew that Alaska Airlines participated in the airlift. She began with photographs from the airlines, a news clip of an interview with pilot Capt. Warren Metzger, and an audiotape of James R. Wooten, president of the airline company in 1948.
Following the 1947 UN Partition Plan to establish independent Arab and Jewish states in Palestine, the Yemenite Jewish community was attacked by their Muslim neighbors, with at least 82 people killed and many stores and businesses destroyed. The opening exhibit of the Alaska Jewish Museum was initially planned to focus on the pilots’ heroic efforts under extreme conditions to rescue the community from oppression and lead them toward redemption.
When Fried visited to the JDC Archives, a broader picture of the airlift emerged. She discovered correspondence among the various groups involved: the JDC in New York, Paris and Tel Aviv, Alaska Airlines, Near East Air Transport, Radio Israel, the American Jewish Congress and the Jewish Agency. Through newspaper articles and pamphlets found in the Archives, Fried was able to situate the airlift within the culture and history of the Yemenite Jews, and within the context of Israeli history.
She began to see similarities between the feisty Alaskan bush pilots and the Machal pilots —her father served as one — who fought on behalf of the fledgling Jewish state in the War of Independence in 1948. JDC played a central role in organizing and funding Operation Magic Carpet, and the JDC Archives has maintained documentation of the correspondence between all the groups and individuals involved. One exciting discovery Fried made was finding a request for additional pilots directed to Al Schwimmer, one of the founders of the Israel Air Force and Leslie’s father’s employer. Additional clues from her family indicated that her father, Captain Norman Moonitz, flew some of the Magic Carpet flights.
The exhibit On the Wings of Eagles: Alaska’s Contribution to Operation Magic Carpet opened in July 2013 in Anchorage, Alaska. The exhibit includes many items from the JDC Archives including 28 photographs, numerous documents and pamphlets, written testimonies from two of the pilots, Buddy Epstein and Edward Trueblood Martin, and the historic 1949 James Wooten sound recording. As Leslie comments, “The JDC archival material helped me achieve the exhibit’s purpose to tell the story of how various political and social entities came together to facilitate the historic and miraculous airlift of 48,000 Yemenite Jewish refugees from Aden to Israel from December 1948 to September 1950.”
Masters Thesis Highlights Four JDC Heroines
A recent article in Touro Links, a magazine published by Touro College’s Division of Graduate Studies, recounts one woman’s investigation into the lives of four unsung Jewish heroines. Passi Rosen-Bayewitz came to the JDC Archives to research her fourth master’s thesis, which focused on Jewish women engaging in relief work abroad. A former executive director for the UJA-Federation of New York, Rosen-Bayewitz is herself no stranger to dangerous work overseas, having been arrested in 1970 by the KGB on a trip to Soviet Russia to meet with refuseniks, Jews who had been denied permission to emigrate from the Soviet Union.
Rosen-Bayewitz focused on the work of four women; Harriet Lowenstein, Hetty Goldman, Amelia Greenwald, and Laura Margolis. These pioneering women provided critical aid to needy Jews overseas through their work with JDC. Harriet Lowenstein was an accountant and a lawyer who served as JDC’s first comptroller; she played a key role in establishing JDC's relief effort to reach millions of starving Jews in Eastern Europe following World War I. Hetty Goldman, a prominent archaeologist, interrupted her groundbreaking work as the first woman to direct an excavation on mainland Greece to serve as JDC's Representative in Greece and the Balkans. Amelia Greenwald, a prominent nurse and public health pioneer, founded the Jewish Nurses’ Training School in Poland in the 1920s. Laura Margolis, a lifelong JDC staffer, implemented JDC’s World War II-era relief efforts assisting some 15,000 Jews in Shanghai.
Read the Touro Links article here.
Records from JDC Istanbul Office Collection 1937-1949 Now Available Online
The JDC Archives Istanbul Collection, documenting JDC’s life-saving work from Turkey during and after World War II, is now available online. Browse Collection Highlights here.
