Biographer Praises Role of JDC's Dr. Joseph Schwartz in Wartime Europe

Dr. Joseph J. Schwartz Click to enlarge.
Dr. Joseph J. Schwartz

Professor Tuvia Friling of the Ben-Gurion University in Israel spoke with members of the JDC staff and American Associates, Ben-Gurion University of the Negev at a joint presentation in New York on February 11th. The professor is completing a biography of Joseph J. Schwartz (1899-1975), the Joint’s Director of European Operations from 1940 to 1949. The biography is expected to be published in late 2016.

In analyzing the impact of Dr. Schwartz and his organization, Professor Friling pointed to two key elements:  his personality and the circumstances under which he operated. As to the personality, he characterized Schwartz as an ordained rabbi who possessed bold leadership skills and someone who was able to convince others of the steps needed to implement the Joint’s program for rescuing Jews in Europe and other troubled areas of the world during the late 1930s and 1940s.

The circumstances facing the JDC, according to Prof. Friling, included (1) Hitler’s rise to power in 1933, (2) the publication of a British White Paper in 1939 which proposed limiting Jewish immigration to Palestine to 75,000 over the following five years, (3) the scarcity of transportation for transporting refugees caused by the demands of the U.S. Army for moving troops during World War II, (4) U.S. government restrictions on transferring money to occupied countries, and (5) Congressional impediments to mass immigration into the United States. Despite the daunting challenges of these restrictions, Dr. Schwartz and his JDC colleagues were able to assist many thousands with financial aid and logistical support in emigrating from dangerous areas.

The longtime secretary to Joseph Schwartz, Lolita Goldstein, who worked for him and the organization during the years of the 1940s in Lisbon, Portugal, also made some brief remarks about the man and the period.  She recalled the wonderful qualities of Dr. Schwartz as well as the challenges of keeping in touch with other leaders at a time when international calls required one to two days of advance planning before they could be made. Mrs. Goldstein’s late husband was part of Joe Schwartz’s inner circle at JDC and a key member of the organization’s administration.

Scholar Researches Soviet Jewish Transmigrant Experience

Inga Veksler Click to enlarge.

Inga Veksler recently defended her dissertation at Rutgers University on the Soviet Jewish transmigrant experience: “'We Left Forever and Into the Unknown': Soviet Jewish Experiences of Transit Migration."

For Veksler, her dissertation topic is particularly resonant: her family was assisted by JDC in their emigration from the Soviet Union to the United States. 

In the late 1980s, under glasnost, the number of Soviet Jews emigrating to the West soared. Thousands of Soviet Jews were essentially stranded in transit—“transmigrants”— in Rome and Vienna as they waited for the processing of their applications by the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service. In response, JDC provided basic care and maintenance services, including medical care, social services, housing assistance, and an array of educational, religious and cultural resources to thousands of transmigrants. 

Veksler and 9 family members left Odessa in 1989. They spent six months in Italy, waiting for their immigration applications to the United States to be processed. Her family travelled by boat from Odessa to Vienna, and then embarked on an 18-hour train ride to Orte, a town outside of Rome. Individuals she interviewed in her research remember disembarking in Orte as “the worst time in the entire emigration process”- a stressful and chaotic scene. After leaving a note on a bulletin board in a refugee center, Veksler's family found housing in a town near Ladispoli. She recalls her Italian neighbors as “laced with benevolence, [and] empathetic and kind.”

According to Veksler, most scholarship in migration highlights “displacement and the way it rearranges social worlds in a different way—tears worlds apart.” Her research, which focuses on individuals who immigrated to the United States, analyzes the indelible experience of transit migration and how these encounters left a lasting impact on people's lives.  She conducted interviews with over 50 individuals, primarily family and extended friends, in the New York metropolitan area and in Boston.

The primary interviewees were "heads of households": adults who were between the ages of 25 and 50 during their emigration experiences.  Veksler describes this generation as “defined by the fact of emigration.” To older individuals in their late 70s and 80s, their formative emigration experiences were evacuations that occurred during World War II, whereas younger generations' experiences were dominated by the adjustment to a new country.

In her research, Veksler builds upon an insight of the cultural anthropologist Fran Markowitz regarding the relative lack of broad fraternal organizations among Soviet transmigrants. Veksler attributes this lack to the emphasis among Soviet Jews on personal networks rather than organized communal activities. Personally, she has "a familial, intimate recollection" of her own family gathering to commemorate their departure from Odessa. 

