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Adviser on Jewish Affairs to Commander of U.S. Forces in Europe

The adviser on Jewish affairs to the commander of the U.S. forces in Europe was a position established in August 1945 in the wake of the publication of the Harrison Report on the situation of Jewish displaced persons in the Allied zones of occupation. Seven American Jews served in this position in the four and a half years of its existence between 1945 and 1949: Rabbi Judah Nadich (August-September 1945); Judge Simon Rifkind (October 1945-March 1946); Rabbi Philip Bernstein (May 1946-August 1947); Judge Louis E. Levinthal (June-December 1947); William Haber (January 1948-January 1949); Harry Greenstein (February-October 1949); and Abraham Hyman (October-December 1949).

The role of the adviser on Jewish affairs was to interpret U.S. army regulations to the Jewish DPs and advise American commanders concerning the special problems of the survivors. President Truman insisted that candidates for this position be acceptable to the major Jewish organizations, but not partisan to any one of them. This directive led to the formation of the Five Jewish Cooperating Organizations, a new body that consisted of the American Jewish Committee, the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee, the American Jewish Conference, the World Jewish Congress, and the Jewish Agency for Palestine. The Five Jewish Cooperating Organizations selected the advisers on Jewish affairs and financed their expenses.

The position was a politically sensitive one, fraught as it was with issues of dual loyalty. Since the adviser was nominated by the U.S. Secretary of War and reported to the European theater commander, he represented the interests of the American army of occupation, but because he was selected and financially supported by the world Jewish organizations, he was also expected to serve the interests of the Jewish DPs. Though many of their policy initiatives and diplomatic efforts never bore fruit, the advisers on Jewish affairs achieved many notable successes. They established positive relationships with the American military leadership in Germany. They made sure that the instructions of the theater commanders to improve the living standards of Jewish survivors in the DP camps were implemented. They conducted effective educational programs to sensitize the American military to the plight of the Jewish DPs. They lent crucial assistance to the Jewish infiltrees from Eastern Europe and prevented the closing of the borders to the American zones of occupation. They were influential in their call for a more liberal DP immigration policy to the U.S. and Palestine. They secured American recognition for the Central Committee of Liberated Jews in the U.S. zone of Germany, and they facilitated the symbolically important publication of the first postwar edition of the Talmud in Germany. Finally, they handled with dignity and sensitivity the massive resettlement of Jewish DPs once the borders to America and Israel were opened, as well as the final closing of the DP camps.

[Sources: Geniizi, Haim, "Philip S. Bernstein: Adviser on Jewish Affairs, May 1946-August 1947," Simon Wiesenthal Center Annual 3 (1997)]