American Groups That Aided Jews in France
Emergency Rescue Committee
Varian Fry, Director, Emergency Rescue Committee, 1940-41
In June 1940, France fell to the German army. The official armistice between Germany and France included a clause that provided for the French to surrender on demand any German refugees who had fled to France.
“All German war and civil prisoners in French custody, including those under arrest and convicted who were seized and sentenced because of acts in favor of the German Reich, shall be surrendered immediately to German troops.
“The French Government is obliged to surrender upon demand all Germans named by the German Government in France, as well as in French possessions, Colonies, Protectorates Territories and Mandates.” [Article 19, German Armistice Agreement with France]
These refugees included artists, writers, scholars, politicians, and labor leaders who were wanted by the Nazis. Among these were German, Austrian and other refugees.
Eleanor Roosevelt, wife of President Franklin Roosevelt, helped publicize the need to rescue refugees in Europe.
Almost immediately, a group of American citizens formed an Emergency Rescue Committee (ERC) to rescue these individuals from France before they could be arrested and deported to French and German concentration camps.
Varian Fry volunteered to head the Emergency Rescue Committee. In 1940, he was sent to Marseilles, in Vichy France. He was given a list of 200 refugees and $3,000 with which to save them from the grip of the Gestapo.
“I left with my pockets full of lists of men and women I was to rescue, and my head full of suggestions on how to do it. Altogether, there were more than two hundred names on my lists, and many hundreds more were added later.” [Fry, 1945, p. xii]
After coming to Marseilles, Fry opened a refugee relief agency under the cover name of the American Center for Relief (Centre Américaine de Secour) in the Hôtel Splendide in Marseilles.
“Thus, quite apart from any sentimental reasons, I accepted the assignment out of deep political convictions.
“But the sentimental reasons were also there; and they were strong. Among the refugees who were caught in France were many writers and artists whose work I had enjoyed: novelists like Franz Werfel and Lion Feuchtwanger; painters like Marc Chagall and Max Ernst; sculptors like Jacques Lipchitz. For some of these men, although I knew them only through their work, I had a deep love; and to them all I owed a heavy debt of gratitude for the pleasure they had given me. Now that they were in danger, I felt obliged to help them, if I could; just as they, without knowing it, had often in the past helped me.
“Most of all, it was a feeling of sympathy for the German and Austrian Socialist Parties which led me to go to France in the summer of 1940, a sympathy born of long familiarity with their principles and their works.” [Fry, 1945, pp. x-xi]
Fry immediately set out to provide financial support for refugees and to secure all the necessary papers to escape France. These papers included immigration visas, transit visas and destination or end visas. The gathering of these papers was perhaps the most difficult task for Fry and his assistants in the ERC. In 1940-41, most countries had closed their borders to refugees.
“Our days began at about eight o’clock in the morning, when the first of the refugees arrived, and went on until twelve or one the following morning…In the evenings, after the last of the refugees had gone, we would have a kind of conference, going over all the cards we had made out during the day and trying t decide what action to take on each case… Our final job was to write the daily cable to New York. Generally it consisted of the names and references of applicants for United States visas.” [Fry, 1945, p. 29]
“Every morning at eight o’clock the grind would begin again, and each day it would be a little worse than the day before, with more people asking for help, more harrowing stories to listen to, more impossible decisions to make. Deciding who should be helped and who not was one of the toughest jobs of all. My lists were obviously arbitrary. They had been made up quickly and from memory by people who were thousands of miles away and had little or no idea of what was really going on in France. Some names had been put on them which ought not to have been there. Others had been left off which ought to have been on.” [Fry, 1945, pp. 30-31]
Varian Fry and the ERC relied heavily on sympathetic diplomats stationed in and around Marseilles. Of particular and important help to Fry was Hiram “Harry” Bingham IV, the American Vice Consul and head of the Visa Section at the consulate. Bingham had been providing assistance to refugees before the arrival of Fry in Marseilles in 1940. Bingham had been in violation of the Bloom-Van Nuys immigration law in his liberally issuing visas to refugees.
Fry also obtained visas from other foreign diplomatic officials in Marseilles. Among these was Consul Vladimir Vochoc, representing Czechoslovakia. Fry also was helped by a Chinese diplomat stationed in Marseilles who liberally issued him exit visas, ostensibly to Shanghai, China. Fry also worked with Mexican Consul General Gilberto Bosques, Brazilian Ambassador de Sousa Dantas, and the Siamese, Lithuanian, Cuban and Panamanian consuls in Marseilles.
Fry and the ERC worked closely with many other rescue and relief agencies in Marseilles. Among these were HIAS (Hebrew Immigration Aid Society, a division of HICEM). These Jewish relief agencies helped facilitate transportation and money for refugees. The records of HIAS speak highly of all the refugee agencies operating in Marseilles. The ERC also worked with other groups, including the American Friends Service Committee (Quakers), the Mennonites, and the Unitarian Service Committee of Boston.
Fry’s rescue activities were in direct violation of the regulations of both the French and American governments. Fry and his volunteers organized elaborate escape routes for the refugees. Fry used Austrian refugees Hans and Lisa Fittko as guides. The Emergency Rescue Committee forged passports and visas, and exchanged money on the Marseilles black market.
Fry’s activities on behalf of Jewish refugees was conducted right under the noses of the Nazi’s, the Gestapo and French police. These activities soon caught the eye of French officials and numerous protests were posted to the American consulate in Washington and France. The US State Department was fearful that Fry’s unauthorized activities would violate US neutrality and cause a major diplomatic incident. US Secretary of State Cordell Hull sent a memorandum to the American embassies in Paris and Marseilles warning them of Fry’s activities on behalf of refugees.
By early 1941, the Emergency Rescue Committee was helping between 25 and 100 refugees per day.
In 1945, Fry wrote in his autobiography of his difficulty in deciding which refugees to save:
“Every morning at eight o’clock the grind would begin again, and each day it would be a little worse than the day before, with more people asking for help, more harrowing stories to listen to, more impossible decisions to make. Deciding who should be helped and who not was one of the toughest jobs of all. My lists were obviously arbitrary. They had been made up quickly and from memory by people who were thousands of miles away and had little or no idea of what was really going on in France. Some names had been put on them which ought not to have been there. Others had been left off which ought to have been on.
But how could we decide whom to help and whom not, except by sticking to the lists? We couldn’t help everybody in France who needed help. We couldn’t even help every intellectual and political refugee who really needed help, or said he did. And we had no way of knowing who was really in danger and who wasn’t. We had to guess, and the only safe way to guess was to give each refugee the full benefit of the doubt. Otherwise we might refuse help to someone who was really in danger and learn later that he had been dragged away to Dachau or Buchenwald because we had turned him down. But we had one fixed rule from which we never varied: we refused to help anybody who wasn’t known to people we could trust. We weren’t taking any chances with police stooges.” [Fry, 1945, pp. 30-31]
Fry had virtually no support from the American embassy in Vichy or from the State Department in Washington, DC. In this quote, Fry talks about his passport being confiscated by the consulate.