This collection, housed in the Jerusalem office of the JDC Archives, comprises over 47,000 pages on 14 microfilm reels and chronicles JDC work in Turkey from 1937-1949. The records testify to JDC’s efforts to move the planning of rescue and relief operations to neutral countries such as Turkey. Turkey was strategically located at the crossroads of war-torn Europe and the nascent Jewish state in Palestine. In addition, these records highlight the Istanbul office’s partnership with other relief organizations, such as the Jewish Agency, the U.S. War Refugee Board, and the International Red Cross, in rescue operations and in large-scale enterprises to identify and locate survivors during and after the war.
The digitized records include: correspondence with Jewish communities throughout Turkey, Romania, and Palestine; extensive documentation regarding shipments of food packages and other supplies to concentration camps such as Theresienstadt and Bergen-Belsen; cables and news releases; lists of survivors, including thousands of files from the Central Location Index; and eyewitness accounts, including an account of the sinking of the SS Mefkure, a rescue ship traveling from Romania to Palestine, by torpedoes in the Black Sea on August 5, 1944.
Other items and topics of interest include:
• A postcard sent by Rabbi Leo Baeck, the renowned German scholar, from Theresienstadt acknowledging receipt of a JDC care package;
• The preparation of 10,000 food parcels sent to Transnistria and Bucharest;
• The extensive support for refugees passing through Turkey en route to Palestine and to passengers on the SS Drottingholm, a rescue ship used for repatriation of civilians and prisoners of war;
• Wartime testimonies;
• Correspondence regarding Joel Brand’s and Rudolf Kasztner’s negotiations with Nazi officials in an attempt to save Hungarian Jews from deportation to Auschwitz.
Access the Istanbul Collection here!
JDC Materials Featured in New Documentary on Jewish Refugees in Manila during WWII
The incredible and previously untold story of how over 1,000 German and Austrian Jewish refugees were assisted by five Jewish businessmen from Cincinnati to flee Nazi Europe and immigrate to the Philippines is now vividly brought forth in a new documentary, “Rescue in the Philippines.”
Employing archival documents, historic images, and primary source interviews, “Rescue in the Philippines” details how the five Frieder brothers, cigar manufacturers whose factories were located in Manila, the capital of the Philippines, decided to do something to help rescue Jews from Nazi Europe. They used their personal and social connections to collaborate with Manuel Quezon, the first President of the Philippines; Paul McNutt, U.S. High Commissioner to the Philippines, former governor of Indiana, and former Democratic presidential candidate; and Dwight Eisenhower, then an Army Colonel, to secure passports and visas for Jewish refugees from Europe to enter the Philippines as “skilled laborers.”
Barbara Sasser, Alex Frieder’s granddaughter and senior consultant to the film, notes that the idea to do the film was prompted by a 2005 event at Cincinnati’s Center for Holocaust and Humanity Education to mark the publication of Escape to Manila: From Nazi Tyranny to Japanese Terror, a collection of testimonies from refugees who spent time in Manila. Guests included Susan Eisenhower, President Eisenhower’s granddaughter.
The documentary team conducted research in the Philippines, where they interviewed President Quezon’s grandchildren and visited the National Archives, and at the Eisenhower Library in Kansas, where archivists located a folder containing correspondence between Alex Frieder and Eisenhower. “We knew that the relationship continued past the time in the Philippines, but we didn't have any letters from the Frieder side,” Sasser says.
Their research at the JDC Archives, where Executive and Budget Committee meeting minutes, memos, and correspondence testify to JDC’s support for the Frieders’ enterprise, was “essential to our being able to present the history in an accurate way in the documentary,” Sasser notes. [Click here to read a fascinating May 1940 report by Alex Frieder about his tenure as president of the Jewish Refugee Committee in Manila!]
When asked for the most surprising fact she had learned over the course of the documentary’s production, Sasser highlights President Quezon’s actions, including the donation of his own personal estate as a haven for the refugees, and his “moral courage." She hopes that the documentary will have a lasting impact. “When people see the film, [the] circumstance of ordinary people doing extraordinary things, we hope that it will inspire everyone to act when they see an injustice.”
