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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 6. The Beginning of the End
[I. 6.27. JDC saving and working for Jewish Children]

One of the main characteristics of the mass emigration of (p.271)

1938/9, and one intimately connected with Britain, was the emigration of unaccompanied children. JDC had nothing to do with the immigration of adults into Britain, but it played a significant part in the attempts to save as many children as possible from German-occupied lands before the war (and it was to play a similar role during the war itself).

The movement to save the children started in England. Between March 1936 and November 1938, 471 children from Germany, 55% of them Jewish (many of the rest were probably "non-Aryans"), were brought there and cared for by an Inter-Aid Committee supported by the Council for German Jewry. The Friends and other Christian groups also participated in this committee.

After the November 17, 1938, pogrom, Lord Samuel became chairman  of a subcommittee that was to promote the migration of children. On November 21 a delegation of the Council for German Jewry and the Inter-Aid Committee was received by the home secretary, who promised his support in getting the children into Britain. That same evening he announced his support in the House of Commons. As a result, the Movement for the Care of Children from Germany was organized, which undertook to guarantee that the children would not become public charges and that they would reemigrate before they reached the age of 18 or when their training in Britain was completed.

Two summer camps for youth at Harwich and Lowestoft were used to provide immediate accommodations. In Germany, Austria, and the Czech lands, Jewish organizations and such groups as the Quakers set up procedures to get the children to Britain. JDC had no direct contact with this work in Britain, but through its cooperating committees in Europe it was involved in sending the children to the safety of England.

[326 children brought to the "USA"]

A plea by Mrs. van Tijn to accept large numbers of children into the United States could not be answered affirmatively. The U.S. organization for placing refugee children was limited both by the strictness of the quota laws and by its own limitations. In November 1938 it could take 326 children, but of these, 177 children in (p.272)

Germany already had their affidavits; so that the U.S. could at that point consider the immigration of only 149 children.

By contrast other European countries did follow the British example. Holland accepted 1,850 children, Belgium took 800, France took 700, and Sweden 250. Of this total of close to 13,000 children, 2,336 came from Austria, about 8,000 from Germany, and the rest from Danzig and the Czech lands.

(End note 132:
-- Germany file, movement for the care of children; and:
-- Movement for the Care of Children; first annual report; London, no date, pp. 3-9)

[Over 3/8 of the JDC expenditure for "refugee countries" 1938-1939]

When one looks at the total monetary effort expended by JDC in aiding refugees in the different countries, the figures are quite impressive. In 1938 and especially in 1939 there is something of a quantitative jump as compared with previous years. In 1939 over three-eighths of the JDC expenditures were devoted to what was known in JDC jargon as "the refugee countries".

Table 20: JDC Expenditures in "Refugee Countries"
Total spent (in thousands of $)
*R14, 1935 report gives $ 205,000
**R13, 1936 report gives $ 239,820
***The figures for 1938 and 1939 are appropriations, not expenditures.
(End note 133: Sources:
-- R21, draft report 1939;
9-27, Kahn report, September 1938;
-- refugee countries were France, Holland, Belgium, Luxembourg, Switzerland, Italy, and Czechoslovakia).