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

February 13, 2015

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.