“Rescue in the Philippines” has been screened in New York, San Francisco, Cincinnati, Houston, Maryland, and Austin. A half-hour version of the documentary accompanied by educational materials is in development, and is scheduled to be available by spring 2014.
Please visit the Rescue in the Philippines website to learn more about the research conducted for the film, schedule a screening, and more!
JDC Archives Featured in Judaica Europeana Newsletter
The recent Judaica Europeana (JE) e-newsletter highlights the JDC Archives, a partner agency of Judaica Europeana. JE was established, with funding from the European Commission and the Rothschild Foundation, to provide online access to digital content documenting European Jewish life and culture. A sub-project of the larger Europeana portal which includes over 23 million digital objects from over 2,200 institutions, JE will help researchers access material around the world relating to European Jewish life. This partnership enables the JDC Archives to reach a wider audience of European scholars.
Four interactive online exhibits about JDC’s history are already available on the Judaica Europeana website and a broader selection of materials will be added to the portal for public use. JE currently hosts almost 4 million digitized items from leading Jewish cultural institutions, including the Jewish Historical Museum in Amsterdam and the Jewish Historical Institute in Warsaw.
Read the Judaica Europeana newsletter here.
JTA’s "Seeking Kin" column features JDC Records
Rose Goteiner, an 88-year-old survivor, recently came across a photo (right) of 21 people standing before a truck marked “American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee.” This July 1946 photo from Amsterdam, The Netherlands depicts 16 children for whom the JDC arranged visas and transportation to the U.S. on the SS Marine Flasher.
Rose believes that one of the girls in the forefront of the photo is her sister Ruth, whom Rose last saw in 1943. Always assuming Ruth had perished, seeing this photo 60 years later gives Rose fresh hope that her baby sister survived the war and is still alive. Read more about it in the JTA Article.
ICP's New Roman Vishniac Exhibit Features Treasures from the JDC Archives
The International Center of Photography (ICP) in New York has mounted a milestone exhibit, "Roman Vishniac Rediscovered" that takes a new, more comprehensive look at the scope and avant-garde bent of this legendary photographer, best known for his iconic pre-World War II images of Eastern European Jewry, which were created on assignment from JDC.
The exhibit, scheduled to run through May 5, 2013, is the culmination of a decade of work by ICP Curator Maya Benton, who oversees the photographer's vast archives at the Center.
A recent feature in ARTnews explains how Benton, using recently discovered and diverse bodies of work, is reformulating and solidifying Vishniac's reputation as a multifaceted artist whose "well-honed Modernist sensibility" colored a wide range of subjects recorded throughout a long and accomplished career that spanned six decades, from his Berlin street photography of the 1920s and 30s through his pioneering scientific color photomicroscopy of the 1950s-70s.
JDC figured prominently in various stages of that career. In the 1930's, it commissioned Vishniac to photograph Jewish communities and JDC's work in Central and Eastern Europe, images that later became part of the renowned volume, A Vanished World.
According to Benton, even in his unpublished Eastern European images, Vishniac employed "an avant-garde sense of composition not often associated with his work."
In 1940, JDC helped Vishniac (newly released from an internment camp in Nazi-occupied France) make his way from Portugal to the U.S., giving him a letter of recommendation that helped him establish professional connections here. Vishniac was commissioned by what was then the United Jewish Appeal, the JDC, and The Forward to photograph people and programs in the postwar European Displaced Persons camps, and JDC assisted him with his plans.
The JDC Archives includes a large collection of Roman Vishniac photographs, including the maquette (mock-up) of an unpublished book with over 80 images. The exhibition features this maquette, along with documents, pamphlets, and an artifact borrowed from the Archives.
