Finding Aid
Descriptive Summary
Title: Records of the New York Office of the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee
Creator: American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee
Inclusive Dates: 1945 – 1954
Extent: 2,510 files
Link: The New York 1945-1954 Collection
Location: American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee, New York Archives
Languages: The majority of this collection is in English.
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 documents JDC’s global overseas operations in over 70 countries and regions in the immediate post-World War II (WWII) period from 1945 – 1954. These records testify to the complex and multi-faceted nature of JDC’s worldwide rescue, relief, and rehabilitation initiatives from its headquarters in New York, which primarily focused upon: resettling and sustaining Jewish refugees and Holocaust survivors around the world and facilitating the renewal of Jewish life in Europe, including the rebuilding Jewish communal institutions; and providing medical, financial, and logistical support to the remnants of Jewish communities worldwide in the aftermath of World War II.

These records highlight ongoing cooperation between JDC and the American government in this period, particularly in the Displaced Persons (DP) camps, and reflect American government policies in postwar Europe. JDC marshaled its forces to meet a crisis of staggering proportions, racing to establish a massive purchasing and shipping program to send urgent necessities to tens of thousands of newly liberated Jews, shipping 227 million pounds of supplies to Europe from U.S. ports. The files detail how, with official approval from Allied Headquarters (SHAEF) to enter the DP camps, JDC developed an all-encompassing program of assistance to the DP camp inhabitants. JDC provided supplementary food, clothing, equipment, and educational and religious materials; allocated funds for medical facilities, schools, and synagogues; organized communal life in the many camps and other installations; developed vocational training programs; setting up a vast emigration program for survivors; and represented the DPs before the military and other authorities.

Of note are files which shed light on JDC’s role in the landmark Harrison Report. By late 1945, some 75,000 Jewish survivors of the Nazi horrors had crowded into the displaced persons (DP) camps that were hastily set up in Germany, Austria, and Italy. Conditions were abominable, with many subjected to anti-Semitism from non-Jewish inmates and hostile treatment. Earl Harrison, Dean of the University of Pennsylvania Law School and the U.S. representative on the Intergovernmental Committee on Refugees, was dispatched by President Harry Truman to conduct an official tour of the DP camps. Harrison asked Joseph Schwartz, Chairman of JDC’s European Executive Council (EUREXCO), to accompany him on this official tour of the camps. Harrison’s landmark August 1945 report on his inspection tour called for separate Jewish camps and for UNRRA (UN Relief and Rehabilitation Administration) participation in administering these separate facilities with JDC’s help.

The materials also describe JDC’s collaborations with diverse organizations such as the Intergovernmental Committee on Refugees and its successor, the International Refugee Organization (IRO); the American Friends Service Committee; the International Red Cross; and CARE to assist refugees with emigration concerns. Emigration records in this collection also chronicle JDC’s negotiations with military and diplomatic personnel and with the U.S. State Department regarding the passage of refugees fleeing from outbreaks of anti-Semitic violence in Eastern Europe to the safety of the American zone in Germany. JDC’s vast Location Tracing Service searched for surviving family members. Other JDC offices, in partnership with New York-based organizations such as the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society (HIAS), the New York Association for New Americans (NYANA), and the National Refugee Service, processed the applications of prospective emigrants to the U.S. In Cyprus, when the British army began interning illegal Jewish immigrants in detention camps on that island (which was then a British colony), JDC furnished medical, educational, and social services for the detainees. Moreover, JDC also intervened with Washington and the army on issues of borders and refugee quotas, and was an active participant in the United States Escapee Program, dedicated to aiding refugees from Communist countries.

This collection reflects the evolution of JDC’s overseas relief mandate to include extended rehabilitation and reconstruction initiatives for European Jewry to sustain tens of thousands of Jews who remained in Eastern Europe–in Hungary, Poland, Romania–and other locales–as well as thousands of others living in the West outside the DP camps. JDC’s extensive support for refugees included vast relief operations in Palestine and later Israel, where the majority of survivors would resettle. The organization established loan institutions, cooperatives, and hachsharot centers (agricultural training centers), which provided vocational training for those seeking new lives in the Jewish state. These records also evince JDC’s expanding sphere of humanitarian activities in Jewish communities in Muslim countries. In partnership with OSE, a French Jewish humanitarian organization in countries such as Algeria, Morocco, and Tunisia, JDC supported clinics and medical installations to combat tuberculosis, trachoma, and tinea; the establishment of milk depots; and summer camps and educational programs.

These files also document the formation, under JDC’s auspices, of MALBEN, a social service organization intended to provide comprehensive social welfare services and training and to address the needs generated by the massive waves of immigrants arriving in the fledgling State of Israel. The MALBEN records vividly testify to JDC’s role in fostering the development of private and public organizations in the new state to generate resources for vulnerable populations.

The materials in this collection include: correspondence; committee and board meeting minutes; field reports from worldwide staff; budgets; income and expenditure statements; lists of survivors; tracing requests from relatives and friends seeking information about relatives who may have survived the Holocaust; memoranda; lists of aid recipients and supplementary allocations; program descriptions; passenger lists; cables; supply lists; restitution laws and statutes; summaries of statistical reports; personnel files; legal files; case files; conference proceedings; names lists; audits; brochures; press releases; pamphlets; and news clippings.


This collection is arranged in four main categories:

Subject Matter
Countries and Regions

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 215 reels, 211 of which are open for access.

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 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 1945-1954, Folder 468, “Meeting of the Committee on Displaced Persons – November 8, 1946”, item 604864.

Processing Information

Marilyn Henry processed the Countries and Regions, Organizations, and Subject Matter subcollections. The Administration subcollection was processed by Aaron Rosenblum in 2012.
This finding aid was produced by Tamar Zeffren in 2014.

The cataloguing of this collection was made possible through a donation 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]