“The weakest thing about our position was the fact that we could get no support at all from the American Embassy or the Department of State. The Department continued to take the attitude that I should go home, and the Embassy cooperated with the French police in bringing pressure on me to go.”
“In January, when my passport expired, and I went to the Consulate to have it renewed, the Consul put on a very solemn face.
“’I’m sorry,’ he said, ‘but I have instructions not to renew your passport until I’ve consulted the Department. If you’ll leave it with me, I’ll cable the department and see what they say.’
“When I went back a few days later, he told me that instead of being renewed, my passport had been confiscated.
“’I’ve had a reply from the Department about your passport,’ he said. ‘My instructions are to renew it only for immediate return to the United States, and then only for a period of two weeks. So I’m afraid I’ll have to keep it here until you’re ready to go. When you are, let me know, and I’ll get it ready for you.’” [Fry, 1945, p. 219]
The US embassy in Vichy had lied to Fry, informing him that the Emergency Rescue Committee was recalling him. He found out later that this was a ruse by the US Foreign Service.
“After Danny’s arrest the Consul told me the police had informed him that unless I left France voluntarily they would have to arrest me or expel me. He said he had sent the State Department a coded cablegram asking the Department to ask the Emergency Rescue Committee to recall me.
“A few weeks later he said he had had an answer. He wouldn’t show it to me, on the grounds that it was an official communication and therefore not to be seen by anyone outside the Foreign Service. But he claimed that in substance it said the Emergency Rescue Committee had agreed that I should return to the United Sates ‘without delay.’
“As I had been getting cables from the committee almost daily telling me to stay, I found this difficult to believe. But I cabled New York once again, and promptly received the reply that they had never agreed to my recall and had done everything they could to make it possible for me to stay. The Consul, they said, had ‘acted entirely on his own responsibility.’” [Fry, 1945, p. 200]
In the fall of 1941, under pressure from the French government, Fry was ordered to leave France. In his last interview before he left Marseilles, Varian Fry met with French Vichy official Rodellec du Porzic:
“’Tell me,’ I said, ‘frankly, why are you so much opposed to me?’
“’Parce que vous avez trop protégé des juifs et des anti-Nazis,’ he said. ‘Because you have protected Jews and anti-Nazis.’” [Fry, 1945, p. 224]
In his 13 months in Marseilles, between August 1940 and the fall of 1941, Fry and his committee were able to rescue more than 2,000 people from France.
Varian Fry worked with a number of important individuals in the rescue of Jewish refugees from southern France. Fry was only the tip of a larger iceberg of courageous individuals who risked their lives and safety to help others. They are listed below.
[Fry, Varian. Assignment Rescue. (New York: Scholastic, 1997). Fry, Varian. Surrender on Demand. (New York: Random House, 1945), pp. 10-12, 14, 17-18, 32-33, 49, 56-57, 69-70, 83, 87-90, 147, 172, 215. Gold, Mary Jayne. Crossroads Marseilles, 1940. (New York: Doubleday, 1980). Marino, Andy. A Quiet American: The Secret War of Varian Fry. (New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1999), pp. 99-100, 196, 107-108, 117, 120, 187, 209, 231, 268, 285, 287. Isenberg, Sheila. A Hero of Our Own: The Story of Varian Fry. (New York: Random House), pp. 75-76, 83, 86, 89, 125, 142, 150, 152-153, 193, 193n. Ryan, Donna F. The Holocaust and the Jews of Marseille: The Enforcement of Anti-Semitic Policies in Vichy France. (Urbana, IL: The University of Illinois Press, 1996), pp. 130, 142, 144. Hockley, Ralph M. Freedom is not Free. (2000). US Holocaust Memorial Museum. Assignment Rescue: The Story of Varian Fry and the Emergency Rescue Committee. [Exhibit catalog.] (Washington, DC: US Holocaust Memorial Museum, 1997), p. 7.]
Daniel “Danny” Bénédite, Emergency Rescue Committee, 1940-41
Daniel “Danny” Bénédite was one of Varian Fry’s most able assistants. Bénédite was a young French socialist who had previously worked to help refugees in Paris. While in Paris, he became learned in the ways of relief activities and avoiding French and Gestapo officials. In Paris, he helped German and Austrian refugees renew their residential permits and thus avoid deportation.
“Daniel Bénédite [was] a young Frenchman of the Left who had worked in the office of the Prefect of Police in Paris before the war, dictating many of the Prefect’s letters and helping to write many of his speeches. He was slight and dark and wore a small mustache, but his most conspicuous characteristic was his extreme cocksureness which his mother attributed to the Alsatian blood in her son’s veins.
“In Paris Danny Bénédite had had much to do with refugees, winning their friendship by his kindness and his readiness to renew their permis de séjour.
“Danny became my chef de cabinet, taking my place whenever I was too busy to see someone myself, and performing a hundred other tasks ably and cheerfully. When I hired him I warned him that it would only be for two or three weeks. Believing the Consul-General, I didn’t expect the police to let us operate any longer than that. Actually, his job lasted four years. In the course of that time he advanced from private secretary to leader of the underground network which rescued many of the refugees and kept many others safe in hiding after the Germans had occupied the whole of France.” [Fry, 1945, pp. 100-101]
Fry sent Bénédite to collect information on numerous visits to French concentration camps. Bénédite made extensive reports for Fry.
“To obtain the release of our protégés in the concentration camps, we decided on a campaign of pressure on the Vichy government. We sent Danny Bénédite on a trip around Southwest France, visiting the camps and writing long reports on the conditions he found. At the same time we prepared lists of the most distinguished of our clients who were interned in them.” [Fry, 1945, p. 124]
“The next morning he went down to the douane to report, as he had promised to, and he didn’t come back. By the end of the afternoon I had grown sufficiently anxious to consult a lawyer. The lawyer made inquiries, and then telephoned to say that Danny had been indicted on four counts and locked up in the Prison Chave. He was charged with illegal possession of gold, transporting gold illegally, intention of changing it illegally, and presumptive intention of diverting it to his own use. The total penalties might amount to four or five years in prison, the lawyer said.
“For a long time I hadn’t made any important decisions without first consulting Danny, and, though I frequently acted against his advice, I always considered it carefully and respected it even when I didn’t follow it. We had breakfast together in the morning, went to the office together, went home again together, dined together—did almost everything, in fact, but sleep together. It was about as close a companionship as I have ever had with anybody. To a large extent Danny had become the new Beamish, and, despite his highly critical attitude toward a part of my work, I was very fond of him.
