A cen­tury of search

The Jewish Chronicle - - WORLD NEWS FEATURE -

Europe, sub­se­quent ap­peals for re­lief — par­tic­u­larly in Rus­sia and cen­tral and east­ern Europe — and the need to co-or­di­nate a re­sponse, led to the cre­ation of what would be­come known as the JDC.

The JDC’s 100-year history is marked by a se­ries of oper­a­tions and cam­paigns to al­le­vi­ate the suf­fer­ing of those af­fected by war.

At the mid­night of Jewish history, in 1939, the JDC was able to help around 110,000 Ger­man Jews em­i­grate — against the back­drop of eco­nomic de­pres­sion in the United States. It helped a fur­ther 81,000 Jews flee Europe up un­til 1944.

In 1940, the JDC was help­ing refugees in tran­sit in more than 40 coun­tries.

A f t e r t h e war, when mil­lions of E u r o p e - ans were dis­placed, in­clud­ing a r o u n d 75,000 Jewish sur­vivors of the Holo­caust crowded into dis­placed per­son­scamps, theJDCwa­sone of a num­ber of or­gan­i­sa­tions on the ground pro­vid­ing hu­man­i­tar­ian aid and re­lief.

In Aharon Ap­pelfeld’s novel Tzili, he de­scribes his pro­tag­o­nist — a refugee and sur­vivor of the Holo­caust — ar­riv­ing in Za­greb, a “strange, half-ru­ined city”, to find the JDC “dis­tribut­ing bis­cuits, canned goods, and coloured socks from Amer­ica”. Women rushed to get boxes of dresses and shoes; “Tzili re­ceived a red dress, a pet­ti­coat, and a pair of high-heeled shoes. A heavy smell of per­fume still clung to the crum­pled goods.”

As with many state­less Holo­caust sur­vivors, Tzili’s

wish was to go to Pales­tine. Zion­ism took root and flour­ished in per­sons’ camps across Europe. At a time when aliyah was be­ing se­verely and cru­elly re­stricted by the Bri­tish, the JDC pro­vided fund­ing and sup­plies to Bricha and Aliya Bet, un­der­ground Zion­ist or­gan­i­sa­tions that were try­ing to get Holo­caust sur­vivors out of Europe and into Pales­tine. The JDC also sup­plied med­i­cal, ed­u­ca­tional, and so­cial ser­vices in the Bri­tish in­ter­ment camps in Cyprus. In the end, around half of the Jewish refugees ended up in Pales­tine.

Once Is­rael ex­isted, the JDC played a vi­tal role in en­abling the safe pas­sage of olim to

the Jewish state.

Ye­meni Jews at the JDC’s Sha’ar Me­nashe care home in Is­rael

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