A Major Expansion of the JDC Archives Names Index: Transmigrant Case File Index

Soviet and other émigrés assisted by JDC

The JDC Archives has embarked on a major new indexing project, the first portion of which is now available online for family researchers. The project will create a complete index of transmigrant case files from the JDC offices in Vienna and Rome from 1946 to 1988. These files represent a major genealogical resource, primarily for those whose families emigrated from the Soviet Union during the Cold War era, but also including émigrés from Poland and Czechoslovakia in 1968-1969, Hungary, Romania, and other countries of the Eastern bloc, as well as those from Egypt, Libya, and other Muslim countries who were principally assisted by the Rome office.

In Vienna and Rome, JDC developed programs to assist transmigrants, Jewish refugees in transit to other countries, who faced a waiting period generally of several months for their papers to be processed by the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service and were not eligible for work permits. JDC support, depending on the decade, generally included care and maintenance, assistance with housing, cultural programs including English language instruction, Jewish holiday events, and acculturation programs. For many of the émigrés, particularly children, JDC also provided them with their first exposure to Jewish customs and rituals, the practice of which had been forbidden in their home countries under Communist rule.

Russian kindergartners at a school for Eastern European transmigrants. Rome, 1972. (JDC Archives)

The caseload fluctuated in response to political developments in Eastern Europe and elsewhere and US government policy on the numbers of refugees to be accepted each year. Numbers increased in the late 1970s with the attention to the plight of Soviet Jews brought by the refusenik movement and US political pressure, then declined after the 1979 Soviet invasion of Afghanistan and subsequent US sanctions on the USSR. By 1989, as the Soviet Union neared its dissolution, restrictions were eased, and the United States began direct processing in Moscow of visa applications, bringing the transmigrant story to a conclusion as Soviet Jews wishing to immigrate no longer needed to go to Austria and Italy for processing of their applications for visas to the US.

Bound for Rome, a Soviet Jewish transmigrant stands with his luggage on the train platform in Vienna.

Vienna, Austria, 1989. Photo: Doron Bacher.

Records from the JDC Vienna and Rome offices are housed in the Jerusalem office of the JDC Archives, but these collections have not yet been cataloged or digitized. The creation of the Transmigrant Case Files Index therefore vastly increases the ability of researchers to learn that the JDC Archives possesses these case files and makes it easier for Archives staff to locate and retrieve the files when requested.

Due to its vast size, with an estimated total of approximately 70,000 entries, the index is being presented in four parts, as follows:

  • Part 1. USSR Transmigrants, 1946-1977
  • Part 2. USSR Transmigrants, 1978-1979
  • Part 3. USSR Transmigrants, 1980-1988
  • Part 4. Transmigrants from Other Countries, 1946-1988

As of July 2021, the portion of the index that is currently available is Part 1. USSR Transmigrants, 1946-1977, with more than 19,000 entries. As many of the transmigrants arrived first in Vienna and then traveled on to Rome, there are often multiple listings for the same individual. The inclusion of “V” and “R” in the box numbers indicates whether the file is from Vienna or Rome.

Sample of the opening entries of Part 1 of the Transmigrant Case Files Index.

The index will be the main source of family information in the JDC Archives for those who emigrated from the Soviet Union and will significantly extend the chronological range of the JDC Archives Names Index into the 1970s and 1980s. Work on Parts 2-4 of the Transmigrant Case Files Index is in progress, with publication on the JDC Archives website anticipated by the end of 2021.

As case files may contain private personal information, they are not open to the public. However, family members may request digital copies of the documents via our online Photo Request form. As we have not digitized these records, there is a fee for this service.

Explore Part 1. USSR Transmigrants, 1949-1977 of the Index to the Transmigrant Files of the AJDC Vienna and Rome Offices and other Lists in the JDC Archives Names Index.

UPDATE, October 2021: Part 2 of the Transmigrants Index, USSR 1978-1979, is now available here and Part 3, USSR 1980-1988, is available here.
UPDATE, November 2021: Part 4 of the Transmigrants Index, Transmigrants from Other Countries 1946-1988 is now available here.