Veksler notes that transmigrants had very little sense of the organizational and governmental roles in the processing of their applications and the services they received while in transit. They were also unaware of the rapidly evolving response on the part of relief organizations like JDC to meet the needs of these refugees. Veksler learned in her research in the JDC Archives that in 1989 alone, when Veksler and her family were in transit, JDC served over 66,000 Soviet transmigrants.

Thus, her research in the JDC Archives was “absolutely crucial" to learning about the Jewish communal organizations, such as JDC and HIAS, which provided services to this population in transit. Veksler notes, "The coordination required for this undertaking was immense.”

All JDC Records from Post-World War II Period Digitized

The JDC Archives is pleased to announce the completion of a major effort to catalogue, microfilm and digitize all of its post-Holocaust era collections, 1945-1954. The culmination of a six-year effort, this project is part of an ongoing plan to make historically significant documents available to scholars, genealogists and the general public. This material is searchable on the JDC Archives website. Online finding aids provide information on the contents of these collections and enable users to identify materials of interest to their research.

Highlights from this remarkable trove include:

  • JDC’s far-reaching global rescue and relief efforts to resettle Holocaust survivors around the world
  • Emigration and social services assistance to the remnant Jewish community in Poland from 1945 until JDC’s expulsion by the Communist government in 1949
  • Aid to deportees to Cyprus from 1946 to 1949, against the backdrop of the birth of the State of Israel 
  • Its lifesaving work in neutral Turkey, a country strategically located at the crossroads of war-torn Europe and the nascent Jewish State in Palestine
  • JDC’s provision of essential supplemental aid to the hundreds of thousands of Jews living in displaced persons camps after the war
  • Efforts to rescue and provide relief to Holocaust survivors in Stockholm
  • Oral histories of JDC veteran staff and lay leaders who were active during this period

This major effort was made possible through the generosity of a number of loyal donors. A lead gift was provided by Dr. Georgette Bennett and Dr. Leonard Polonsky, CBE. Other contributors include the Swiss Banks Settlement-Victims List Fund, the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, Memorial de la Shoah (Paris), the Kronhill Pletka Foundation, the Rothschild Foundation (Hanadiv) Europe, the Wilf Family Foundations, and several JDC Board Members including Donald Robinson, Marshall Weinberg, and Jane Weitzman.

 An immigrant family arrives in Haifa’s port, circa 1950s
An immigrant family arrives in Haifa’s port, circa 1950s

JDC Announces New Archives Fellowship

Ruth and David Musher on a JDC trip to Ulan Ude in Siberia, February 2014 Click to enlarge.
Ruth and David Musher on a JDC trip to Ulan Ude in Siberia, February 2014

JDC is delighted to announce the establishment of the Ruth and David Musher/JDC Archives Fellowship. This fellowship was made possible by a generous gift from Ruth and David Musher of New York City, supporters of JDC with a long-time commitment to Jewish education and academic research and scholarship.

Ruth and David are affiliated with JDC’s Ambassadors group which is dedicated to creating a visionary and caring Jewish community.  They have both traveled internationally to places where the JDC operates including Russia, Siberia, the Russian Far East, and Israel.

After attending the public lecture “Lost Souls: Retrieving Jewish War Orphans after the Holocaust” in March 2013, delivered by Fred and Ellen Lewis/JDC Archives Fellowship awardee Dr. Pamela Joy Shatzkes, David Musher found himself quite inspired. He and Ruth committed themselves to creating more opportunities for scholars to conduct research in the JDC Archives and to share their work with the public.

“As JDC Ambassadors, it is thrilling to see the work of the JDC on the ground in real time. The JDC Archive is a treasure trove of documents, videos and photographs of a century of JDC projects and programs. By supporting scholars who use this archive of modern Jewish history and humanitarian assistance to the Jewish People, we hope to encourage its use and value not only for the people and communities it benefits directly, but also the broader world of academics, policy makers and humanitarians. As Albert Einstein said, ‘Learn from yesterday, live for today, hope for tomorrow. The important thing is to not stop questioning.’”

