Finding Aid
Descriptive Summary
Title: Records of the New York Office of the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee, 1933 – 1944
Creator: American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee
Bulk Dates: 1933 – 1944
Extent: 112 linear feet
Link: Selected Documents from the 1933-1944 Collection
In addition, material on Latin America and the Caribbean is available. Access the Countries and Regions subcollection under “Arrangement,” below, then select the individual countries of interest.
For other portions of the collection, see “Conditions Governing Access,” below.
Location: American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee, New York Archives
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 text records; approximately 100,000 photo images; and over 3,600 film, video, and audio items.

Scope and Content of Records

This collection comprises 1,141 numbered files of JDC New York Headquarters records that chronicle the period between Hitler’s rise to power and the end of the Second World War. For the sake of narrative coherence, some records from the postwar period and beyond are also included in this collection.

For the most part, these records describe the valiant efforts to support individuals and communities struggling for survival in Europe and in refugee havens across the globe. JDC funded local welfare committees and communal organizations and worked with government agencies and other international organizations to set up programs and conduct operations in over 70 countries.

In 1933, JDC moved its European headquarters from Berlin to Paris. When Nazi troops approached Paris in June 1940, the office was evacuated, and Lisbon ultimately became the site of JDC headquarters for the duration of the war.

The 1933-1944 collection includes correspondence, cables, memoranda, and bulletins; minutes of JDC meetings and conferences and transcripts of proceedings; narrative, statistical, and financial reports; eye-witness accounts and diary entries; passenger lists, ship manifests, and inventories; and speeches, press clippings, news dispatches, and publicity materials.

Highlights of this collection include:

  • the struggle of Jews in Germany and the mounting emigration following enactment of the Nuremberg Laws, Kristallnacht, and the annexation of Austria and the Sudetenland;
  • the expulsion of Polish Jews from Germany and the plight of the homeless in “no-man’s-land” along the Czech frontier and in Zbaszyn on the Polish border;
  • the role of loan kassas in economic life;
  • the saga of the St. Louis and other sailings from Portuguese, North African, and Japanese ports;
  • relief efforts for Jewish refugees in Shanghai;
  • emigration from Vilna via the Trans-Siberian railroad to Vladivostok and then Japan;
  • the situation in French internment camps and the deportations of Jews from occupied and unoccupied France;
  • the work of Varian Fry and the Emergency Rescue Committee;
  • the shipment of food packages to Theresienstadt and other concentration camps; and
  • the Teheran parcel service for refugees in Asiatic Russia.

Records in this collection are arranged in four main categories: Administration, Organizations, Subject Matter, and Countries and Regions.

Subject Matter
Countries and Regions

Alternative Form of Materials

This collection has been digitized. Microfilm copies of the entire collection are also available on 226 reels labeled according to folder range.

Related Materials

Saly Mayer Collection, 1939-1950
The Dominican Republic Settlement Association (DORSA), 1939-1977
Related material on the War Refugee Board: Records of the New York office of the American Joint Distribution Committee, 1945-1954, Organizations subcollection

Conditions Governing Access

Selected records from the collection are available online as Highlights from the 1933-1944 New York text collection. Records of activity in Latin America and the Caribbean may be accessed within the Countries and Regions subcollection under “Arrangement,” above. Researchers seeking access to the complete collection may complete a Request Information form.

Copyright Conditions

Copyright held by The American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee, Inc. Other intellectual property rights 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 information contact: [email protected]

Preferred Citation

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

Example: JDC Archives, New York Office Collection 1933-1944, Folder 433, “Incoming Cable from Jewish Board Deputies to Johannesburg,” October 9, 1942,, item 450499.

Processing Information

Arrangement and description of the 1933 – 1944 collection were originally prepared by Emil Lang in 1985; collection-level description was added to the finding aid in 2012.

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]