When I tell people here in Melbourne, Australia that I spent five years in a Displaced Persons (DP) Camp in Austria from the age of five to ten, the response is always ‘Gee, you’ve had a hard life haven’t you?”
And I reply “I don’t remember life being hard.”
And life in the DP camps wasn’t hard for a child thanks to the work of the American Joint Distribution Committee, known to us then as “the Joint.” It was involved in every aspect of life, from administering hospital, schools and summer camps, to distributing necessities like food and clothing.
In 1951, after five years of living life in flux as refugees in the transient DP camp, we finally received a visa to come to Australia via Genoa, Italy. This journey was organized and paid for by the Joint.
I assumed that the Joint sprang up to help with the refugee crisis after the Holocaust and that it disappeared after the survivors were resettled. But then I met two friends who also had JDC stories, and I knew that the Joint was here to stay.
When Marietta and her mother fled Hungary to Austria after the 1956 uprising, it was the Joint that saw to their accommodations, their food and their trip via boat from Germany to a new life in Australia.
When the Rodberg family migrated from Russia to Australia, they were supported by JDC in Rome, a transit point. A few months into their stay in Italy, Mrs. Rodberg’s father fell ill with leukemia. The Joint covered his medical expenses and arranged and paid for the funeral when he passed away. The Joint paid for their flight to Australia.
Since its inception in 1914, JDC has been trying to render itself unnecessary, looking toward the day when its assistance will no longer be required. Until that day comes, it is a blessing to have the moral and practical support of the Joint. As the saying goes, wherever there’s a Jew in need, JDC is there.
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This story has been shared with permission from Golda Schoenbaum.
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