“The worst of it was that if Danny had told the truth, I would have been arrested too. It was that I found the hardest of all to accept. Twice a day, on my way to and from the office, I passed the Prison Chave, and I thought of Danny, down there at the bottom of one of the narrow shafts of light the long prison windows must let through.” [Fry, 1945, pp. 212-213]
“After making further inquiries, the lawyer told us he thought the Ministry of Finance at Vichy might be persuaded to let Danny off with a heavy fine if the American Embassy would intervene for him. Knowing the Embassy, and its attitude toward ‘aliens’ in general, and us in particular, I had no hope whatever, but I went to the Consul at Marseille to ask him what he thought about the chances. I told him exactly what had happened, and exactly how I felt about it. Without consciously trying to, I think I must have touched something very deep in him, because he did an extraordinary thing: he went down to the douane and told them that as Danny was the employee of an American relief organization the Consulate was following his case closely and was surprised that he had not yet been brought before a magistrate.
“The next day, when I again saw the lawyer, his attitude had changed. He said that the douane had been greatly impressed by the Consul’s visit, and that the case looked much better than it had before. A few days later he got a court to issue an order to the Administration to produce Danny for a hearing, and, thanks very probably to the Consul’s visit, the douane obeyed the order. Until that time Danny had simply been arrested ‘administratively,’ without any court hearing at all.
“When the court heard the charges, it decided at once to release Danny on bail, pending the trial. But under Vichy’s methods, the douane was free to ignore the decision and keep him in prison anyway.
“All that day we waited to learn what the douane would do… Danny arrived about six o’clock, in a police car… he was free.” [Fry, 1945, pp. 213-214]
In Varian Fry’s memoirs, he discusses the fate of Danny Bénédite after he left Marseilles.
“Danny, too, is back in Paris, though it is only by a miracle that he is still alive. Some time in 1942 he joined a maquis, becoming the leader of the group. In May, 1944, he was arrested by the Gestapo. Luckily, the Germans didn’t find the arms his group had been receiving by parachute, so he was not immediately shot, as he would have been if they had. Instead he was kept in prison, as a hostage. In August, however, a member of his maquis confessed, under torture, and Danny was about to be led before a firing squad when the American troops landed in Southern France and he was saved.” [Fry, 1945, p. 237]
After Fry left Marseilles, Bénédite, along with Jean Gemahling and Charles Wolff, ran the Centre Américain de Secours [American Rescue Committee]. After Gemahling’s arrest in November 1941, Bénédite took over the leadership of the ERC. He kept the Centre open until June 1942, when the French police closed it down.
The ERC operated secretly in various locations and continued to distribute funds to help refugees.
In September 1942, Bénédite was asked to set up a spy network for the OSS.
Bénédite went into hiding under a false name between January and June 1943. Bénédite set up a business as a woodcutter and charcoal maker in Haut Var. Bénédite’s business and woodcutting camp became a maquis [underground/guerrilla] center. Bénédite was arrested in May 1944 and was held in jail until August 1944. He was condemned to death by the Nazis, but escaped from confinement before the sentence of execution could be carried out.
During the liberation, Bénédite became an adjutant to the French high command of the FFI (Forces Françaises de l’Intérieur). Bénédite was awarded the Legion of Honor in June 1951.
Bénédite was a Protestant.
[Fry, Varian. Surrender on Demand. (New York: Random House, 1945), pp. 100-101, 103, 116-117, 120-122, 124-127, 134, 140, 148, 149, 180, 183, 195-197, 199, 202, 204-205, 207, 209, 211-215, 217-218, 220-227, 229-232, 237-238. Gold, Mary Jayne. Crossroads Marseilles, 1940. (New York: Doubleday, 1980), pp. 26-27, 34-35, 41, 45, 74, 203, 229-231, 237, 243, 245, 247-248, 256, 265, 271, 293, 326, 334, 336-337, 340, 357, 360, 371, 381, 383-384, 387-389. Marino, Andy. A Quiet American: The Secret War of Varian Fry. (New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1999), pp. 205, 218, 224, 227, 231, 238-239, 268, 271, 276, 279 287-288, 298, 306-307, 317-320, 328-329. Isenberg, Sheila. A Hero of Our Own: The Story of Varian Fry. (New York: Random House). Klein, Anne. “Conscience, conflict and politics: The rescue of political refugees from southern France to the United States, 1940-1942.” Leo Baeck Institute Year Book, 43 (1998), 287-311. Ryan, Donna F. The Holocaust and the Jews of Marseille: The Enforcement of Anti-Semitic Policies in Vichy France. (Urbana, IL: The University of Illinois Press, 1996), pp. 141-142.]
A Refugee’s Story
The story of ERC members Hans and Lisa Fittko’s escape from Marseilles eloquently depicts the plight of refugees. Hans and Lisa Fittko were Austrian refugees. Hans was Christian and Lisa was Jewish. They were both wanted by the Nazis. They guided refugees through the Pyrenées to safety via Route F.
“In the apocalyptic atmosphere of 1940 Marseille, there were new stories every day about absurd escape attempts; plans involving fantasy boats and fictitious captains, visas for countries not found on any map, and passports issued by nations that no longer existed. One got used to hearing via the grapevine which sure-fire plan had fallen apart like a house of cards that day.” [Fittko, 1991, p. 105]
“Governments of all countries seemed to be involved in this ‘era of new decrees,’ issuing commands and instructions, revoking them, first enforcing and then lifting them again. In order to get through, one had to learn to slip through the cracks and loopholes, using every trick and stratagem to slither out of this labyrinth, which was continually taking on new configurations.” [Fittko, 1991, p. 113]
“My husband, Hans, had scant confidence in all the plans about mysterious ships and ocean voyages; up until now every one of them had fallen through, one after the other. Hans felt more secure on solid land. And these crackpot ideas involving consulates and transit visas, foreign exchange permits, and choosing between North or South America—they all sounded as if they came from some fantasy-world a man clutches at when he can’t cope with the improbably reality. People like us, people without connections, papers, or money, where could we go? All of the neutral countries shunned us like the plague.” [Fittko, 1991, p. 93]
“There was a lot of discussion among the refugees about Portugal. Portugal was neutral and would probably remain so. A few emigrés who had American visas were able to obtain Portuguese transit visas. At once a variety of ideas were hatched along the lines of managing to get a transit visa without first having the American visa.
“In order to get a transit visa one had, of course, to have an entry visa for some other country. For that, first of all, one needed a passport. The Portuguese required in addition a paid transatlantic fare, to make certain that a person would be off their hands. The fare had to be paid in dollars, which for most émigrés was absurd: they had hardly any money at all, and for sure none of them had a dollar permit.
“To travel from France to Portugal one also needed a Spanish transit visa. That, however, one could only apply for when one had the Portuguese document; every country was afraid that the emigrés would settle in with them like bedbugs.