Roman Vishniac [Boy with kindling in a basement dwelling, Krochmalna Street, Warsaw], ca.1935-38
© Mara Vishniac Kohn, courtesy International Center of Photography
Roman Vishniac [Children playing in the Jewish quarter, Bratislava], ca. 1935-38
© Mara Vishniac Kohn, courtesy International Center of Photography
JDC Records from Post- WWII Period Now Accessible Online
One of the JDC Archives’ most significant and frequently researched collections, its New York 1945-1954 Collection, is now available online! This collection chronicles the vital rescue, relief, and rehabilitation programs that JDC developed in the face of a crisis of staggering proportions for world Jewry in the immediate aftermath of the Holocaust and World War II. View 1945-1954 Collection Highlights here.
This digitized collection can now serve as an outstanding primary source resource for members of the public, authors, curators, family historians, and scholars researching the post-World War II era, refugee resettlement, American humanitarian intervention and partnerships, and early Israeli history, among others.
This collection contains over 2,800 files, including policy memos, telegrams, correspondence generated by JDC’s New York Headquarters, and compelling eyewitness reports from JDC field staff working in Displaced Persons and refugee camps in Germany, Austria and Italy. The numerous topics covered in this collection include:
• JDC’s vital efforts, in partnership with other humanitarian organizations, to provide supplementary food, clothing, vocational training, educational and religious materials, legal representation, and emigration assistance to hundreds of thousands of Holocaust survivors and refugees in Displaced Persons (DP) camps. It is estimated that by 1947, about 250,000 Jewish refugees passed through the DP camps and received assistance from JDC;
• JDC’s partnerships with U.S. government and military offices and personnel, including Earl Harrison, President Truman’s Special Envoy, who made an official tour of DP camps. Harrison's resultant report eventually persuaded the U.S. and the United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation Administration (UNRRA) to create and administer separate camps for Jewish displaced persons within the U.S. Zone in postwar Germany;
• JDC’s extensive support for the first waves of emigration to Israel;
• JDC’s unique collaboration with the newly formed State of Israel to develop a social service infrastructure capable of meeting the needs of thousands of new immigrants;
• Its organization and funding of Operation Magic Carpet, termed “the largest human airlift in history,” in 1949 to bring over 48,000 Yemenite Jews to Israel. Listen here to a fascinating excerpt from an interview with the president of Alaska Airlines, who piloted some of these daring airlifts;
• JDC’s program of comprehensive relief for Jewish children in North Africa, which included the opening of summer camps and Jewish schools; and its partnership with OSE, a French Jewish humanitarian organization, in supporting medical clinics to combat diseases such as tuberculosis, trachoma, and tine, and to promote wellness
New Collaboration between JDC Archives and Memorial de la Shoah
The JDC Archives and Memorial de la Shoah, the Holocaust museum in Paris, France, have entered into a partnership to catalogue and digitize the JDC Oral History Collection. The collection documents the work of JDC through interviews with staff and lay leaders who served across the globe between the 1930s and 1980s, as well as interviews with staff of related organizations.
Long-time JDC staff member and executive Herbert Katzki, who began his career with JDC in Paris in the 1940s, initiated the JDC oral history program after his retirement in 1979. Through dozens of interviews, Katzki captured the memories and inside stories of those who, like him, had travelled the globe in order to carry out the JDC mission of rescue, relief and rehabilitation. The collection includes stirring recollections of work to provide critical aid to those in need during the Holocaust and its aftermath, dramatic rescue operations bringing immigrants to Israel, the establishment of essential social services in the nascent State of Israel, and more.
During the year-long project, JDC will digitize audio cassettes and transcripts of interviews, create a finding aid and launch an online portal for exploring collection excerpts. The digitized materials will be available to researchers as part of the research collections of both the JDC Archives and the Memorial de la Shoah.
Memorial de la Shoah is a museum and documentation center serving over 200,000 visitors a year, presenting exhibitions, public programs, teacher trainings and film screenings. The Memorial holds extensive and wide-ranging archival collections, including the records of the Center for Contemporary Jewish Documentation.
The JDC Archives is delighted to partner with Memorial de la Shoah in preserving and providing access to this important archival collection.