One (1) fellowship will be awarded each year to a deserving scholar engaged in graduate level, post-doctoral, or independent study to conduct research in the JDC Archives facility in New York or Jerusalem. The amount granted will be $2,500 per fellow per year. The deadline for next year's applications is January, 2016.

Scholars’ Conference in New York Marks JDC’s Centennial

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Audience members at the "JDC at 100" conference at the Center for Jewish History, September 8, 2014.

Thirty scholars from across the globe gathered in New York on September 7-8, 2014 for a two-day conference, “The Joint Distribution Committee: 100 Years of Jewish History.”  The event, organized by a Steering Committee including Atina Grossman of The Cooper Union, Linda Levi, Director of JDC’s Global Archives, Maud Mandel of Brown University, Avinoam Patt of the University of Hartford, and Judy Seigel of the Center for Jewish History, was a forum for scholars from a variety of disciplines to share their research on JDC’s legacy from its first 100 years.

Reflecting on the conference’s objectives, Professor Patt said: “As one of the most important American Jewish organizations ever created, the JDC's humanitarian reach has been unparalleled. As a group of scholars who have conducted research on various aspects of the global reach of the JDC, we thought it fitting to mark its 100th anniversary with new scholarship highlighting its work since 1914.”

The scope of the presentations highlighted JDC’s global reach. Organized thematically, the conference showcased research on JDC relief work in the interwar period; its postwar reconstruction of Jewish communities; its assistance to refugees; JDC in the Soviet Union, and the organization’s work in Israel. Presentations highlighted JDC’s activity in a broad range of countries and time periods including humanitarian activities in interwar and postwar Germany, Poland and the Soviet Union; its comprehensive assistance to refugees and Holocaust survivors across Europe and in Australia, Belgium, China, France, Greece, Germany Hungary, Iran, Israel, and elsewhere in the aftermath of World War II; its extensive support for hundreds of thousands of Soviet Jewish émigrés during glasnost; and more.

Participating scholars came from the U.S., Israel, Australia, Belgium, France, Hungary, and Switzerland.

The conference concluded with a public screening, “Rare Archival Footage from a Century of JDC,” attended by over 200 guests, which featured rare film footage and audio elements from the JDC Archives.

To view one of the clips screened at the public event—an excerpt from “Fighting for Health,” a 1938 film about JDC’s relief work in Poland, produced in cooperation with TOZ (Society for Safeguarding Health)—click here!

Research Uncovers Insights into Historic Photo Collection

Micha Click to enlarge.
A student receives instruction at a Micha clinic for hearing-impaired children. Israel, c. 1964.

The JDC Archives photo collection constitutes one of the most valuable sources in the world for a pictorial study of Jewish life in the 20th century. Over JDC’s first 100 years, from the outbreak of World War I to the present, JDC commissioned professional photographers to inform the public about its relief initiatives for vulnerable individuals and communities around the world.

Its significance has been noted by photographic experts and by researchers. JDC’s centennial activities, including the I Live. Send Help. book and museum exhibit, required extensive photographer research for legal as well as credit purposes.

Crisis conditions, the passage of time, various moves, and at times the confiscation of records often obscured the trail of authorship. At different times, the Archives received large groups of photographs from JDC offices around the world. Often, these groups contained uncredited copy prints or negatives; just as often, there were no photographer credits on them. JDC Archives staff does its best to fill in the information gaps whenever possible.

The photographs of Fred Csasznik (1913-1985) are a prime example of this process. Csasznik immigrated to Israel from Germany in 1933.  In the course of researching photo credits for the centennial projects, Archives staff reviewed images already cataloged into the Archives’ database, as well as prints, negatives, contact sheets, and, where present, historical captions. This investigation also included delving into unprocessed holdings where original prints with Csasznik’s name stamp, were clearly taken at the exact time and location as one of the uncredited prints being researched.

Close study of Csasznik’s images revealed a strong stylistic consistency in much of his work.  His method of making contact sheets (showing a roll of negatives shot at one time) with identifiable hand-written numbers below the images enabled staff to correctly identify more of his photographs. Research in the JDC Archives text collections revealed additional clues. For example, a February 1949 letter between JDC offices in Paris and New York uncovered that Csasznik was sent to cover the historic liquidation of British internment camps in Cyprus and the release of detainees. That shed light on some of the important photographs being researched for the exhibit.