“And, then again, one needed money, the money to pay for complying with all these formalities.” [Fittko, 1991, pp. 93-94]
“To procure a transit visa from the Portuguese consulate one had to line up the evening before. I well remember how cold it was on the street during the night and how hungry we were, but the next morning our turn came at last. We actually had Portuguese transit visas. Unbelievable!
“The line in front of the Spanish consulate was so long that we had to stand there three evenings in a row before our turn finally came.” [Fittko, 1991, pp. 95-96]
“Now we and several of our friends had all our papers together, and shortly others would also be that far along. Until then I hadn’t even mentioned the visas de sortie, the French exit visas one needed to leave the country, because it hadn’t even occurred to us to apply for them. Why? Because the visas were issued in Vichy, obviously under German supervision. Therefore we would have to cross the border illegally.” [Fittko, 1991, p. 96]
American Friends Service Committee (AFSC) - Quakers
The American Friends Service Committee was instrumental in providing food, clothing and shelter for many thousands of refugees in the Vichy zone.
“One reason for opening the Centre was to mix the political refugees with a lot of ordinary relief cases. After the experience at the Splendide, it seemed unwise to go on interviewing only persons in political danger. By mixing them in with ordinary relief cases, we hoped to be able to provide some measure of protection for them.
“Of course we had no funds for ordinary relief work ourselves, but we got the Quakers to give us meal tickets. After opening the Centre we handed out meal tickets to people for whom we could do nothing else. The Comité d’Assistance aux Réfugiés, the local Jewish relief organization, also resumed relief work about that time. So before long we were able to refer people we couldn’t help ourselves either to the Quakers or to the C.A.R., depending on their religion.” [Fry, 1945, p. 37]
[Morse, Arthur D. While Six Million Died: A Chronicle of American Apathy. (New York: Random House, 1967), pp. 167, 253, 258, 263, 330. Fry, Varian. Surrender on Demand. (New York: Random House), pp. 37. Gold, Mary Jayne. Crossroads Marseilles, 1940. (New York: Doubleday, 1980), pp. 155, 162, 334. Marino, Andy. A Quiet American: The Secret War of Varian Fry. (New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1999), pp. 107, 150-151. Fry, Varian. Surrender on Demand. (New York: Random House, 1945). Isenberg, Sheila. A Hero of Our Own: The Story of Varian Fry. (New York: Random House). Ryan, Donna F. The Holocaust and the Jews of Marseille: The Enforcement of Anti-Semitic Policies in Vichy France. (Urbana, IL: The University of Illinois Press, 1996), pp. 88, 91, 93, 103, 106, 122, 138, 148-157, 161, 175, 216. Bauer, Yehuda. American Jewry and the Holocaust. (Detroit: Wayne State University Press, 1981), pp. 26-27, 40, 49, 114, 155-156, 207, 240, 245, 251, 287, 310, 404.]
Howard E. Kershner
Howard Kershner was one of the principal supervisors of the American Friends’ Service Committee (AFSC) in Europe. The AFSC concentrated its activities on helping to supply food to populations in the unoccupied zone of France. Fifty percent of the AFSC aid was given to French citizens. Much of the food relief came from the United States until March 1941. AFSC also supplied aid to internees in French concentration camps. The AFSC also aided Jewish refugees in leaving the Vichy zone.
[Fry, Varian. Surrender on Demand. (New York: Random House, 1945). Marino, Andy. A Quiet American: The Secret War of Varian Fry. (New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1999), pp. 107, 150-151. Isenberg, Sheila. A Hero of Our Own: The Story of Varian Fry. (New York: Random House). Ryan, Donna F. The Holocaust and the Jews of Marseille: The Enforcement of Anti-Semitic Policies in Vichy France. (Urbana, IL: The University of Illinois Press, 1996), p. 151. Bauer, Yehuda. American Jewry and the Holocaust. (Detroit: Wayne State University Press, 1981), p. 156.]
Rufus M. Jones, leader
Clarence E. Pickett, chairman
David Blankenstaff, Lisbon
[Bauer, Yehuda. American Jewry and the Holocaust. (Detroit: Wayne State University Press, 1981), pp. 207, 210-211, 215, 255.]
Phillip B. Conrad, Lisbon
[Bauer, Yehuda. American Jewry and the Holocaust. (Detroit: Wayne State University Press, 1981), pp. 49, 207, 262.]
Roswell McClelland, Southern France, later WRB representative
Roswell McClelland was the representative of the War Refugee Board in Geneva, Switzerland. He was involved in numerous rescue activities, including the negotiation with SS official Kurt Becher for the release of Jewish internees in concentration camps at the end of the war in March and April 1945. Roswell McClelland’s wife was active in the rescue of Jews as well.
[Gutman, Yisrael (Ed.). Encyclopedia of the Holocaust, 4 vols. (New York: Macmillan, 1990), p. 122, 157, 459, 953, 1253, 1596. Wyman, David S. The Abandonment of the Jews: America and the Holocaust, 1941-1945. (New York: Pantheon, 1984), pp. 36, 232-233, 237, 245-250, 284-286, 289, 294, 324. Morse, Arthur D. While Six Million Died: A Chronicle of American Apathy. (New York: Random House, 1967), pp. 330-332, 358-359, 372-373, 381, 383. Penkower, Monty Noam. The Jews Were Expendable: Free World diplomacy and the Holocaust. (Chicago: University of Illinois Press, 1983), pp. 187, 191, 202, 208-211, 213, 218, 223, 234, 236, 258, 260-261, 263, 277. Hurwitz, Ariel. “The struggle over the creation of the War Refugee Board (WRB).” Holocaust and Genocide Studies, 6 (1991), 17-31. Bauer, Yehuda. American Jewry and the Holocaust. (Detroit: Wayne State University Press, 1981), pp. 220, 397, 404, 406, 412-415, 420, 422-424, 429-430.]
Mennonite Central Committee
The Mennonite Central Committee operated an orphanage in Marseilles and distributed food and other supplies to refugee children. They had a staff of five relief workers.
[Ryan, Donna F. The Holocaust and the Jews of Marseille: The Enforcement of Anti-Semitic Policies in Vichy France. (Urbana, IL: The University of Illinois Press, 1996), pp. 106, 150-153, 216.]
Nimes Committee/Camps Commission
(Commission des Centres de Rassemblement), France, 1939
The Nimes Committee was formed in the unoccupied zone for the purpose of helping Jews emigrate. This committee would help refugees obtain various exit, transit and destination visas. [Marrus & Paxton, 1983, pp. 162-163]
The Nimes Committee could even offer “praise for the comprehension, the humane sentiment, and the benevolence of the authorities who are now facilitating our task by permitting us to act more surely and more rapidly. This last possibility is particularly precious, for the success or failure of a departure often depends under current conditions on the speed with which a decision can be made.” [Rapport de la Commission d’Emigration, séance du 31 octobre 1941 (LBI), cited in Marrus & Paxton, 1983, p. 163]
[Bauer, Yehuda. American Jewry and the Holocaust. (Detroit: Wayne State University Press, 1981), pp. 160, 162, 164, 171, 174-176, 240, 259.]