New Book Published on JDC's Pioneering Social Service Work in Israel
"In my research, I found that the JDC's MALBEN program has offered the weak and needy in Israel a helping hand and a warm and understanding heart for more than 25 years. This project should be used as a local and international example of providing short and long term health care in times of crisis.”
These are the words that Dr. Pnina Romem, head of the nursing studies program at Beersheba’s Ben Gurion University and author of the recently published book MALBEN: Mosadot Letipul Beolim Nichshalim (Eng: Malben: Institutions for the Treatement of Aged, Sick, and Handicapped Immigrants), chose to summarize her findings on one of JDC's most influential social service initiatives. After Israel became a state in 1948, it still lacked a national welfare infrastructure. To address this need and to alleviate the burden placed on the Israeli government to care for these needy populations, MALBEN was established in 1949 in partnership among JDC, the Jewish Agency, and the Government of Israel as a network of institutions and services for handicapped, elderly, and chronically ill immigrants.
In 1951, JDC took on full financial responsibility of MALBEN, and by 1957, JDC had invested close to $200 million in the program, assisting more than a quarter of a million people. During that pivotal year, JDC operated 23 facilities in Israel, such as geriatric hospitals and mental health institutes, as well as housing units for immigrant families and individuals who could not afford to rent their own homes. MALBEN’s social welfare work subsequently evolved to emphasize community services rather than institutional care whenever possible. This shift was in line with dominant professional thinking at the time, and encouraged independent living.
By the early 1960's MALBEN had begun attending to the social welfare needs of Israel's general population by providing special education programs and by caring for at-risk youth. Furthermore, MALBEN supported voluntary organizations, such as Ilan, a group which worked with handicapped children suffering from polio and cerebral palsy and Micha, which worked with hearing-impaired children. By 1976, Israel had built the infrastructure to care for the needy, and JDC handed off the group homes, hospitals and other programs to the Israeli government. After 27 years of activity, MALBEN was officially disbanded in 1976, having met its social service goals.
This Hebrew-language history is an adaptation of Dr. Romem's doctoral research, for which she culled the JDC Archives in both New York and Jerusalem. Dr. Romem has supplemented archival material with interviews of former MALBEN personnel and clients. She has visited many of the former MALBEN facilities, which were central to her research. While in the field, she found that many historical MALBEN buildings were completely destroyed, while others bore no sign or plaque commemorating the history of medical aid and service that had been distributed within their walls. In conclusion, Dr. Rotem says, "I hope that my book serves as a reminder, even a small one, to this wonderful program that is now almost completely forgotten."
See 1950-1960s MALBEN photos here.
JDC Haggadah: Occasions of Rescue, Relief and Renewal
As you look forward to Passover, enhance your seder with the beautifully illustrated JDC Haggadah, featuring a host of rare images and compelling documents from the JDC Archives.
“While the Exodus story in the Passover Haggadah took place in Biblical times, its themes of rescue, relief and renewal are as fresh as they are ancient”, says renowned journalist and author Ari Goldman in his commentary to In Every Generation: The JDC Haggadah.
The JDC Haggadah retells the ancient Passover story through the modern-day efforts of the JDC. The photos used represent Jewish life in different lands and show not only the deep reach of JDC but the rich tapestry of contemporary Judaism.
Call 212-687-6200 to order copies of the JDC Haggadah for you and your family today.
Paperback: $19.95 Hardcover: $24.95
Plus shipping and handling
Discounted rates are available for bulk orders.
Delivery in time for Passover.
A White Plains bar mitzvah boy reads from a 200-year-old Belgrade Torah
On Saturday January 25th, Joseph Block marked his coming of age by reading from a Torah that had been given to the Jewish community in Belgrade, Serbia by JDC in 1947. Connecting his modern-day ceremony to the Jewish community in Serbia, which goes back 2,000 years to Roman times, Block imbued the ceremony with a sense of history and the interconnectedness of global Jewry.
After World War II, JDC sent hundreds of Torahs to Europe to help invigorate Jewish religious life in the wake of the Holocaust. The Torah was discovered last year, and Herbert Block, Joseph’s father, facilitated its repair. Block is an assistant executive vice president at JDC; he and his family have donated a decorative cover for the Torah in advance of its return to the Jewish community in Belgrade.
