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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)



Chapter 5. Prelude of the Holocaust
[A. Destruction of the Jewish existence in Poland 1929-1939]

[5.5. Work of Joint Distribution Committee in anti-Semitic Poland]

[Factors in anti-Semitic Poland: Government - population - no economy - no political resources]

This, then, was the situation facing JDC in Poland - a mass catastrophe  of the largest Jewish community outside the United States: a hostile government, an anti-Semitic population, and no local economic or political resources to draw upon.

JDC could not send to Poland more than it received from American Jewry.  Table 12 shows that from 1934 on - even in the face of the decline in JDC income and expenditure in 1935 - the importance of Poland in JDC work increased steadily, in spite of the German emergency. By 1937/8 fully one-third of all JDC work was done in Poland.

[JDC: Jews in Poland are not the only case]

This paralleled the attitude of the Jewish Agency, noted earlier, in granting the majority of Palestine immigration certificates to immigrants from Poland, despite the German emergency. The situation described above was constantly brought to the attention of the JDC Executive Committee members in New York. They were torn between the needs of German Jewry, the necessity for supporting German Jewish refugees in various European countries, the need for supporting emigration, the urgent needs of Romania, eastern Czechoslovakia, and Lithuania, the obligation to wind up the Russian work in an organized fashion and, finally, the desperate situation in Poland.

Several problems confronted JDC in Poland. A major problem was whether to enable at least a certain proportion of Polish Jews

Table 12: Expenditures by JDC in Poland
Total JDC expenditure (in $)
JDC expenditure in Poland (in $)
Percentage of total
123,700xxxxxxxxxxxxx 18.5xxxxx
1,382,326xxxxxxxxxxxxx 136,280xxxxxxxxxxxxx 9.8xxxxx
983,343xxxxxxxxxxxxx 216,532xxxxxxxxxxxxx 20.7xxxxx
1,904,923xxxxxxxxxxxxx 464,529xxxxxxxxxxxxx 23.7xxxxx
2,883,759xxxxxxxxxxxxx 943,830xxxxxxxxxxxxx 32.7xxxxx
3,799,709xxxxxxxxxxxxx 1,245,300xxxxxxxxxxxxx 32.7xxxxx


to emigrate and thus partly alleviate the situation for the rest. In the early 1930s all such ideas were rejected out of hand. "With the doors of the world closed to immigration in the largest measure, Jewish life will have to be reconstituted in the lands in which large Jewish populations abide", declared Hyman in 1934.

(End note 36: R17-Hyman's draft report to the Executive Committee, 8/24/34 [24 August 1934])

This was the JDC attitude until 1935/6.