To clarify copyrights for Csasznik’s work, Archives staff reached out to his son who explained that his family donated his work to the Israel Defense Forces archive after his death.  JDC requested permission from this repository to use Csasznik photos in the centennial projects.

Based on this research into Csasznik’s work, Archives staff is now able to identify over 800 Csasznik images in the JDC Archives photo collections, which span 37 years.

Please visit our new Fred Csasznik gallery which highlights his work for JDC and includes a few of the newly credited photographs!

Galicia Jewish Museum in Poland Showcases JDC Archival Photos in Upcoming Exhibit

Poland today Click to enlarge.
Piotr Kulisiewicz, Havdalah service at the summer camp, Poland, 2013.

Rescue, Relief, and Renewal: 100 Years of ’the Joint’ in Poland” will open on October 30 at the Galicia Jewish Museum in Krakow. The exhibit features almost 100 images from the JDC Archives image collection which portray JDC’s extensive social welfare and humanitarian activities in Poland through the decades to the present day.

 A collaboration of the Galicia Jewish Museum, the JDC Archives, and JDC Poland, the exhibit is co-curated by Tomasz Strug, Chief Curator of the Galicia Jewish Museum and Dr. Anna Sommer Schneider, a Polish scholar and historian who recently published a book about JDC’s relief work in Poland in the postwar period.  Dr. Sommer Schneider conducted research in the JDC Archives over the last 8 years.

“Rescue, Relief and Renewal” showcases images of JDC’s vital activities in eight broad areas: Health Care and Feeding Programs: Vocational Training and “Productivization;” Children; Assistance to the Elderly; Education and Yiddishkeit—Jewish Heritage and Tradition; Refugees, Emigration and Victims of Persecutions; Jewish Community Life: and The Joint Today.

The accompanying catalogue, rich in photos, provides historical context for JDC’s century of activity in Poland. It highlights early relief shipments of food, medicine, and supplies during World War I; extensive work in the interwar years, the Holocaust era and its aftermath, and JDC’s return to Poland to sustain Holocaust survivors. More recent efforts to nourish a growing Jewish renewal in the post-Communist years to the present are also featured. “Rescue, Relief, and Renewal: 100 Years of ‘the Joint’ in Poland” testifies to JDC’s ongoing commitment to Polish Jewry. 

The exhibit will extend until August 2015, after which it will be available for traveling exhibits. Institutions interested in hosting the exhibit should contact the Galicia Jewish Museum at  

For additional images evoking JDC’s work in Poland, visit our Collection Highlight of Post-World War I Poland Photos. Please view a brief promotional video below about the exhibit!

Rescue-Relief-Renewal from Jakub on Vimeo.

New Book Published on the American Jewish Presence in Post-World War II France

Hobson Faure book cover Click to enlarge.
Laura Hobson Faure’s new book describes the American Jewish presence in post-World War II France.

Laura Hobson Faure’s new book, Un “Plan Marshall Juif”: La présence juive américaine en France après la Shoah, 1944-1954 (A “Jewish Marshall Plan”: The American Jewish Presence in Postwar France, 1944-1945) sheds light on a “largely neglected” chapter of research into French Jewish reconstruction efforts in the aftermath of World War II. Her book, which was published in French last year by Armand Colin, focuses on the encounters between representatives of American Jewish relief organizations and French Jewry in postwar France.

Hobson Faure began researching Un “Plan Marshall Juif,” in 2003, for her doctoral dissertation in Modern history at the Ecole des Hautes Etudes en Sciences Sociales (Paris), including three weeks at the JDC Archives.  She conducted over 60 interviews, both with French Jews and with American Jewish aid workers who had been present in France after WWII. Her book situates the post-WWII encounters between American Jewish relief institutions and French Jewry in what she terms “a transnational context,” to demonstrate that these communities exercised a reciprocal and lasting influence on one another in many spheres, including initiatives relating to reconstruction, religious pluralism, and the professionalization of social welfare institutions. 

Through its extensive support of a wide range of diverse educational initiatives and Jewish welfare organizations in France, JDC “participated in French Jewish organizations in an organizational capacity.” As the most prominent American Jewish relief organization in France at this juncture and the first to re-establish its France office after the war, JDC was directly engaged in these cross-cultural encounters. In December 1944, Arthur Greenleigh was sent to France to oversee JDC’s refugee operations.