Read more in Westchester County’s The Journal News here.
See photos from JDC’s work in Belgrade in the 1960s here.
Ilie Wacs and Deborah Strobin to Discuss Shanghai Ghetto and JDC Assistance at 92nd St Y
For Deborah Strobin and Ilie Wacs, the story of Jewish refugees seeking safe haven in Shanghai during the Second World War is more than history. The two were among the 18,000 European Jews – including artist Peter Max and former Treasury Secretary Michael Blumenthal – who spent the war as refugees in China.
Shortly before the outbreak of war and weeks after their father’s tailor shop was turned over to a Nazi Party member, Deborah and Ilie and their parents fled Vienna and escaped to the East. In Shanghai, supportfrom JDC not only assured their survival, it allowed the family to start a new life after the war.
JDC provided a scholarship for Ilie to study at l’École des Beaux Arts and l’Académie Julian in Paris, leading to a long and successful career in the fashion industry and as a visual artist. Deborah went on to become a prominent interior designer and later a philanthropist dedicated to overseas medical relief and the fight against HIV/AIDS.
Now, the siblings have penned a memoir, An Uncommon Journey: From Vienna to Shanghai to America, a Brother and Sister Escape to Freedom During World War II and in the special video interview with JDC featured below, the brother and sister recount their journey and highlight the role JDC played in their survival and success.
You can hear more from Deborah, Ilie, and JDC’s Archives Director Linda Levi about this unique chapter of modern Jewish history at the 92nd Street Y on January 15th at 8:15 PM. Tickets for this program hosted by NY1's Cheryl Wills – The Remarkable Story of the Shanghai Jewish Ghetto – are still available.
Learn more about life in the Shanghai ghetto through our featured photo gallery.
New Release Pays Tribute to Forgotten Heroes of Soviet Jewish Collective
A product of eight years of research in repositories across Ukraine and Russia, The Final Chapter: Agro-Joint in the Years of the Great Terror, by Misha Mitsel, Senior JDC Archivist, has just been released by JDC. It chronicles the tragic history of Agro-Joint, the American Jewish Joint Agricultural Corporation, an agricultural cooperative established by JDC in cooperation with the Soviet government in the late 1920s to train and resettle Jews as farmers in Ukraine and the Crimea.
In the wake of the Russian Revolution, thousands of Jews in the Soviet Union were labeled “unproductive citizens” and deemed ineligible for governmental welfare and medical services. In response, JDC initiated programs devoted to rendering these Jews economically self-sufficient and training them to live off the land while gaining full citizen status and privileges.
The Final Chapter focuses on Agro-Joint’s final years. During the Great Terror of 1937-1938, Agro-Joint staff, members of Jewish collective farms, and refugee doctors from Nazi Germany who had resettled in the Soviet Union were accused of collaborating with “counterrevolutionary organizations” and persecuted in three regions: Moscow, Ukraine, and Crimea.
The book, written in Russian with a substantial English-language section, was published by the Center of Studies of History and Culture of Eastern-European Jews at the National University in Kiev, Ukraine. It features never-before-revealed primary source materials from KBG archives in the former Soviet Union, including the interrogation files of all Agro-Joint employees arrested in Moscow, Dnepropetrovsk, and Crimea, and offers detailed and chilling portraits of the brutal fates many Agro-Joint staff and colonists suffered during the Great Terror. The English-language chapters feature detailed lists of those arrested, short biographies, and four samples of archival documents that appear in the Russian text.
The genesis for this project emerged in fall 2005. While conducting research for an online memorial to JDC personnel who had died in the course of their service, Mitsel says, he realized that the documentary records of Agro-Joint were “rich and tragic and unknown materials that [needed] to be presented in a different way” to pay tribute to the victims of this tragic episode.
For a further introduction to this time period through historic documents and images, visit JDC’s exhibit “Beyond Relief: JDC’s Work in the Ukraine and Crimea between the Wars.”
