Finding Aid
Descriptive Summary
Title: Oral History Collection of the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee
Creator: American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee
Inclusive Dates: 1961 – present
Location: American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee, New York Archives
Languages: This collection is primarily in English. It also features materials in French, Hebrew, Hungarian, Polish, Russian, and Yiddish.
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 nonsectarian 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 1,000 sound recordings.

Scope and Content of Records

JDC’s Oral History Collection contains interviews conducted with JDC staff members and lay leaders from 1961 to the present. The collection contains audio and video recordings and transcripts of interviews. The collection is organized into 7 subcollections, either arranged by the individual or the organization which conducted the interviews (Yehuda Bauer Interviews; United Jewish Appeal Oral History Project; Herbert Katzki Oral History Project; American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee 90th Anniversary Interviews), or the predominant subject of the interviews (Ralph Goldman Research Interviews). The Additional Interviews subcollection features interviews conducted by independent scholars who were not associated with a specific institutional oral history or research project. The most recent subcollection, the Jacob H. Schiff Oral History Project, began in 2015. It contains oral histories of JDC board members and leaders regarding their choice to become involved with JDC and their perspectives on future directions for the organization.

Some additional copies and notes were compiled by JDC staff and outside researchers from 2003 through 2010. These materials have been integrated into the collection where appropriate.

The collection offers a rare glimpse into the activities of caregivers, lay leaders, and policymakers who led JDC’s World War II and post-war relief efforts. The majority of interviewees served from the late 1930s to the 1970s in JDC’s New York headquarters and in overseas field offices. The collection also contains interviews with prominent JDC executives and lay leaders, including Samuel Haber, Director of the American Zone of Operation in Germany from 1947 to 1954 and later JDC’s Executive Vice-Chairman from 1967 to 1975; Joseph Schwartz, Director of European Operations from 1940 to 1949; and Edward M.M. Warburg, Chairman from 1945 to 1965.

These materials reflect the international scope of JDC’s wartime aid programs: interviewees reflect on their work in Cuba, France, Germany, Poland, Portugal, Turkey, and Switzerland, among many other countries. Topics of discussion include: wartime fundraising strategies; conditions and supply programs in DP camps; the rehabilitation of Holocaust survivors; and refugee resettlement programs in Israel and the United States.

Many interviewees in the collection served with JDC in Eastern Europe throughout the 1980s and early 1990s. During the Cold War of the 1950s and 1960s, JDC was expelled from Eastern Bloc countries, including Czechoslovakia, Hungary, Poland, and Romania. Under the direction of Ralph Goldman, JDC’s Executive Vice-President from 1976 to 1988, JDC received permission from governmental officials to re-enter these countries and the Soviet Union in the 1980s and 1990s. Extensive interviews with Goldman and his contemporaries include discussions on aid and restitution for Holocaust survivors; the revitalization of Jewish communities throughout Europe; and providing assistance to Jews who emigrated from Eastern bloc countries to the U.S. and elsewhere. The collection contains interviews with many prominent Eastern Europeans who worked alongside JDC, including Jozsef Schweitzer, Chief Rabbi of Hungary in the late 1980s, Ilona Seifert, a leader of the Hungarian Jewish community, and many other Jewish communal leaders with whom JDC partnered.

The interviews also highlight field staff who served in Africa and the Middle East from the late 1940s to the 1990s. These interviewees discuss JDC’s aid programs and rescue operations in Algeria, Ethiopia, Iran, Morocco, Sudan, Tunisia and Yemen. Interviewees who worked in Israel discuss a variety of health and welfare programs, including the 1949 creation of MALBEN, a network of institutions serving disabled and elderly citizens and new immigrant populations in Israel.

The materials also include a small number of interviews with individuals who received assistance from JDC, including individuals from Bosnia, Cuba, India, Iran, Libya, Turkey and other countries.

The collection contains over 600 hours of audio recordings, as well as 10 Hollinger boxes of transcripts, correspondence, reports, news clippings, notes, project proposals, resumes, and interview transcripts.

Note: The JDC Archives welcomes additional information about the interviewees featured in this collection. Please contact


The Oral History Collection is arranged into seven subcollections. Each interviewee within a subcollection constitutes a record group. Record groups are arranged alphabetically by the interviewee’s last name:

Yehuda Bauer Interviews
United Jewish Appeal Oral History Project
Herbert Katzki Oral History Project
Ralph Goldman Research Interviews
American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee 90th Anniversary Interviews
Additional Interviews
Jacob H. Schiff Oral History Collection

Conditions Governing Access

Recordings and transcripts may be accessed by contacting the JDC Archives through this form.

Some records are restricted due to their confidential nature. Please see our Access and Restrictions Policyfor 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 materials found in this collection. Please see our Access and Restrictions Policy for further details.

For more information, contact:

Preferred Citation

Repository, Title of Collection, Folder number, Title of item, Date of item

Example: JDC Archives, Oral History Collection, Herbert Katzki Oral History Project, Folder 71, Fishzohn, Arthur, 1981: Transcript.

Processing Information

This collection was processed by Aaron Rosenblum and Julia Lipkins with assistance from Oxana Merkulina, Emily Nabasny, Shira Peltzman, and Elli Smerling from 2012-2014.

This finding aid was produced by Tamar Zeffren in 2015.

The cataloguing of this collection was made possible with grants from Mémorial de la Shoah and Donald M. and Sylvia Robinson.

Archives of The American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee, Inc.