Faure was the Prefect responsible for inspecting French concentration camps. He attended the meetings of the Nimes Committee. Faure was acknowledged by the Nimes Committee for official support.
Dr. Donald A. Lowrie (YMCA), head
Dr. Charles Joy (Unitarians)
[See Unitarian Service Committee]
Varian Fry* (ERC)
[See Emergency Rescue Committee]
Princess Lieven (AFSC/Quakers)
[Bauer, Yehuda. American Jewry and the Holocaust. (Detroit: Wayne State University Press, 1981), p. 161.]
Lindsey Nobel (AFSC/Quakers)
[Bauer, Yehuda. American Jewry and the Holocaust. (Detroit: Wayne State University Press, 1981), p. 176.]
Unitarian Service Committee (USC) of Boston
The Unitarian Service Committee (USC) of Boston worked very closely with the ERC and Donald Lowrie of the YMCA. The Unitarians provided medical supplies, food, and education to refugee children. The distributed International Red Cross supplies. The USC operated a clinic on the rue d’Italie in Marseilles. Dr. Rene Zimmer, a refugee, supervised the clinic. The USC helped distribute food, along with the Quakers. The USC employed four full-time physicians and five part-time physicians, including three dentists, to aid refugee health concerns. The USC shared space with OSC and other Jewish organizations that helped children.
Waitstill Sharp and Martha Sharp, from the Boston OSC office, helped distribute milk to Jewish refugee children.
The USC helped expedite about 100 immigration cases.
The USC also helped former Spanish republican soldiers who were fleeing Spain.
The USC oversaw the establishment of a kindergarten at the Rivesaltes camp and relief operations at Les Milles, Bompard, Atlantique, Terminus des Ports, and Levant.
“I reached Lisbon in the late afternoon, and went straight to the Hotel Metropole. Dr. Charles Joy, of the Unitarian Service Committee of Boston, had established an office there. Working with him was Franzi von Hildebrand.” [Fry, 1945, p. 73]
[Bauer, Yehuda. American Jewry and the Holocaust. (Detroit: Wayne State University Press, 1981), pp. 161-162, 207, 240.]
Noel Field, Supervisor of the Unitarian Service Committee (USC) of Boston, Marseilles, France, 1940-1941
Noel Field supervised the regional office of the Unitarian Service Committee (USC) of Boston in Marseilles. [Ryan, 1996, p. 150]
[Fry, Varian. Surrender on Demand. (New York: Random House, 1945), p. 73. Ryan, Donna F. The Holocaust and the Jews of Marseille: The Enforcement of Anti-Semitic Policies in Vichy France. (Urbana, IL: The University of Illinois Press, 1996).]
“…of the other American relief workers to step into my shoes, but with the exception of Howard Brooks of the Unitarian Service Committee, no one would, and Brooks could do so only for a very short time.” [Fry, 1945, p. 220]
Dr. Rene Zimmer, France
Waitstill Sharp*, France
Martha Sharp*, France
Dr. Charles Joy, France
[Ryan, Donna F. The Holocaust and the Jews of Marseille: The Enforcement of Anti-Semitic Policies in Vichy France. (Urbana, IL: The University of Illinois Press, 1996). Bauer, Yehuda. American Jewry and the Holocaust. (Detroit: Wayne State University Press, 1981), p. 162.]
Robert C. Dexter and wife, Portugal
[Morse, Arthur D. While Six Million Died: A Chronicle of American Apathy. (New York: Random House, 1967), p. 334. Bauer, Yehuda. American Jewry and the Holocaust. (Detroit: Wayne State University Press, 1981), p. 213.]
Young Men's Christian Association (YMCA)
Dr. Donald Lowrie, Marseilles, France, 1940
Dr. Donald Lowrie worked for the North American and later the world service of the YMCA. Lowrie worked with a number of other relief agencies in the French internment camps. He helped set up the YMCA relief activities in the unoccupied zone of Vichy. He worked closely with Czech diplomat in Marseilles Vladimir Vochoc to distribute illegal passports. Later, Lowrie helped Jews escape the French Foreign Labor Battalions by setting up a protected area. Lowrie also obtained visas from other diplomats, including Cambodian, Portuguese and Mexican. These documents helped Jewish refugees flee to Switzerland. Lowrie also helped with an attempt to rescue Jewish children who lost their parents when they were deported in 1942.
“Donald Lowrie, first of the North American and later the World Service of the YMCA, had extensive experience in relief work in France and eastern Europe. During the 1920s Lowrie had worked in Russia and then spent eight years in Czechoslovakia before going to Paris to direct the outbreak of the war. Like his French friends, Lowrie fled south during the late spring of 1940, taking what he expected to be temporary lodging near the Gare Saint Charles at the Hôtel Terminus, which remained his home for the next two and a half years.
Lowrie coordinated the work of a number of relief agencies present in the internment camps and directed aid to the neediest individuals. Along with Tracey Strong, he set up YMCA relief headquarters for the Unoccupied Zone on the rue Pythéas. He personally oversaw the distribution of nonmaterial aid from the North American YMCA, such as books and musical instruments. Like Varian Fry, Lowrie also engaged in clandestine and illegal activities with a group called Czech Aid. He worked with the Czech consul Vochoc to distribute illegal passports and to set up the Château de la Blancherie on the outskirts of Marseille. The Chateau was a farming community of Czechs, which not only provided a safe place for able-bodied men to escape service in the Foreign Labor Battalions but also was a self-sufficient unit that often raised a surplus for Czech compatriots struggling in Marseille. Lowrie later wrote that the community was severely criticized because it housed an abnormally high proportion of Jews, yet this experiment remained one of the few success stories of combating Vichy antiforeign and anti-Jewish legislation. Eventually Czech refugees established a school-colony for Czech children in Vence and a Czech nucleus for the Resistance in southern France. Somehow these experiments won the respect of some French authorities, for the French never turned these colonies over to the Nazi Todt Commission, which sought able-bodied men to work on construction projects, and even warned them of the imminent Nazi arrival in late 1942. Clearly, there were alternatives to docile compliance with German intentions and Vichy laws. It is perhaps surprising that this colony never fell under Rodellec du Porzic’s scrutiny, but possibly his affinity for the enemies of Germany outweighed his tendency toward slavish implementation of Vichy anti-Jewish and xenophobic policies.
