Kristallnacht, the Night of Broken Glass, and JDC’s Response
On the evening of November 9, 1938, a series of coordinated attacks were carried out against Jews in Nazi Germany, Austria and areas of German-occupied Czechoslovakia. The violent pogroms were waged by the paramilitary wing of the Nazi party and non-Jewish civilians, and with the complicity of the German authorities who failed to stop the violence. The name Kristallnacht, literally “Night of Crystal,” comes from the shards of broken glass that were remnants of the synagogues, buildings and stores of the victimized Jews.
JDC had been assisting Jews in Germany throughout the 1930s, as they became disenfranchised and were barred from participation in German politics, culture, education, professional life, and social outlets. As the largest foreign organization in Germany whose goal was to help Jews, JDC monitored the country’s treatment of its Jews closely. An eye witness of the events in Berlin and Frankfurt sent a detailed report to JDC headquarters about the horrific event, which destroyed 267 synagogues, shattered the shop windows of an estimated 7,500 Jewish-owned commercial establishments, desecrated cemeteries and claimed the lives of at least 91 Jews.
The name of this eyewitness is unknown, as it was kept secret at the time for security purposes. However the report, combined with other accounts, was helpful in mobilizing JDC’s response to the catastrophe. JDC and the United Palestine Appeal joined forces to raise money for overseas operations. They created the United Jewish Appeal through which they collected tens of millions of dollars to help Jews in Nazi Europe.
On Saturday we commemorate the 75th anniversary of Kristallnacht.
Sources used: United States Holocaust Memorial Museum website, JDC Archives materials, I Seek My Brethren: Ralph Goldman and ‘the Joint”: Rescue, Relief and Reconstruction by Tom Shachtman.
Using Digital Technology to Research Icaac Mendel Ganc’s Name
Icaac Mendel Ganc’s name might have stayed forgotten if not for the JDC Archives six-year digitization effort that has made his records accessible in an online database. Ganc’s name appears on six World War II-era records and document JDC’s efforts to help him flee the Nazi regime from Poland to Lithuania, Lithuania to Japan, Japan to India, and India to Palestine.
A floormaker born in Warsaw, Poland in 1916, Ganc was 25 years old in 1940 when he fled eastward to Vilna, Lithuania. His name is on a list with 8,977 other Jewish refugees who registered with the Refugee Committee of the Kehylah [Congregation] in Vilnius and received aid from JDC.
His name is then on a second document of European refugees seeking JDC aid in Japan in 1941. The list was compiled by the Jewish community of Kobe, Japan with whom JDC partnered to organize and distribute aid.
Ganc’s name then appears on an outgoing 1941 cable from JDC to the Jewish Relief Association, detailing refugees who are leaving Japan for other safe havens in the West. His name is then on a fourth document, a May 1941 list of refugees sailing on the S.S. Fusimi Maru from Kobe to Bombay (now Mumbai), en route to Palestine. The fifth document with Ganc’s name indicates that JDC is trying to ascertain the names and address of his American relatives, so they can provide financial assistance for his flight to Palestine.
The sixth document with Ganc’s name is a letter from the Canadian Jewish Congress to the United Jewish Refugee and War Relief Agencies, dated July, 4th, 1941. The letter is an appeal for $1,500 to pay for the ship that will take Ganc, along with 13 other refugees, to Palestine.
While piecing together this story using original documents or microfilmed records certainly would have been possible, it would have been unlikely that Ganc’s saga would have come together without the assistance of digital technology. If you think JDC may have assisted your family, start searching our Name Database to find documents about your relatives’ journeys. If this does not yield relevant records, cast a wider net by searching our Document Collection under “Full Text Search.”
Delivering Food Relief with Dignity: A Unique Artifact
At the end of 2001, Argentina spiraled into an economic free-fall that turned middle- class families into “the new poor” virtually overnight. The emergency aid program established by JDC sought to provide services with dignity to those who had never before had to ask for assistance. Debit cards were used to enable clients to purchase food with dignity rather than receiving a traditional food package. This idea was subsequently implemented across the Soviet Union, where it is still in use. This innovation development reflects the organization’s commitment, which has characterized its global relief efforts through the years, to delivering assistance through efficient and respectful channels to vulnerable communities worldwide.
Emely Katz Shares Her JDC Story
For over a decade I have been an ambassador of the JDC as a Jewish federation fundraiser. It has always been a privilege to talk about “the Joint’s” life-saving work to donors and lay leaders. Little did I know that during the war years the JDC helped my own family, thus making what was once merely a professional pledge into something deeply more personal.
