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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]

[5.10. Vocational programs in Poland: Farming for Palestine or future jobs for industrialization - it's all in vain]

[Vocational programs in Poland from ORT, WUZET and JDC]

However, the vocational programs in Poland were distributed among a variety of organizations. ICA [Jewish Colonization Association] ran its own schools, and JDC had to divide its money between three additional groups of schools:

-- those established by ORT [Organization for Rehabilitation through Training],
-- those of an independent organization in Galicia (the former Austrian, southern part of Poland) known as WUZET,
-- and JDC's own schools.

[ORT is not investing in future industries - JDC pupils have no work after their school]

There was much criticism of ORT in JDC circles, especially at the Warsaw office. The charge was that ORT was too prone to follow established trade lines such (p.201)

as textiles, fur, and the like, and did not attempt to pioneer in the employment of Jews in the mechanical trades and in new industries (radio, auto repair, etc.). The problem was that when the youngsters finished their training, they had to be given employment in Jewish enterprises - non-Jewish ones would not accept them - and there simply were not many new Jewish industries around.

[JDC helps when pupils have lodging problems]
Another problem had to do with the so-called Bursen, or apprentice homes, for those youngsters who were living away from home while learning a trade. This was a real problem, because usually the partners could not afford the expense of paying for lodging, and JDC had to help. It did so, and through various social institutions (TOZ, CENTOS, and the like) it supported a number of homes that were either built or rented to house these young people.

[Vocational schools: Figures]
By early 1938 there were 17,720 pupils in these vocational schools, which were of varying standards; 3,946 were in ORT schools, 4,714 were in ICA schools, and 6,172 were in schools supported directly by JDC, 2,888 more were at WUZET institutions.

[Hechalutz vocational trainings on farms for emigration to Palestine - doubts to get to Palestine - Kahn supports training in future jobs for Poland - JDC vocational trainings for industrialization]

In addition to all this, there was the network of training camps run by Hechalutz, the Zionist organization that prepared pioneers for Palestine. By early 1938 Hechalutz had 16,206 trainees who were working, as Kahn put it, "in a manner still somewhat primitive".

(End note 61: Kahn's lecture at Cincinnati, 1/10/38 [10 January 1938], R12)

Hechalutz had no money, and it had to send its members to farms and shops where the conditions of work were primitive and extremely difficult. Most of the trainees worked in agriculture, the idea being that they would leave Poland as soon as possible.

The British funds in 1935 and 1936 were partly earmarked for Hechalutz, and Kahn supported this allocation. The reason was that while the Hechalutz people were supposedly training for Palestine, the lack of certificates for that country made it extremely doubtful that most of them would ever get there;

therefore, they were actually training for future jobs in Poland, a program Kahn favored.

(End note 62: R15, 3/29/36 [29 March 1936], Kahn report)

Here, too, there was a growing discrepancy between the number of individuals trained for new jobs and the number of jobs available. Large groups of trainees were bound to suffer the hardships of unemployment unless large-scale efforts were made to (p.202)

provide employment through investment in new or old enterprises. But before this problem really became acute, the "final solution" came and solved this and all other problems for Polish Jewry.

JDC tried industrialization and it supported vocational training. But it was not, of course, operating in a vacuum, was not free to operate as it wished. Jewish groups and subgroups were fighting for position in the harsh reality of Poland.

[There is the big suspicion: Polish government wants industrialization without Yiddish Jews and wants to exterminate the Jews before industrialization will come].