Lowrie also obtained forged Cambodian, Portuguese, and Mexican visas to help refugees into Switzerland, for Swiss authorities sometimes admitted foreigners with visas for other destinations. He made contact with the first underground organizations, which he later claimed appeared during the summer of 1941, and worked with Abbé Perceval, prior of the Dominican monastery in Marseille that hid Jews. To avoid incurring greater suspicion from government authorities, Lowrie carefully avoided the temptation of exchanging money on the “grey market,” an activity that brought much trouble to Varian Fry, and made only legal exchanges, although he did admit to sometimes obtaining his funds from illegal sources. Lowrie’s best-known efforts, however, occurred in connection with a large-scale American attempt to rescue Jewish children abandoned when their parents were deported in 1942.
In November 1940 Lowrie helped set up the Coordination Committee for Relief Work in Internment Camps, commonly called the Nîmes Committee, because its monthly meetings were held there. The committee of twenty-five agencies devoted itself to relief work, primarily in the internment camps but also on behalf of individuals in Marseille. The Nîmes Committee collectively made reports on camp conditions, which Vichy must have taken seriously, because André Jean-Faure, the government’s camp inspector, attended all meetings. Whether Vichy actually took notice of committee suggestions, perhaps as a concession to public opinion, or simply intended to keep track of the committee’s activities is unclear” (Ryan, pp. 148-149).
“But if a refugee’s American visa hadn’t yet been authorized, of he wasn’t willing to travel under his own name even if it had been, there was usually only one solution—a false passport. It was the Czech Consul at Marseille who solved that problem, and it was Donald Lowrie who put me in touch with him. Lowrie was one of the representatives of the Y.M.C.A. in France, and also the delegate of the American Friends of Czechoslovakia. He had been in Prague when the Germans came in, and he had helped a good many German and Czech anti-Nazis escape. When he got to Marseille he was already known to the Czech Consul as a good friend of the Czechs. I met him very soon after my arrival, and he took me down to the Czech Consulate and introduced me to the Consul.
“Vladimir Vochoc was a diplomat of the old schoolHe had been chief of the European personnel division of the Czech Foreign Office before the fall of Prague, and a professor at the University of Prague. I don’t think he liked the idea of handing out false passports, but he was wise enough to realize that his country had been invaded by the Nazis, and that it wouldn’t be liberated by legal means alone. He was willing to help any anti-Nazi save his life if there was any chance at all that, once saved, the man would be useful in overthrowing the Nazis and so restoring the independence of Czechoslovakia. Vochoc’s own job consisted in smuggling the Czech volunteers out of France so they could fight again with the British.
“At Lowrie’s suggestion, I made a deal with Vochoc. He agreed to grant Czech passports to any anti-Nazis I recommended to him. In return I gave him enough money to have new passports printed when his limited supply had run out. He couldn’t get any more from Prague, obviously, but as a Consul he had the right to have them printed in France. The work was actually done at Bordeaux, in the occupied zone, under the noses of the Germans. It was a very nice job. The covers were pink, whereas the old Prague passports had been green, but otherwise you couldn’t tell one from the other.
“After that there was nothing left to do but work out a safe way to receive the passports. Lowrie was living at the Hotel Terminus, and I used to go over to his room and have breakfast with him twice a week. Each time I went I would take him an envelope of photographs and descriptions of my candidates for Czech passports, and he would give me an envelope of the passports Vochoc had already prepared for the previous lot. Then I’d go back to my room at the Splendide and hand the passports to the refugees as they came in to get them.” [Fry, 1945, pp. 18-19]
The French Prefecture called to complain about the activities of Bohn, Fry and Lowrie:
“The Prefecture had also called in the American Consul and told him it was inquiet—uneasy—about the ‘activities of Dr. Bohn and Mr. Fry.’ It had also complained about Lowrie’s activities in behalf of the Czech soldiers, and had warned Vochoc not to use any more false passports. Lowrie had given up his illegal activities, and Vochoc had decided to issue no more passports.” [Fry, 1945, p. 80]
[Fry, Varian. Surrender on Demand. (New York: Random House, 1945). Marino, Andy. A Quiet American: The Secret War of Varian Fry. (New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1999), pp. 107, 132, 137, 191. Isenberg, Sheila. A Hero of Our Own: The Story of Varian Fry. (New York: Random House). Ryan, Donna F. The Holocaust and the Jews of Marseille: The Enforcement of Anti-Semitic Policies in Vichy France. (Urbana, IL: The University of Illinois Press, 1996), p. 148-149, 152, 167, 216. Bauer, Yehuda. American Jewry and the Holocaust. (Detroit: Wayne State University Press, 1981), pp. 161-162, 176, 240-241, 262-265.]
Dr. Frank Bohn, American Federation of Labor, Marseilles, France, 1940
Dr. Frank Bohn, of the American Federation of Labor, was active in the rescue of Jews in Marseilles, 1940-41. He worked alongside the Emergency Rescue Committee (ERC) to help save labor leaders, union officials, democratic politicians and other refugees who were being sought under article 19 by the Gestapo and the Nazis. Varian Fry was told about Frank Bohn’s activities before he left for Marseilles. In addition, many of these refugees had been opposition forces against the Nazi’s and had been fighting fascism’s rise in Europe since the early 1930’s. Many of the refugees rescued by Bohn were Jews.
American foreign policy in the late 1930’s and early 1940’s had declared many of these refugees to be undesirable and did not always qualify for immigration papers. The American Federation of Labor (AFL) had pressured Roosevelt to grant a number of emergency “visitors visas-not for permanent residence in the US.” These temporary emergency visas would temporarily get these refugees out of danger.
Frank Bohn, like Varian Fry, was heavily involved in the illegal activity of smuggling refugees into Spain over the Pyrenees Mountains. Bohn worked with various foreign consulates in Marseilles to obtain passports, visas and other papers. Frank Bohn received much help from Hiram “Harry” Bingham at the American consulate in Marseilles. Bohn was not above obtaining fake documentation and passports for his refugees. Early on in their missions, Fry and Bohn agreed to divide their activities in the rescue of refugees. Fry and the ERC would help artists, and Bohn would take care of labor leaders politicians and political activists.
Varian Fry writes of meeting Frank Bohn when he arrived for his mission in Marseilles:
“The truth was that I was at a complete loss about how to begin, and where. My job was to save certain refugees. But how was I to do it? How was I to get in touch with them? What could I do for them when I found them? I had to find the answers before it was too late, and the first person to consult was Frank Bohn. A few weeks after the French defeat, the American Federation of Labor had succeeded in persuading the State Department to grant emergency visitors’ visas to a long list of European labor leaders, and had sent Bohn over to Marseille to help them escape. He was one of two or three Americans already in France whose names had been given me, in the strictest confidence, just before I left New York. I called on Bohn the morning of my second day in Marseille. I found him in his small room on the third floor of the Hotel Splendide. When he opened the door to my knock, and I told him who I was and why I had come to France, he grabbed my hand in a great big friendly clutch and fairly yanked me across the threshold into the room. ‘Oh, I’m so glad you’ve come,’ he said, in the tones of an itinerant revivalist, pumping my arm up and down vigorously. ‘We need all the help we can get. Come in, come in. I’m so glad you’ve come.’” [Fry, 1945, p. 7]
“’Well, then,’ I said, ‘perhaps you can tell me just what the situation is and what I have to do to get my people out.’
