Records of the New York Office of the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee, 1945-1954
Extent and Medium
Scope and Content
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, logistical and assisting 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 Commission 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.
System of Arrangement
The New York 1945-1954 records are arranged into the following four subcollections:Administration;Organizations:Subject Matter;Countries and Regions
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.
The records in this collection have been digitized and are searchable online through the textual collections portal of the JDC Archives database.
Existence and Location of Originals
American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee, New York Archives
Existence and Location of Copies
The collection has also been microfilmed on 215 reels, 211 of which are open for access. The records in this collection have been digitized and are searchable online through the textual collections portal of the JDC Archives database.
JL according to the description collection on the JDC website:http://archives.jdc.org/explore-the-archives/finding-aids/new-york-office/1945-1954/
Rules and Conventions
EHRI Guidelines for Description v.1.0
Records of the New York office of the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee, 1945-1954.
Extent and Medium
Scope and Content
This fonds is of crucial importance for the history of the reconstruction of the Jewish community in Belgium after the Second World War. In Subcollection Countries & Regions, Record Group: Belgium we firstly note the files (containing correspondence, memos, reports etc.) on the financial administration of JDC aid, fundraising and the transfer of funds to Belgium; see the files nrs. 152, 153, 154, 155 and 160 for the period 1945-1954. Nr. 149 (years 1944-1954) contains general correspondence and reports on JDC aid to Belgium, the treatment and legal status of Jewish refugees in Belgium, … The same subcollection also contains files, usually holding correspondence and reports, on the following subjects: Jewish children hidden by the AJB (nr. 150; years 1944-1954), medical needs (nr. 157; 1947-1954), “[…]Loan Kassas, Caisse de Prêts et de Crédit Brussels; Joodsche Cooperative Leenkas, Antwerp” (nr. 156; 1945-1950), relief supplies (nr. 161, 1945-1949), refugees (nr. 158; 1945-1948) and returnees (nr. 159; 1954). There are files (containing correspondence, statistics, publications, reports, …) on the following organisations and institutions: AIVG (nrs. 163-164; years 1945-1958), École Israélite and Yeshiva Etz Hayim (nr. 165; 1947-1954), Jesode-Hatora-Beth-Jacob (nr. 166; 1946-1954), Yeshiva Kehillat Yaakov (nr. 167; 1947-1950) and other schools and educational institutions (nr. 151; 1945-1950). A number of files in other subcollections/subsections also concern the Belgian Jewish community. Belgium is explicitly mentioned in the following files: “Memoranda” (nr. 2121; year 1946), “Cultural Committee meetings” (nr. 2163, 2165-2166, 2169; years 1947, 1949, 1950, 1953), “Medical Advisory Committee, general and meetings” (nr. 2193; 1945-1954), “Administration Committee meetings” (nr. 2141-2142; 1945), “Argentina, financial” (nr. 885; 1945-1949), “Germany, displaced persons” (nr. 307; 1951),”Germany, DP’s, returnees” (nr. 332; 1950-1954), “Germany, emigration” (nr. 341; 1946-1948), “Germany, emigration: yeshiva students” (nr. 342; 1947-1948), “Germany, relief supplies” (nr. 356; 1944-1945), “Passover” (nr. 1302; 1949), “US Office of the Foreign Liquidation Commissioner” (nrs. 2038-2039; 1949-1951), “Belgian War Relief Society” (nr. 1514; 1946-1947), “Jewish Education Committee of New York” (nr. 1514; 1946-1947), “Mizrachi organisation” (nr. 1810; 1945-1949), “World Jewish Congress” (nrs. 2071-2072; 1946-1947), “Vaad Hatzala” (nrs. 2057-2058; 1947), “Children” (nr. 1029 and 1031; 1945-1946), “Conversion” (nr. 1035; 1945-1954), “Migration – promissory notes” (nr. 1146; 1950-1953) and “Migration – service account, Belgium” (nr. 1149; 1947-1949). The file “Belgium, survivors (individuals)” (nr. 162) contains brief accounts of individual survivors of internment, collected by the Service d’Évacuation et Regroupement in Brussels. Lists of survivors of “Camps and locations” in Belgium (dated 1945) can be found in folder nr. 1054. Finally, the folders entiteld “Rescue Children” (nrs. 1896-1897; years 1946-1949, 1954, 1962) contain correspondence, reports and memos on the responsibility for children in the program “Rescue Children”, i.a. in homes in Belgium.
A comprehensive finding aid is available online at http://archives.jdc.org/explore-the-archives/finding-aids/new-york-office/1945-1954/ .
The EHRI project, in cooperation with the National Archives of Belgium, selected Holocaust-relevant archival descriptions from the finding aid G. DESMET & P. FALEK-ALHADEFF, P.-A. TALLIER (dir.), Bronnen voor de geschiedenis van de Joden en het Jodendom in België (19de-20ste eeuw) - Sources pour l'histoire des populations juives et du judaïsme en Belgique (19e-20e siècles), Brussel, Algemeen Rijksarchief, 2015. Please note that this guide focuses on Belgium-related archival materials in the respective descriptions.
This archival description was created in the framework of the cooperation between EHRI and the Yerusha project.