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U.S. Grants Licenses to World Jewish Congress,
Joint Distribution Committee to Aid French Jews

(January 3, 1944)

On December 31, 1943, Moses Leavitt, Secretary of the Joint Distribution Committee wrote to John Pehle at the Treasury Department informing him of the difficulty in obtaining French francs in Switzerland needed to help rescue Jews, especially children, in France. He asks for funds “for the persons in France who are risking their lives to take care of these children.”

A January 3, 1944, memo says the United States granted licenses to the World Jewish Congress and Joint Distribution Committee “to arrange for the evacuation of persons in France whose lives are in imminent danger and to sustain and safeguard their lives pending possible evacuation.” There is no specific mention of Jews but the expectation is that the licenses would be used to help several thousand homeless and abandoned children in France.

The Treasury Department authorized an initial payment of $200,000, which was to be transmitted through Switzerland with the understanding at least $600,000 would be needed in the next six months. The State Department also sent a message to the American Legation in Bern instructing it to facilitate the operations, and report on progress and problems, with a special concern for the financial aspects (as opposed to the human ones). It may seem odd that Jews are not mentioned, but this may be a result of the State Department’s objection throughout the war to singling Jews out as victims in need of assistance.

Click here to read the documents.