The American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee, Cyprus Operation, 1945-1949

CYP 45-49
Language of Description
1945 - 1949
Level of Description
  • English
  • French
  • German
  • Greek
  • Hebrew
  • Hungarian
  • Yiddish
  • Hebrew
  • Latin

Biographical History

Cyprus Operation

In August 1946, British authorities established a policy of deporting illegal immigrants to Palestine to barbed-wire detention camps on Cyprus, then a British protectorate. From 1946 until the establishment of the State of Israel in 1948, the British confined over 53,000 Jewish deportees, primarily Holocaust survivors and refugees, in 12 detention camps on Cyprus. JDC was granted permission to work in these camps to supplement the meager services provided by the British. JDC staff, under JDC's Cyprus Country Director, Morris Laub, set up an extensive relief program, which included food, clothing, medical care, cultural and educational activities, and vocational training.

Archival History

The collection was sent to Israel after the Cyprus camps were closed and stored in Petach Tikva. The documentation was transferred to Jerusalem in the early 1980s.

Scope and Content

The Cyprus Collection of the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee (AJJDC) offers a unique window into a pivotal period of 20th-century history by documenting the dramatic events in Cyprus against the backdrop of the birth of the State of Israel. Beginning in August 1946, the British government began deporting Jews who came to Palestine in violation of the White Paper of 1939 to the island of Cyprus. From August 1946 to February 1949, the deportees--primarily Holocaust survivors--lived behind barbed wire in 12 detention camps. During this period, approximately 53,000 Jews passed through the camps, 2,200 children were born in the camps, and 400 Jews died there. These Jewish refugees benefited from JDC’s extensive relief program, which provided supplementary food and clothing, medical care, educational/cultural activities, and vocational training.

The Cyprus Collection contains a wide array of materials that shed light on the lives of the deportees, including personal letters, group petitions, and newspapers published by the deportees themselves. It provides a rich account of the aid activities of the AJJDC in the British detainee camps, including correspondence with the British authorities, medical care, educational programs, welfare activity, immigration to Mandatory Palestine and Israel, and eyewitness accounts of conditions in the camps written by the AJJDC administration. It also consists of many documents that portray the activities of the British soldiers.

System of Arrangement

The Cyprus Collection materials are arranged into the following three subcollections: Administration, Organizations, Subject Matter. Files within the collection's ten record groups are primarily arranged alphabetically. Material in each file is in chronological order.

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.

Finding Aids

  • A finding aid to the collection was created by Robin Eaton in the mid-1980s and updated by Sarah Lemann in 2011.

Existence and Location of Originals

  • American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee, Jerusalem Archives

Existence and Location of Copies

  • 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 19 reels, 16 of which are open for access.

Related Units of Description

  • There are 184 photographic images from the Cyprus detention camps in the JDC Archives Photograph Collection.

Archivist Note

JL according to the description collection on the JDC website:

Rules and Conventions

EHRI Guidelines for Description v.1.0