A distinct example of these encounters which Hobson Faure explores in her book is the 1949 founding of the Paul Baerwald School of Social Work, named after one of JDC’s founders, in Versailles.  Hobson Faure explores how JDC’s establishment of the Paul Baerwald School, launched to train Jewish social workers from abroad to work in French Jewish social welfare institutions, stands as one of many initiatives modeled on practices and standards imported from the American Jewish community which significantly impacted the relationships between French Jews and American Jewish welfare organizations in postwar France. 

Hobson Faure also has a version of her book in English and is actively looking for an academic publisher for the English-language edition.

A Symbol for the Continuity of Jewish Life

JDC Chuppah (Jewish wedding canopy) produced for DP camps Click to enlarge.
One of many JDC Chuppot(Jewish wedding canopy) produced for Displaced Persons camps after World War II.

In the aftermath of World War II (WWII) and the Holocaust, JDC’s far-reaching efforts to rebuild and sustain European Jewry touched upon every aspect of Jewish religious, communal, and cultural life. This commitment to revitalizing Jewish life included the production and dispatch of over 100 chuppot (Jewish wedding canopies), along with numerous other religious and ritual materials such as matzot, haggadot, and tallitot (prayer shawls), to Displaced Persons camps in the U.S. Zone. These canopies remained in production from the end of WWII in 1945 through late 1949.

This chuppah is blue and white with gold fringe and features a large Star of David surrounded by the Hebrew word “Zion” at the center. Excerpts from Jewish wedding blessings enclose the Star of David, and the words “Joint – Product of the Land of Israel” in Hebrew and “AJJDC” in English appear in the lower left-hand corner.

One of these chuppot was discovered at a country auction in New York State by Jane Weitzman, a JDC Board Member, who purchased it as a gift for JDC. The chuppah is now on loan to the Yad Vashem Museum in Israel, where it stands as a testament to JDC’s extensive commitment to reestablishing Jewish life across Europe and to enabling Holocaust survivors to rebuild their lives with dignity. 

BBC Publishes Two Major Features on the Survivors of the St. Louis

A number of refugees aboard the S.S. St Louis, arriving in Belgium after being refused an entry into Cuba and the US. Belgium, 1939 Click to enlarge.
A number of refugees aboard the S.S. St Louis, arriving in Belgium after being refused an entry into Cuba and the US. Belgium, 1939

The BBC published two major features on survivors of the S.S. St. Louis, the ship carrying German Jewish refugees that was turned away from Cuba and the U.S. in 1939. The print and audio features highlight JDC's role in aiding the refugees to find safe haven. The 75th anniversary of the beginning of the voyage was on May 15, 2014. 

When the 907 refugees fleeing Nazi Germany were denied permission to land in Havana, Cuba in May 1939 despite having accredited landing documents, JDC became involved in negotiations with the Cuban government. These discussions unfortunately failed, as did efforts by JDC to find a haven for the desperate refugees elsewhere in the Americas. After 12 days of waiting in the harbor, the St. Louis sadly headed back to Hamburg with all of its passengers.

While the St. Louis was on the high seas, JDC, in close cooperation with other groups, negotiated with the governments of Holland, Belgium, England, and France to accept the refugees until homes in other countries could be found. JDC posted a cash guarantee of $500,000, or $8 million in today’s money, in order to make the arrangement feasible and to cover upkeep costs wherever necessary.

The audio recording incorporates footage from the 1939 JDC- produced film, Bound for Nowhere: The St. Louis Episode, ending poignantly with the line, “…goodbye St. Louis. Welcome to the beginning of a new and better life.“ This sentiment is bittersweet, as just over half of those who returned to Europe on this fateful ship were ultimately murdered in the Holocaust. 

Learn more about the voyage of the St. Louis through documents and photographs in our special S.S. St. Louis topic guide.  

Records from JDC 1955-1964 Collection Now Available Online

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Eleanor Roosevelt visits patients at a Malben clinic. Israel, 1952

The JDC Archives’ New York 1955-1964 Collection, documenting JDC’s global relief work in this period in Israel, North Africa, Latin America, and across Europe, is now available online.

This collection, comprising over 120,000 pages, describes, among other relief initiatives. the far-reaching assistance JDC provided to Algeria, Morocco, and Tunisia, including support to Jewish schools and medical care for over 90,000 children; and its ongoing support and technical assistance to the State of Israel in the development of MALBEN, an extensive network of institutions to help absorb elderly and disabled immigrants. 