My opa (German for “grandfather”) Joseph “Jose” Katz, his parents and five siblings were living in Nentershausen, Germany in 1939. They fled from Nazi Europe to Ecuador, a developing country that accepted refugees with the caveat that they work in agriculture to help meet the needs of the country’s growing population. Jose and his brothers settled in a farming village called Cristiania where Jose supplemented his income by selling bread door-to-door.
Life in Ecuador was difficult for most of the Jewish refugees who arrived in the ‘30s and 40’s, with the culture alienating and the adjustment after escaping Nazi Europe traumatizing. Jose and countless others were fortunate enough to count on organizations like the JDC that provided monetary, spiritual and emotional support to those starting anew. JDC was also instrumental in providing Jewish books and religious articles to establish synagogues and help the immigrants maintain their Jewish identities and achieve a sense of normalcy.
Jose was able to succeed, in part thanks to a small stipend from JDC that helped him meet his family’s basic needs. A few months after arriving in the country, Jose left the farm and opened a bakery with his sister and brother-in-law. He married my oma (German for “grandmother”) Edith Czarninski and later moved to Cuenca where they purchased a restaurant called Salon Toledo. European pastries were a novelty at the time and the locals loved my opa’s freshly baked goods. My father Pedro was born in 1947 and the family quickly felt at home in their adopted country. The business was a success and it soon grew to include a bakery and large supermarket.
My uncle Bert recently sent me a JDC archival photo (above) of my opa and uncles in Ecuador. I was amazed to see this photographic affirmation of the relief efforts the JDC provided to my family as they were immigrants searching for a home, a livelihood, and a place for themselves in their new world. My opa received a helping hand 75 years ago from strangers who were looking after the well-being of fellow Jews in distress. Unfortunately there are still Jews in distress worldwide to this day. Just like those fellow Jews felt compelled to help my family so many years ago, I feel the same responsibility to help someone else’s family today.
Emely Katz is a fundraiser for the Jewish Federation of Greater Orlando. This story has been shared with her permission.
Click here to Tell Us Your JDC Story.
A Rosh Hashanah Story
The JDC Oral History Collection contains over 100 interviews with JDC leaders and staff members who worked with the Joint from the 1930s to the 1990s. The interviews were recorded between 1966 and 2003, and include stories about the JDC’s humanitarian work across the globe. The collection includes interviews with individuals such as Paulette Fink (1911-2005), who organized housing for 1,500 child survivors of the Holocaust; Samuel Haber (1903-1984), who served as the JDC Director in the U.S. Zone in Germany from 1947 to 1953; and Monroe Goldwater (1885-1980), who was a prominent attorney and a member of the JDC Board of Directors.
The above clip is a Rosh Hashanah story told by Jacob (Jack) Joslow, who was the JDC Director of Education in the U.S. Zone in Germany from 1945 to 1946.
Explore JDC’s Extensive Photo Resources
JDC’s archival holdings include a 100,000-plus image collection, which testifies to the stunning scope and diversity of the global Jewish communities with whom JDC has worked throughout the past 100 years. Encompassing JDC’s support for pre-World War I communities in Palestine to its life-saving relief in Displaced Persons camps across Europe after World War II to rescue operations in the Middle East, Asia, and Europe and numerous humanitarian interventions at historic junctures, JDC’s image collection serves as a priceless window onto JDC’s operations around the world and the communities and individuals it continues to serve.
The “Photographs” web resource features a diverse array of curated galleries and historic exhibits that feature compelling selections from the collection, including:
• Galleries showcasing JDC’s World War II-era images from Europe, Asia, South America, and elsewhere;
• Images from JDC’s relief work in pre-World War I Palestine;
• Comprehensive galleries to accompany the online exhibits depicting milestones in JDC’s legacy of relief work;
Through this Photographs portal, users may also access a comprehensive text tutorial and video tutorial to assist them in utilizing the photo collection and to conduct searches by photographer, decade, location, and additional search terms, as well as links to an Order Form, Fee Schedule, and Terms and Conditions. Visit us to learn more!
Collection of 40,000 Deposit Cards from the World War II Era Features Albert Einstein Record
The card (pictured right) illustrates that Albert Einstein deposited funds with JDC towards the travel costs of Hugo Moos, a friend or a relative living in his hometown of Ulm, Germany. Included are Einstein's name and address in Princeton, NJ.