“’Certainly, old man,’ Bohn said. ‘For most of them it’s very simple. The disorder is working in our favor, you see. The French aren’t giving any exit visas to refugees at all, and it’s even very hard for them to get safe conduct to come to Marseille and get their American visas. But the police don’t seem to be paying much attention to them, and the Gestapo doesn’t seem to have gotten around to them either. This has been a lucky thing for the refugees. It’s given them time to get away. So far we’ve found that the ordinary refugee can travel pretty safely without a safe conduct. If they have overseas visas they can get Portuguese and Spanish transit visas, and once they have these they can go down to the frontier and cross on foot.’” [Fry, 1945, p. 8]
“After talking to Bohn, I decided to alter my plans. Instead of traveling around Southern France on a bicycle, pretending to be a relief worker investigating the needs of the French people, but really locating refugees on my lists and helping them escape, I’d set up headquarters at the Splendide, as Bohn had done, and have the refugees come to me. Bohn got me a room at the Splendide like his own, and I moved down from the Suisse that same day.” [Fry, 1945, p. 12]
“Then I wrote letters to all the refugees on my lists whose addresses I had, telling them I had just arrived from the States with messages for them, and asking them to come to Marseille to see me if they could. I got more addresses from Bohn. Some of the people on my lists he had already seen himself. About others he or his assistant, Erika Bierman and Bedrich Heine, had some information. But most of them were still missing. Nobody knew where they were or what had become of them.” [Fry, 1945, p. 12]
Fry describes meeting with Vichy authorities regarding their activities in Marseilles.
“Bohn and I decided we’d have to take steps to square ourselves with the authorities or the jig would be up before the job was half finished. We had been doing our ‘underground’ work almost literally in the open. The term is always a misnomer, because ‘underground’ work is almost never really carried on under ground. Instead, it is carried on behind a screen, the screen of some ‘cover’ activity or other which is entirely innocent in itself but serves to explain the part of the work which can’t be hidden and to conceal the rest. In our case the obvious cover activity was relief work.
“When I got my appointment at the Prefecture, I took Bohn with me… At the Prefecture we were received by a high official, the Secretary-General. We told him we had come to France to help refugees in distress and asked for permission to found a small committee for the purpose.
“The Secretary General was very correct, but very frigid. He said the French authorities would welcome the committee provided it did nothing illegal. We pretended to be amazed and hurt by the suggestion that we would even think of doing anything illegal, and the Secretary-General gave us the permission we had asked for. But we felt we’d have to be very careful after that if we weren’t to land in the jug, or be expelled.” [Fry, 1945, p. 34]
Bohn and Fry discuss Bingham at the consulate and how he supports them:
It was early in the morning. My telephone rang while I was eating breakfast in my room. When I answered it, I heard Bohn’s voice at the other end of the line. He was speaking in a hoarse stage whisper.
“It’s the police, old man,” he said. “Don’t worry. We had to expect this. The Consulate will take care of us if anything serious happens. I’m going down now. You’d better look around your room and destroy your papers before they come for you. I’ll see you downstairs.” [Fry, 1945, p. 33]
The French Prefecture called to complain about the activities of Bohn, Fry and Lowrie:
“The Prefecture had also called in the American Consul and told him it was inquiet—uneasy—about the ‘activities of Dr. Bohn and Mr. Fry.’ It had also complained about Lowrie’s activities in behalf of the Czech soldiers, and had warned Vochoc not to use any more false passports. Lowrie had given up his illegal activities, and Vochoc had decided to issue no more passports.” [Fry, 1945, p. 80]
Fry talks about how he, Bohn and other persons were evading the laws of the countries with which the US maintains friendly relations:
“Then I went to the American Consulate and saw the Consul-General. He advised me to leave France at once, before I was arrested or expelled. He wouldn’t tell me what the Prefecture had said, or show me the text of the report he had cabled the State Department while I was in Spain. But he did give me the text of the Department’s reply, which contained the definite statement that ‘THIS GOVERNMENT CANNOT COUNTENANCE THE ACTIVITIES AS REPORTED OF DR. BOHN AND MR. FRY AND OTHER PERSONS IN THEIR EFFORTS IN EVADING THE LAWS OF COUNTRIES WITH WHICH THE UNITED STATES MAINTAINS FRIENDLY RELATIONS.’” [Fry, 1945, p. 81]
Under pressure from the US government, Bohn left Marseilles in October 1941.
“During all this time Bohn and I had been summoned to the Consulate almost every day to be asked when we were planning to leave France. We had also been receiving cables from our relatives, friends and employers in the United States urging us to come back. Bohn succumbed to the pressure and left Marseille at the end of the first week of October.” [Fry, 1945, p. 92]
Bohn was replaced by his chief assistant, Bedrich Heine.
“A few days after Bohn had left, his chief assistant, Bedrich Heine, the young German socialist, began coming to our little office in the rue Grignan to consult us about his people and advise us about ours.” [Fry, 1945, p. 93]
[Fry, Varian. Surrender on Demand. (New York: Random House, 1945), pp. 7-12, 22-23, 33-34, 51, 54-56, 59, 80-81, 92-93. Marino, Andy. A Quiet American: The Secret War of Varian Fry. (New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1999), pp. 114-117, 134, 151, 158, 160, 186. Isenberg, Sheila. A Hero of Our Own: The Story of Varian Fry. (New York: Random House), pp. 12, 15-17, 74, 81, 85, 86, 97, 105. Ryan, Donna F. The Holocaust and the Jews of Marseille: The Enforcement of Anti-Semitic Policies in Vichy France. (Urbana, IL: The University of Illinois Press, 1996), p. 141.]
American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee
The American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee (JDC) was one of the principal financial agencies involved in the rescue of Jews in World War II. Between 1933 and 1945, it provided nearly 80 million dollars in financial aid to Jews in Europe and throughout the world.