These records testify to JDC’s continuing assistance to Jewish communities in Europe and to survivors still residing in Displaced Persons (DP) camps in Europe.  

The files reflect JDC’s significant involvement in helping to rebuild Jewish life in Western Europe through its partnership with the Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany, the agency that negotiated with the West German Government for compensation for victims of Nazi persecution and for funds to rebuild European Jewish communal institutions.

Other highlights of this collection include:  

JDC’s efforts to maintain a presence in the Eastern bloc, with its officially-sanctioned welfare activities limited in the cold-war period to Yugoslavia and to Poland, from 1958 until JDC's expulsion from the country in 1967 by the Communist government after the Six-Day War; 

Significant correspondence on conditions in Foehrenwald, the last and largest of the Jewish DP camps, which remained open in Germany until 1957;

JDC’s social service operations in Iran, which included a substantial network of kindergartens and day care services, and educational and social development programs, particularly for children from needy families;

Documentation of Eleanor Roosevelt’s address to a plenary session at JDC’s December 1955 Annual Meeting on her visit to Israel.

Visit here to see images of JDC’s MALBEN work through the 1950s and 1960s!

JDC Marks 100th Anniversary with Commemorative Volume Showcasing Archival Treasures

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To celebrate the 100th anniversary of its 1914 founding, JDC has produced a richly illustrated, full-color, hardcover volume which uses documents, images, and artifacts from the Archives to depict the interconnected history of JDC and the Jewish people through pivotal moments in Jewish and world history throughout the past century. Order here!

Uncovering Jewish History in Bolivia

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A young girl rides a burro in the Buena Tierra colony. Bolivia, 1941

For León Bieber, researching the history of Jewish emigration to Bolivia against the backdrop of World War II is particularly resonant: he was born in Bolivia, to German Jewish parents. A professor of political science who has taught in Ecuador, Germany, and Mexico, in 2010, Bieber published Presencia judía en Bolivia: la ola inmigratoria de 1938-1940 (The Jewish Presence in Bolivia: The Immigration Wave of 1938-1940), where he examines the WWII-era wave of Jewish immigration to Bolivia and analyzes the factors which impacted their economic and sociocultural integration at that juncture.

The Jewish refugee experience in Bolivia was indelibly influenced by Maurice Hochschild, a wealthy German Jewish mine owner in Bolivia who had a good relationship with the Bolivian president. When the Bolivian government encouraged immigration in the mid-1930s to spur the economy, Hochschild facilitated visas for German and Austrian Jewish refugees to arrive in Bolivia.  He also founded the Sociedad de Proteccion a los Immigrantes Israelitas (SOPRO), or “The Society for Protection of Migrants Israelites.”  The majority of Jews settled in La Paz, the capital, and JDC supported SOPRO children’s homes and other communal institutions in La Paz. View images of JDC relief in Bolivia here.

In 1940, to counter rising anti-Semitic propaganda that Jewish immigrants were not contributing to the welfare of the state and to ensure that Bolivia would not close its doors to future Jewish immigration, Hochschild partnered with the Sociedad Colonizadora de Bolivia (SOCOBO) to develop agricultural projects in rural areas to demonstrate these Jewish refugees’ self-sufficiency.

Unfortunately, the new farmers encountered a host of challenges in their agricultural enterprises: the mountainous topography, which meant that they could not use tractors; the dearth of roads to appropriate markets for the crops such as pineapple coffee, and cacao; and the sub-tropical climate.  None of the farms ever become entirely self-sufficient; they were all subsidized by SOCOBO and Hochschild. 

Even as Bieber was aware of JDC’s role as he researched this fascinating history, he was not aware of the extent of JDC’s role until he began to grapple with additional questions which emerged during the course of writing his first book. 

“This book [Presencia judía en Bolivia] was full of questions I couldn’t answer,” he recounted.

And these questions led him to the records at JDC: “It became clear to me that I could only find the answers—if they exist—in the archives of the Joint.”

In the archives, Bieber discovered that Hochschild contacted JDC and Agro-Joint for funds to relocate Jews as peasant farmers and train them to cultivate the fields. From 1939-1942, JDC, along with SOCOBO and Hochschild, contributed $160,000 to sustain the agricultural settlements.