JDC established its Transmigration Bureau in 1940 in New York to help refugees emigrate from Germany, Austria, Czechoslovakia, Holland, Belgium, and Luxembourg, primarily to the U.S. Its primary role was to accept deposits from friends or family overseas towards the travel costs of Jews emigrating from Europe. The JDC Archives has indexed deposit cards for 37,732 individuals who emigrated from 1940-1956, with the bulk from 1940-1942.
Research of ship manifests has turned up a Manifest of Alien Passengers for the S.S. Scythia which sailed from Liverpool on February 22, 1940 with a child passenger named Rudolf Hugo Moos on board. Rudolf Hugo Moos was born in Berlin and his last residence at the time was in Belgium. Could this be the same Hugo Moos who was helped by Albert Einstein?
In 1936, Einstein and his wife Elsa purchased a home at 112 Mercer Street in Princeton, where he lived until his death in 1955. In 1976, the house was added to the National Register of Historic Places. According to biographer Ronald Clark, Einstein’s house on Mercer Street was a very conducive environment for him to work. As Clark stated in his definitive work about the famed physicist, “Thus he was always anxious to get back…to the intellectual workshop of Princeton. He could of course work anywhere…Nevertheless his room in the institute or his study in Mercer Street was his natural environment. It was here that he could best carry out his main work and continue his stubborn rearguard battle against the new movements in physics which he had started nearly a third of a century before."
Elka Deitsch Shares her JDC Story
Growing up I had always heard about “The Joint,” but did not know exactly how the organization had helped my family. As the senior curator of the Temple Emanu-El Museum in New York, I knew that many of JDC’s early founders had been congregants of the historic temple. As I continued to find documents with a JDC connection in my professional life, my curiosity was piqued. What was my personal connection to the humanitarian aid organization? Had the Joint really had a hand in shaping the fate of my family?
I decided to search the JDC Names Database for my mother’s Chabad-Lubavitch family who were originally from Ukraine but fled to Uzbekistan as refugees. I was astonished to find the name of Chana Reva Gurevitz. My maternal grandmother’s name on the 1943-1945 document indicated that she, along with 6,556 other refugees, received JDC parcels in the Soviet Union and the liberated territories. The packages, which included tea, soap, essential clothing, blanket and medicine, were facilitated by the Joint and sponsored by an aunt living in the U.S. This record indicated that the family was at the time living in Samarkand, Uzbekistan’s second largest city.
In 1938-1939, my grandfather Rabbi Zemach Gurevitz was arrested for religious activity and sentenced to a labor camp in Siberia, with the official charge being that he was an alleged spy for the British. When the war began in 1941 my grandmother Reva, was evacuated from her home city to Samarkand under harrowing circumstances, as a single mother with three children. In 1943, Zemach managed to escape from Siberia and reunite with the family in Samarkand. My mother Sara was born in 1944.
When I continued to peruse the JDC document (pictured, below), I found names and addresses of additional relatives in Samarkand. The document helped me to piece the story together with incredible detail, I discovered that my grandmother’s family was living near her mother, aunt and uncle, a detail I had never known. This document helped bring to life a quiet detail of the war-time conditions, the strength of the community and the small acts of heroism that helped my family survive and ultimately thrive.
Zemach and Reva and their four children, including my newborn mother, went to Germany after the war where they lived in the Schwäbisch Hall Displaced Persons (DP) camp for 8 months, one of the many DP camps where JDC supported medical facilities, schools, synagogues, and cultural activities. They were then sent to a town outside of Paris, where the private Chateau of the Eiffel family was retrofitted as a DP camp. Here the Chabad families, having escaped together, lived side by side, and my mother Sara, then 3, lived in the same house as my father’s family. My mother’s family then moved to Cuba and eventually set sail for Brooklyn in 1950, thus ending the family’s refugee saga.
This JDC record illustrates one small part of my family’s dramatic journey. Every surviving family has remarkable stories of chance encounters which helped save them along the way, and one of ours was with the family’s assistance from “the Joint.” The archives are a tremendous resource -- not only as a resource for historical records but as testimony to the importance of engagement in times of distress, as well as the long-reaching legacy of communal commitment.
This story has been shared with permission from Elka Deitsch. Ms. Deitsch is a member of the JDC Archives Committee.
Click here to Tell Us Your JDC Story.
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