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Index of AJDC Prague Office Emigration Case Files Now Available

Postwar office assisted tens of thousands

The JDC Archives is excited to announce the completion of a major indexing project that for the first time makes available the names of those who received emigration assistance from JDC in Czechoslovakia in the immediate aftermath of the Holocaust. Comprising the first 191 boxes of the records of the AJDC Prague Office, 1945-1950, the Emigration Service case files represent a significant portion of the collection. The index to these files will now become a significant resource for genealogists and family researchers.

As reported in July 2019 (JDC Archives Receives Major Collection of Its Fugitive Postwar Prague Office Records), the JDC received a set of digital files of this collection from the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum (USHMM), with the agreement of the Institute for the Study of Totalitarian Regimes in Prague, where the collection is housed. The records had been confiscated by the Czechoslovakian secret police when JDC was forced to cease its Czech operations in January 1950.

A group of young women waiting in front of the JDC office, Prague, 1945.

After receiving the digital files, the JDC Archives assigned one of its Names Indexing Project volunteers to begin to create a spreadsheet that would list the client name, additional family members traveling with the client, and the box and folder number of the file. The pace of work increased dramatically when JDC closed its offices in March 2020 due to the coronavirus outbreak; without on-site database access, the volunteers were unable to work on other projects and turned to the Czech files instead, joined by several JDC Archives staff members whose normal work had also been disrupted.

Sample of the opening entries of the Czech Case File Index

The result is an index of nearly 11,000 entries. With the inclusion of the names of accompanying family, the total number of names indexed approaches 22,000. Although most of the émigrés were Czech Jews, the files also include many individuals who held Polish, Hungarian, or Romanian citizenship who traveled to Czechoslovakia as the first step in their efforts to leave Europe. In addition to those who went to Palestine/Israel or the United States, JDC worked to obtain visas to countries throughout North and South America and especially Australia, working closely with the Australian Jewish Welfare Society to locate family members, arrange sponsorships, and ensure that the immigrants would find community when they arrived.

Refugees boarding the last chartered flight from Prague to Australia, 1949.

In addition to date and location of birth, current address, and information on relatives abroad, the case files often include biographical information about the clients that document their wartime experiences.

During the war [he] was deported in 1942 to Hungary in a labor camp, from there to Russia, escaped in 1943 and joined the Czech army in 1944. Wife was in Terezin, Auschwitz, various concentration camps in Germany, liberated from Terezin. He lost first wife and child during the war.

Or, in another example,

[He] was during the war first in labor camp, then in different concentration camps. Lost his parents and three sisters and two brothers. Has one brother and a sister here, who are leaving together with him. . . . His wife was in concentration camps as well, she lost her parents and several sisters and brothers.

Although terse and matter of fact in style, these notes form a set of mini-testimonies that tell a story of both tragedy and recovery as these survivors prepared to begin new lives in distant lands.

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 Request Information form. Explore the AJDC Prague Office Emigration Case Files Index.

Dear Visitors,

Since the launch of our online database, the JDC Archives has been proud to offer the public free access to our digitized material. Our users can access records previously available only in person. Our online Text Collections have grown to 3.85 million pages, our Photo Collection to 76,000 digital images, and we have expanded our Names Index. We have also opened our Artifacts and AV Databases.

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