Records of JDC Postwar Czechoslovakia Offices Now Available

The JDC Archives is pleased to announce the completion of a major cataloging project, the records of JDC’s Czechoslovakia offices, 1945-1950, the period immediately after World War II until JDC was forced to leave the country by the communist government in January 1950. Having been confiscated by the Czech Security Forces, the records were held by the Ministry of the Interior during the communist era, where they formed the bulk of a collection on Jewish organizations. After the opening in Prague of the Institute for the Study of Totalitarian Regimes in 2008, the records were officially transferred to the institute from the Ministry of the Interior. The JDC Archives received a set of digital files of the collection in 2019 via the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum Archives with the permission of the institute.

The collection includes records from both of the JDC offices in Czechoslovakia, which were located in Prague and Bratislava. During this postwar period, JDC sustained Jewish survivors by providing financial assistance; distributing relief parcels; maintaining soup kitchens; and supporting orphanages, homes for the elderly, and Jewish education. Especially noteworthy is the work of the JDC Emigration Service, which assisted thousands of Jews to leave for countries in North and South America, Australia, and elsewhere. This activity is documented in 191 boxes of case files within the collection; these case files have been indexed separately and may be searched in the JDC Archives Names Index. A complete copy of the index is available here.

Jewish refugees fleeing Poland in the Bricha at a railroad station on their way to the American Zone of Germany. Nachod, Czechoslovakia, c.1946. Photograph: Al Taylor. JDC Archives

Also significant are files that provide details of JDC’s support for the Bricha, a clandestine movement that saw thousands of mostly Polish Jews cross through the Czech border on their way to the American Zone of occupied Germany. JDC provided food, lodging, and transport to the refugees en route. Participants in the Bricha hoped eventually to reach Palestine.

Many files contain financial and other records of the Accounting Departments in Prague and Bratislava, including monthly reports to JDC’s European headquarters in Paris, travel costs for emigration assistance, and social assistance to the sick and needy. Shipping Department records document the transport, receipt, and transshipment of clothing, food, and other relief supplies from the United States. Other record groups detail communication with other Jewish organizations and local communities as well as reconstruction efforts through support for cooperatives and loan kassas. The contents of the collection expand on previously digitized material in the Czechoslovakia record group of the Geneva 1945-1954 collection, linking previously separated information.

Using the Collection

A finding aid for the collection has been prepared and is available here. As with all JDC Archives finding aids, links within file records connect directly to the corresponding online database record. With other JDC Archives online collections, once you have reached a file record, you can click on the “Look Inside” tab to access records for the individual documents within that folder. For the Czechoslovakian collection, however, the complete set of images for the pages in a folder are available directly from the main tab of the file record. Clicking the folder icon at the bottom of the record (boxed in red in the example below) will open a viewer that allows you to browse through the pages in order.

Screenshot of a sample file record from the Czechoslovakia collection. Click on the folder icon to view document images.

Ten thumbnail images appear at a time; the individual image selected is indicated with a red border and is displayed in larger format below. To advance to the next group of images, click on the double arrow (circled in green below).

Screenshot of the digital image display for the sample record shown above.

Like the JDC Warsaw office collections, 1939-1941 and 1945-1949, the original documents of the Czechoslovakia collection, confiscated by a communist government and unavailable throughout the cold war period, remain located in historical institutes in the countries where they were created. Now digitally joined to the JDC Archives own holdings, this monumental collection is accessible to all. Researchers may now make full use of its rich content, deepening our understanding of JDC’s central role in the postwar recovery of this vibrant community.