Report On Joint Distribution Committee Activity In Europe
In the camps of Germany and Austria, although medical aid was the responsibility of the Army and UNRRA, the JDC [Joint] sent a number of physicians, nurses, therapists, and public health specialists to work with refugee doctors and the Central Committees of Liberated Jews to improve health conditions among the Jewish displaced persons. JDC shipments of medicines and hospital equipment supplemented free care and systematic health checks by members of the JDC medical staff. During the summer, when large numbers of Polish refugees were coming through Lubeck, a flying squad of JDC doctors and nurses worked with OSE, the European health agency, to give medical aid to the sick and weary infiltrees.
Jewish civilian hospitals were established in Munich and in Berlin. A survey of the physical needs of Vienna's Jews resulted in the establishment of a convalescent home at Semriach and a rest home for 400 children at St. Gilgen. In addition, the JDC participated prominently in planning a Jewish hospital in Vienna.
In Poland, the JDC through TOZ, the Polish health and welfare agency, supported some 85 medical institutions. A dramatic event in the JDC medical programme for Poland was the shipment of a complete 500-bed hospital into that country. A portion of the equipment was subsequently set up in Petersvalde, Lower Silesia, as a complete medical centre in memory of David Guzik.
In Rumania the JDC-aided 16 medical institutions includes eight hospitals with a total capacity of 900 beds, maternity homes accommodating 3,840 patients, first aid stations and clinics which treated more than 10,000 patients each month. Seven hospitals with 1,000 beds were supported by the JDC in Hungary. In Czechoslovakia the JDC helped to maintain a childrens' convalescent home and a Jewish hospital, equipped to serve 105 patients. In Greece, during each month of 1946, JDC medical care was made available to 1,000 Jews, while a dispensary in Athens treated an additional 700 children. In France the JDC supported some 17 dispensaries.
During the year the JDC helped nearly 60,000 Jewish children and young people to continue their education. Since many of these boys and girls had been deprived of all opportunities to attend school during the Hitler years, this programme is especially significant.
In Germany and Austria the JDC furnished textbooks, supplies and supplementary aid to thousands of displaced children who attended schools which had been established in the camps chiefly by the Central Committees of Liberated Jews. In Italy it supported community schools for 1,000 pupils and provided hot luncheons and educational materials for an additional 1,000 displaced Jewish pupils in UNRRA camps.
In addition, in 1946 some 3,300 students were given scholarships or supplementary help to attend European universities. In the American zone of Germany the JDC arranged for 529 displaced Jews to attend German universities and supplemented the living expenses of the students.
Cultural and religious activities
In close co-operation with local Jewish communities, the JDC in 1946 undertook important steps to reconstruct communal, cultural and religious institutions overseas. In France special appropriations were made for rebuilding religious life. Allocations were made in Belgium for the repair and maintenance of eleven synagogues. In the Netherlands nearly 25 per cent of the total budget was used to further cultural and religious activities.
In the displaced persons camps of Germany and Austria, the JDC in 1946 developed an extensive programme of religious activities in co-operation with the United States Army, UNRRA and the Central Committees of Liberated Jews. Provision was made for the observance of all holy days. Ritual slaughter was begun in several cities of Germany and synagogues were reopened. In Italy the JDC allocated funds to enable the Union of Jewish Communities to establish a rabbinical seminary and other religious institutions. Kosher canteens were supported and special grants were made for the high holidays.
During 1946 it became increasingly evident that Jews who had been deprived of all opportunities to acquire new skills or to use the abilities they once possessed were urgently in need of vocational training, not only for the economic advantage resulting from this type of instruction, but also for the recognized therapeutic value inherent in this training. In 1946 nearly 42,000 men and women were enrolled in JDC projects, where their instruction ranged from short-term experience on a farm or in a machine shop to more intensive courses in preparation for a life of economic independence.
Training activities supported or aided by the JDC included hachsharot [training programs] where Jews live and work together as a community in preparation for emigration to Palestine and training centres which provide more formal instruction, particularly in industrial pursuits, for young men and women.
A considerable effort was made to provide special skills for the displaced Jews in Germany and Austria, either through classes set up within the camps in co-operation with the Central Committees of Liberated Jews or through 35 hachsharot supported by the JDC. In Italy 7,000 young persons in 60 hachsharot were given varying amounts of training while they waited for opportunities to emigrate to Palestine.
The training programmes in areas with more stable Jewish populations were in marked contrast to vocational projects in Germany, Austria and Italy, where the transient status of the Jews presented a serious obstacle to a formal curriculum. The JDC supported 152 workshops in Hungary, where 1,700 young men and women were provided with on-the-job training for industrial occupations. In addition, in that country the JDC supported 64 hachsharot which gave instruction in agriculture to some 4,500 individuals.
In Rumania 75 JDC-supported projects provided training for 4,700 young men and women. Similarly in France, Czechoslovakia, Belgium and the Netherlands JDC training centres provided opportunities to gain rudimentary skills.
Early in 1946 the JDC enlarged and strengthened its emigration department to provide systematic assistance to help Jews reach new homes. Staffed with a corps of experts, this emigration service provided a wide range of aid: it made representations before consulates, filled out necessary forms, arranged passage, chartered ships and advanced transportation costs. In addition, it furnished clothing, luggage and pocket money.
With JDC aid about 27,000 Jews left Europe, Shanghai and other countries in 1946 to find haven in Palestine, the United States and other areas. To America 9,000 Jewish men, women and children came with JDC assistance. An additional 14,000 displaced Jews in the American zones of Germany and Austria were processed for immigration but had not sailed by the close of the year. Technical obstacles such as lack of transportation facilities, consular delays and the small quotas available prevented their emigration.
In co-operation with the Jewish Agency for Palestine, the JDC financed emigration to Palestine for 15,000 Jews under the regular quota. In addition a total of 3,500 were helped to reach Canada, Australia and Latin America.
Source: Yad Vashem