Hungarian Refugee Cards, 1956-1957, Now Available in JDC Names Index
The JDC Archives Names Index now includes Hungarian Refugee Cards from 1956-57 from JDC’s office in Vienna. Researchers and interested family historians can access these cards via the Names Index. The JDC Archives holds 10,000 Hungarian refugee registration cards, which contain biographical information, including birthplace and nationality, profession, temporary address in Austria, and destination, and country of destination. Over 4,000 of these cards are available in the Names Index, with more cards added regularly!
Some 170,000 refugees, among them more than 18,000 Jews, fled from Hungary to Austria after the Hungarian Revolution in October 1956. Voluntary agencies were called upon for aid, and JDC was charged with the task of helping Jewish emigrants waiting for resettlement in other countries. Local personnel were recruited from every JDC office, and by the end of the year, JDC was housing and feeding nearly 11,000 refugees. JDC assisted with lodging in hotels, private dwellings, and camps, supported two kosher kitchens in Vienna, provided kosher food for residents of the camps, and furnished medical care and religious supplies. While some refugees remained in Europe, others emigrated to the U.S., Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Israel and Latin America.
Many of these refugees later attained prominence in various fields, such as László Kovács, a renowned cinematographer, whose registration card is pictured above.
JDC World War II-Era Records Now Available Online
Collection highlights from the JDC Archives’ major 1933-44 collection, documenting JDC’s global rescue efforts in the Nazi era, are now available online!
The collection comprises over 1100 files from JDC’s New York Headquarters which chronicle the years between Hitler’s rise to power as 1933 and the end of the Second World War.
These records describe JDC’s extensive efforts to sustain individuals and communities struggling for survival in Europe and across the globe and to provide life-saving emigration aid for tens of thousands of Jews fleeing the Nazis. In addition, JDC supported local welfare committees and communal organizations and collaborated with government agencies and other international organizations to establish programs and relief operations in over 70 countries.
These collection highlights testify to the crucial role JDC played during this period of crisis in Jewish history. Subjects covered in these records include:
• the punishing conditions Jewish communities faced in Germany and in German-occupied countries, especially following the enactment of the Nuremberg Laws and Kristallnacht;
• the expulsion of Polish Jews from Germany and the plight of the homeless in “no-man’s-lands” along the Czech frontier and in Zbaszyn on the Polish border;
• the saga of the S.S. St. Louis after being denied entry into Cuba;
• conditions in Shanghai for Jewish refugees from Europe;
• emigration from Lithuania and Poland to Vladivostok via the Trans-Siberian railroad and Japan;
• the situation in French internment camps and the deportations of Jews from occupied and unoccupied France;
• the work of Varian Fry and the Emergency Rescue Committee;
• anti-Jewish measures in North Africa and conditions in labor and internment camps;
• the shipment of food packages to Theresienstadt and Bergen-Belsen, and the Teheran parcel service for individuals in Russia and Poland.
Visitors interested in examining the entire 1933-1944 collection are welcome to contact us.
JDC Digitization Donors Featured in Wall Street Journal
Drs. Georgette Bennett and Leonard Polonsky, who provided the lead $1 million gift for the JDC Archives digitization project, have been featured in today’s Wall Street Journal’s ‘Donor of the Day’ column. Bennett and Polonsky are visionary leaders and major philanthropists in the field of archival digitization around the world.
The grant to the JDC Archives has enabled the digitization of 1.8 million historic documents, and the development of the JDC Archives website. The historic records digitized include topics as significant as JDC’s liife-saving medical work fighting epidemics in Poland and Soviet Russia as a result of poor medical conditions during World War I, JDC’s role helping find safe haven for Jews aboard the S.S. St Louis, and the partnership between JDC and the government of the Dominican Republic to found an agricultural settlement for German Jewish refugees fleeing Nazism.