As Bieber uncovers additional information about the complex history of Bolivian Jews, including these agricultural enterprises, he intends to write another book: one which deals with the Joint, Hochschild, and the first wave of Jewish immigration to Bolivia. “It is impossible to understand,” he says, “the documentation of the waves of Jewish immigration without the archives of the Joint.”

JDC Stockholm Collection 1941-1967 Now Online

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Individuals arriving from Germany receive food packages. Sweden, 1952

JDC's Stockholm Collection, which documents its World War II-era relief work in Sweden, is now available online. Browse highlights from our photo holdings on Sweden here.

This collection, housed in the Jerusalem office of the JDC Archives, comprises approximately 50,000 pages and chronicles JDC’s extensive activity in Sweden from 1941-1967.  Given its strategic location in neutral Sweden, JDC’s office was well-positioned to purchase, receive, and send supplies to needy communities in Europe, provide support for war-time rescue operations, and care for, forward mail to, and search for survivors after World War II. 

Materials in this collection include: reports from concentration camps; an eyewitness account of the arrival in Sweden of the first survivors rescued by the Swedish Red Cross’s “White Buses” scheme; extensive documentation of the ad hoc convoys developed to move goods from market sources into the Displaced Persons (DP) camps; employment, housing and medical assistance afforded both to DPs settling in Sweden and for refugees traveling to other countries; JDC Location Service forms and cards; and correspondence with Jewish communities in South America seeking to send aid to European refugees.  

Highlights include:

An October 1944 report on a visit to Theresienstadt by two Danish government officials, released with permission of the German authorities;

A report on August 1945 convoy of refugees from Copenhagen to Prague;

Correspondence with the novelist Ilona Karmel and her family members, who received aid from JDC after they survived Buchenwald. Karmel's writing includes fictionalized accounts of her time convalescing in Sweden;

An application for financial support to the Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany from Stockholm’s Adass Jeschurun synagogue, which describes the wartime history of the Swedish Jewish community and  how it welcomed Danish and Norwegian refugees during WWII and absorbed DPs from Ravensbrück and other concentration camps after the war’s end.

Access these and other fascinating records from the Stockholm Collection here!

New Jewish Museums in Russia and Poland Showcase JDC Archival Photos

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Group portrait of elderly Jewish Russian workers, 1910.

The Jewish Museum and Tolerance Center in Moscow and the Museum of the History of the Polish Jews in Warsaw, both exciting new institutions which have opened in the past two years, collectively feature over 40 images from the JDC Archives in their core exhibits to effectively tell the history and culture of their Jewish communities.

The Center in Moscow, which opened in November 2012, showcases historic JDC images to convey the scope of such diverse topics as Jewish life in the pre-World War II Soviet Union and the Agro-Joint agricultural collective program, which operated from 1924 to 1938 in Ukraine and the Crimea. The Museum in Warsaw, which officially opened in April 2013 on the site of the Warsaw Ghetto, will be using more than 15 historic images of post-World War II Poland to describe the saga of rebuilding Jewish communities in Poland after the Holocaust. 


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

A JDC employee holds a smiling thee-year old girl who is being evacuated from Yemen to Israel. Aden, Yemen 1948 Click to enlarge.
A JDC employee holds a smiling thee-year old girl who is being evacuated from Yemen to Israel. Aden, Yemen 1948. Credit: Al Taylor

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

Passi Rosen-Bayewitz Click to enlarge.
Passi Rosen-Bayewitz

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.

Visit the Jewish Women’s Archive’s blog to learn more about Hetty Goldman, Amelia Greenwald, and Laura Margolis.

Records from JDC Istanbul Office Collection 1937-1949 Now Available Online

Horse driven wagon loaded with goods prior to their shipment to specific areas in occupied Europe. Istanbul, Turkey 1944 Click to enlarge.
Horse driven wagon loaded with goods prior to their shipment to specific areas in occupied Europe. Istanbul, Turkey 1944

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

First two pages of May 1940 report written by Alex Frieder, president of the Jewish Refugee Committee in Manila, regarding rescue activities for Jews in the Philippines Click to enlarge.
First two pages of May 1940 report written by Alex Frieder, president of the Jewish Refugee Committee in Manila, regarding rescue activities for Jews in the Philippines

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! 

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