“The American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee (popularly known as the JDC and the “Joint”), organization founded on November 27, 1914, as the Joint Distribution Committee of American Funds for the Relief of Jewish War Sufferers, under the chairmanship of Felix M. Warburg. Alarmed by the suffering of Jews in wartime, a group of wealthy Jews of German-Jewish background, led by Jacob H. Schiff, Louis Marshall, and Warburg, established the American Jewish Relief Committee on October 24, 1914. Together with the Central Relief Committee, founded at the same time by Orthodox leaders, the JDC was formed to distribute the funds collected by the two bodies. To these was added the People’s Relief Committee representing labor (1915). The JDC was called the “Joint” committee because [it included] three separate commissions for assistance, representing three major currents in America. … [The JDC provided Europe] with 900 tons of food; in Poland relief was sent to hundreds of thousands of Jews who had been forcibly removed from their homes by the Russians, and also to Jews in German held areas. The United States’ entry into the war in 1917 prevented the direct transfer of assistance, but the State Department gave the JDC permission to establish an agency in neutral Holland and from there to distribute its funds. […]
“In the 1920s the hope was expressed that JDC help would no longer be needed. This proved to be al illusion. In March 1931 the JDC was reorganized under its present name. In 1939, after earlier unsuccessful attempts to coordinate fund raising with the United Palestine Appeal (UPA), the UPA and the JDC joined efforts within the framework of the United Jewish Appeal (UJA). The leadership of the JDC included: Paul Baerwald, who succeeded Felix M. Warburg as chairman in 1932; Herbert H. Lehman, who was in charge of reconstruction activities in the early 1920s; James N. Rosenberg, whose special interest was the Russian venture; and Joseph C. Hyman, secretary until 1940 and executive director until 1947. Hyman’s place in both positions was taken by Moses A. Leavitt. The European director was Bernhard Kahn, who was succeeded by Morris C. Troper in 1938. Joseph J. Schwartz succeeded the latter in 1942. Edward M. M. Warburg became chairman of the JDC in 1941.
“In 1924, in partnership with the Jewish Colonization Association (ICA), the JDC set up the American Joint Reconstruction Foundation with a $5 million capital; by 1931 over 700 loan cooperatives, or kassas, were founded, charging low rates of interest....
“Until 1939 its fund raising efforts to help European Jewry competed with Zionist fund raising. Officially, JDC was neutral on Zionism, but in fact part of its leadership leaned to the non-Zionist wing of the Jewish Agency and some of its leaders were outright anti-Zionists. Under the impact of Nazism and the rise of Israel, this attitude changed completely during World War II and the postwar period.
“During the depression JDC income declined, in 1932, to $380,000, and its work was reduced to a minimum, but the German emergency in 1933-39 increased the readiness to give funds. JDC provided about a third of the funds spent by German Jewry’s central bodies while continuing its work in Eastern Europe. Emigration from Europe was partly dealt with by the JDC which also subventioned HICEM, and the JDC office in Paris became the center of non-political action to help German Jewry in emigration, vocational training, and relief. No dollars were sent into Germany or, later, German-occupied countries. Instead, emigrants paid local currency to Jewish communal organizations and were assisted with dollars by the JDC after their emigration. During the 1939-45 period a total of $78,878,000 was spent, mainly on relief and rescue schemes in Europe, including the attempts by the Polish JDC office, directed by Isaac Gitterman, to alleviate conditions in the ghettos. After 1941 the JDC began to borrow money locally against a promise of postwar repayment. It parachuted $300,000 to the Jewish underground in Poland in 1943-44. The Swiss JDC office, directed by Sali Mayer, sent funds to other European countries and to Shanghai. Mayer participated in the rescue of two trainloads of Jews from Hungary in 1944, and conducted negotiations with the Germans trying to prevent further deportations of Jews. From January 1944 the U.S. War Refugee Board centralized all rescue work but was financed mainly by the JDC. During the war, the JDC, under Joseph Schwartz’s management, became a major factor in the rescue of 81,000 Jews from Nazi-dominated Europe, mostly through Vichy France, Spain, Portugal, and the Balkans.” [Jewish Encyclopedia; emphasis added]
The JDC also was active in supporting the activities of Gisi Fleischmann and Rabbi Dov Weissmandel in Slovakia. Funds to aid Romanian Jewry through Wilhelm Filderman were sent to save and support Jews deported from Bessarabia and Bukovina who were expelled from Transnistria in 1941. Most of Raoul Wallenberg’s and Carl Lutz’s rescue activity in Budapest was funded by the JDC.
“JDC activity reached a peak after the war, between 1945 and 1952, when the sum of $342 million was spent on the feeding, clothing, and rehabilitation of 250,000 displaced persons in camps and the remnants of Jewish communities in Europe.” [Jewish Encyclopedia.]
Joseph Schwartz, European director
Herbert Katzki, Paris, Marseilles
Maurice Brenner (UGIF-South)
HICEM - The United Committee for Jewish Immigration (HIAS-ICA-EMIGDIRECT)
The United Committee for Jewish Immigration (HIAS-ICA-EMIGDIRECT; HICEM) was founded in New York City in 1927 with the merger of three refugee and relief societies. HICEM facilitated the rescue and emigration of tens of thousands of Jews throughout Nazi occupied Europe. It arranged for emigrants to receive life-saving visas. It also arranged for the shipping and transportation of Jews to the United States, Palestine, South America, Latin America and Australia. HICEM members often broke the law and used illegal methods for helping Jews leave the Nazi orbit.
Local Jews in Portugal, including Professor Moses B. Amzalak and Dr. Augusto d’Essaguy, helped organize escape for Jews throughout Europe.
[Historic archives are held by the YIVO Institute, New York City. Avni, Haim. Spain, the Jews and Franco. (Philadelphia: Jewish Publication Society of America, 1982). Bauer, Yehuda. American Jewry and the Holocaust. (Detroit: Wayne State University Press, 1981). Ginzberg, 1942. Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society, Report on Activities in the United States and Overseas, 1940. Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society, Rescue Through Immigration, Annual Report and Messages, 1941. Tartakower, 1944. Wischnitzer, 1956.]
HICEM (HIAS-ICA), Marseilles, France
Edouard Oungre, co-director
Vladimir Shah, co-director
Raphael Spanien, co-director
Alexander Trocki, co-director
The HIAS-ICA offices in Marseilles had 77 workers. Working closely with the Joint and numerous rescue and relief organizations, it helped thousands of Jewish refugees escape. Its primary mission was to help procure documentation for refugees and arrange for numerous sailings of rescue ships from Portugal.
HICEM-HIAS was effective in obtaining documents from diplomats and other papers to help refugees pass through complicated emigration procedures. It also chartered numerous ships to deliver refugees from Portugal. It sometimes was engaged in quasi-legal or illegal activities in order to save Jews.
[Ginzberg, Eli. Report to American Jews on Overseas Relief, Palestine and Refugees in the United States. (New York: Harper & Brothers, 1942). HICEM Archives, YIVO Institute, New York City.]
HICEM (HIAS-ICA), Paris, France
Vladimir Shah, representative until late 1939.
Edouard Oungre, representative, 1940, Paris, Marseilles.