JDC Archives Documents in Forthcoming Book on Minsk
Documents and photographs from the JDC Archives historical collections on Minsk between the two World Wars will be featured in Professor Elissa Bemporad's forthcoming book Becoming Soviet Jews: The Bolshevik Experiment in Minsk (Indiana University Press).
The author is the Jerry and William Ungar Assistant Professor in the Department of History at Queens College, City University of New York. Bemporad writes:
"Becoming Soviet Jews is a study of the acculturation process into the Soviet system as experienced by the Jewish population of Minsk from the Bolshevik Revolution of 1917 to the eve of the Hitler-Stalin pact of 1939. By focusing on issues of continuity and change in the lives of Minsk’s Jews, the book analyzes the modernization and social integration of one cultural-ethnic group within an intensely ideological state-system.
"In many of the medium-to-large urban centers with a sizeable proportion of Jews and located in the pre-1917 territory of the Pale (which included Minsk), the response to the Bolshevik emancipation project in the 1920s and 1930s was multifaceted and not circumscribed to “communism as anti-Jewishness” and “Jewishness as anti-communism.” Many Jews, whether former Bundists, Yiddish activists, political Zionists, religious practicing Jews, or Russified liberals, remained committed to some expressions of Jewishness, and attempted to walk the fine line between accepted Soviet behaviour and the social norms and expressions of Jewish particularity.
"Documents from the JDC archives helped me mould the core of Chapter Two entitled “Red Star on the Jewish Street” which primarily investigates the Sovietization of the Jewish street in the 1920s, and also studies the extent of the support that the JDC provided to different Jewish institutions in Minsk.
"JDC provided material and administrative support to a vast number of welfare, medical, industrial and cultural enterprises throughout the city in response to the deplorable conditions for refugees of the Civil War. Archival documents relating to the underground educational and religious institutions established in Minsk in the 1920s and early 1930s support an essential argument I make in Chapter 5, “Behaviour Unbecoming a Communist: Jewish Religious Practice in a Soviet Capital.” This chapter explores the changes that occurred in the Jewish religious practices of Minsk, including the relationship between secret religious education and the persistence of kosher meat production. As confirmed by the “Report of the Accomplishments of the Rabbinical Board in Russia during 5688,” (NY Collection 1921-1932), Minsk housed the largest underground yeshiva in the Soviet Union in the interwar period."
View primary source documents and photographic images from the JDC Archives used in Becoming Soviet Jews here.
See other browsable collection highlights here.
JDC Cyprus Collection Available On-line
JDC’s historic Cyprus Collection is now available digitally for the first time. Consisting of 16,667 pages of textual files digitized from 19 microfilm reels, the collection contains a wide array of materials that shed light on the lives of deportees to Cyprus, including personal letters, group petitions, and newspapers published by the deportees themselves. The digitization of this collection will be a welcome resource for scholars and researchers interested in the post-World War II era, early Israeli history, and refugee resettlement. View Cyprus collection highlights here.
From 1946 until the establishment of the State of Israel in 1948, the British confined some 53,000 Holocaust survivors on the island of Cyprus. From August 1946 to February 1949, the deportees lived behind barbed wire in 12 camps on Cyprus. During this period, 53,000 Jews passed through the camps, 2,200 children were born in the camps, and 150 Jews died there. Eighty percent of the deportees were between the ages of 13 and 35; nearly all of them were survivors of the Nazi death camps. These Jewish refugees, who were denied entry into Palestine by the British, benefited from JDC’s extensive relief program, which provided supplementary food and clothing, medical care, educational/cultural activities, and vocational training.
The Cyprus Collection of the JDC Archives offers a unique window into this pivotal period of 20th-century history by documenting the dramatic events in Cyprus against the backdrop of the birth of the State of Israel. It provides a rich account of the aid activities of the AJJDC, including detailed lists of medical personnel, lengthy inventories of food and supplies, eyewitness accounts written by the AJJDC administration on Cyprus and general correspondence relating to JDC’s work there. In addition, of related interest is the JDC Archives photograph collection which includes over 180 photographic images from the Cyprus detention camps, 72 of which are featured in a photo gallery.
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