Finding Aid
Descriptive Summary
Title: Records of the Istanbul Office of the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee
Creator: American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee
Inclusive Dates: 1937-1949 (bulk dates 1942-1947)
Location: American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee, Jerusalem Archives
Link: The Istanbul Office 1937-1949 Collection
Languages: The majority of this collection is in English.
Alternative Form of Materials

The records in this collection have been digitized and are searchable online through the textual collections portal of the JDC Archives database.

The collection has also been microfilmed on 41 reels.

Administrative History

The American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee (JDC) is the world’s leading humanitarian assistance organization. Formed in 1914 in response to the onset of World War I and the devastation it wreaked on thousands of Jewish communities across war-torn Europe, JDC has served over the past century as the overseas arm of the American Jewish philanthropic community, providing rescue, relief, and rehabilitation services to global Jewish communities and individuals in need worldwide.

In the present day, JDC continues its efforts to alleviate hunger and material hardship, rebuild and sustain Jewish cultural and social service infrastructures and communal institutions worldwide, aid at-risk Jewish communities and individuals, and provide critical relief and long-term non-sectarian development assistance services for victims of man-made and natural disasters in more than 90 countries across the globe.

The JDC Archives holds, describes, preserves, and makes accessible the organization’s institutional records. These records include: approximately 3 miles of textual records; a photo collection of approximately 100,000 photo images; over 1,300 films; and a collection of over 1,000 sound recordings, which document JDC’s history and its global activities.

Scope and Content of Records

The Istanbul Collection testifies to JDC’s efforts from 1942-1949 (with a few earlier materials dating from 1937) to oversee the planning of rescue and relief operations from its office in Turkey, a neutral country strategically located at the crossroads of war-torn Europe and the nascent Jewish state in Palestine. These records highlight the Istanbul office’s partnership with other relief organizations–such as the Jewish Agency, the U.S. War Refugee Board, and the International Red Cross–in rescue operations and in large-scale enterprises to identify and locate survivors during and after World War II.

The digitized records include: correspondence with Jewish communities throughout Turkey, Romania, and Palestine; extensive documentation regarding shipments of food packages and other supplies to concentration camps such as Theresienstadt and Bergen-Belsen (including a postcard sent by Rabbi Leo Baeck, the renowned German scholar, from Theresienstadt acknowledging receipt of a JDC care package); cables and news releases; lists of survivors, including thousands of files from the Central Location Index; wartime testimonies; and correspondence regarding Joel Brand’s and Rudolf Kasztner’s negotiations in 1944 with Nazi officials in an attempt to save Hungarian Jews from deportation to Auschwitz.

This collection also contains documentation on JDC’s extensive support for refugees passing through Turkey en route to Palestine and to passengers on the SS Drottningholm, a rescue ship used for repatriation of civilians and prisoners of war; and eyewitness accounts, including an account of the sinking of the SS Mefkure, a rescue ship traveling from Romania to Palestine, by torpedoes in the Black Sea on August 5, 1944.


The Istanbul Office records are arranged into four subcollections:

Subject Matter
Countries and Regions

Conditions Governing Access

The collection is open to researchers with the exception of files that are restricted due to the nature of their contents. Restricted files can include legal files, personnel files, case files, and personal medical diagnoses, etc. Please see our Access and Restrictions Policy for further details.

Copyright Conditions

Copyright held by The American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee, Inc. Other intellectual property lefts may apply. The publication of JDC records in any format requires the written permission of the JDC Archives. Users must apply in writing for permission to reproduce or publish manuscript materials found in this collection. Please see our Access and Restrictions Policy for further details.

For further information, email [email protected]

Preferred Citation

Repository, Title of Collection, Folder number, Title of item, Date of item,, item [ITEM ID number].

Example: JDC Archives, Istanbul Collection 1937-1949, Folder IS. 218, “Telegram from Jointfund to Jointfund Amsterdam,” April 6, 1946,, item 876417.

Processing Information

This collection was processed by Ayala Levin-Kruss in 2011. This finding aid was produced by Tamar Zeffren in 2015.

The cataloguing of this collection was made possible through a grant from Marshall M. Weinberg.

Digitization of this collection was made possible with funding from the Polonsky Foundation.

Archives of The American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee, Inc.

Email: [email protected]