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Yehuda Bauer: My Brother's Keeper

A History of the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee 1929-1939

[Holocaust preparations in Europe and resistance without solution of the situation]

The Jewish Publication Society of America, Philadelphia 1974

Transcription with subtitles by Michael Palomino (2007)



[7.] Conclusion - [440,000 Jews emigrated (officially) by JDC and HICEM from D, A, Danzig and CSSR 1929-1939]

Morris C. Troper had said at the 1938 JDC annual meeting that to foresee the expenditures for JDC was, in a sense, to forecast the course of history. There seems little doubt that during the decade 1929-39, the course of JDC's history was to a large extent the course of the history of the Jewish people in Europe. JDC had started out in 1929 with the idea of finishing a job that had been started in 1914. By 1931 it had become clear to the leaders of the organization that JDC could not be disbanded. The economic crisis in the U.S. had almost killed JDC. But it survived and was ready to meet, though it never had enough money, the terrible disasters that befell the Jews of Europe in the 1930s.

In a very real sense, JDC undertook a Sisyphean task. With relatively little money it tried, against all odds, to save the crumbling economic structure of the Jewish people in Eastern Europe; then it tried to save the Jews of Central Europe from the effects of the Nazi onslaught. Certainly it suffered from the shortsightedness of its leaders; certainly it made mistakes, did not realize the gravity of situations until it was too late - but did not others fail as well, without trying to do a fraction as much as JDC?

It can be cogently argued that the attempts of JDC to reform the Jewish economy in Poland were foredoomed to failure. With hindsight it is possible to criticize severely the investment of so much money and goodwill in Soviet Russia. JDC's opposition to Zionists (p.302)

merits careful analysis. Its hesitations regarding the emigration of German Jewry from 1933 to 1935 can also be criticized. Yet with all that, JDC could look upon that terrible decade as a period of trial in which it had on the whole stood the test, to the best of its limited possibilities.

There have been few Jewish leaders and thinkers who judged their times with more perspicacity  and lucidity than Bernhard Kahn, or with more human warmth than Felix M. Warburg. JDC could not dispense more help to Europe than American Jewry was willing to provide. It never hid any facts from the American Jewish public. It always demanded more funds than it got. It did not keep those funds in banks, but spent them to help the needy, feed the hungry, clothe the naked. There were never enough funds, and too often the answer to a plea for assistance had to be no.

But critics rarely criticized what JDC was doing - usually the criticism was directed at what JDC should have done and did not do (largely because it lacked the means). It tried to meet the emergencies as they arose.

JDC, together with HICEM and others, was involved in the emigration of some 440,000

(End note 1: Based mainly on R21, draft 1939 report)

Jews from Central Europe: 281,900 from "old" Germany, 117,000 from Austria, 35,000 from the Czech lands, and 5,500 from Danzig.

[Supplement: It can be estimated that about 10 % of them had been cought again by the NS forces in the campaigns of 1939-1943: in in Poland, in Denmark, in Norway, in Luxembourg, in Belgium, in Holland, in France. Many managed to flee to France, then to South of France, then to Spain and overseas. Illegal emigration is not mentioned but has to be added].

It had relieved the suffering of many more in Europe. It proved to them that the Jewish people in America cared, that they were not alone. It answered the voice of conscience - which is more than can be said of many in that time.

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