Organizations Involved in the Rescue of German Jewish Children
Because of the economic difficulties caused by the Great Depression, it was imperative to assure federal, state, and local governments that German Jewish refugee children would not become dependent on public relief once they arrived in the United States. Consequently, a number of organizations assisted in bringing the children to America and providing for their welfare once they disembarked. Some of the most important of these groups are described below.
- American Friends Service Committee (AFSC) - The AFSC was founded during World War I to enable young members of the Religious Society of Friends (the Quakers) and other conscientious objectors to serve their country without having to take up arms. Since then, the AFSC has distinguished itself by providing humanitarian aid to refugees and other victims of violent conflict. While the AFSC was initially reluctant to take an active role in the refugee crisis for fear of jeopardizing its reputation in Germany, the organization began taking more decisive action following Kristallnacht in 1938. Because of the AFSC's work in aiding Germany after World War I, the group was allowed to engage in humanitarian efforts in Germany and its occupied territories during the second world war. AFSC members working in southern France were able to select Jewish children to come to the United States.
- American Jewish Committee - The initial activity of the American Jewish Committee occurred in 1906 when Oscar S. Straus, Jacob F. Schiff, and Cyrus L. Sulzberger organized a nationwide fundraiser to obtain money for the victims of Russian pogroms. The effort was an overwhelming success, and a permanant organization was formed in 1907. The group soon broadened its scope beyond purely Jewish issues to fight for the civil rights of all Americans; for example, the Committee supported the rights of Catholics to send their children to parochial schools in the 1920s and fought against racial segregation in the 1950s. During the 1930s, the Committee launched an educational campaign to warn Americans about the dangers of Nazi ideology. The group was also involved in helping to establish German-Jewish Children's Aid.
- American Jewish Congress - The American Jewish Congress was founded in 1918. Its initial purpose was two-fold: protecting the interests of European Jews at the Paris Peace Conference and unifying Jews of Eastern and Western descent in the United States (at the time, German Jews were the elites in the American Jewish community). After World War I ended, the group disbanded, but was revived three years later as a political lobbying group and civil rights organization. Although the AJCongress spearheaded a boycott of German goods in the wake of Adolf Hitler's rise to power, it was eventually suspended for fear that it would lead to further hardships for German Jews. The AJCongress was one of the most important organizations that aided in the resettlement of Jewish refugees, although its focus was on refugees in general, rather than unaccompanied children. The group's women's section was one of the founders of German-Jewish Children's Aid.
- German-Jewish Children's Aid (later European-Jewish Children's Aid) - This organization was founded in 1934 to aid Jewish children attempting to flee Germany for the United States. It was established by a number of New York based Jewish organizations, including the New York Foundation, the Baron de Hirsch Fund, B'nai B'rith, and the Hofmeimer Foundation. These groups were also the primary source of funding. The National Council of Jewish Women undertook financial responsibility for the group in 1938, while the National Refugee Service controlled the administrative duties. In 1941, German-Jewish Children's Aid was completely taken over by the National Refugee Service, and its name was changed to European-Jewish Children's Aid the following year.
- National Council of Jewish Women - The National Council of Jewish Women (NCJW) was established during the Chicago World's Fair in 1893. At this event, there was a Parliament of World Religions, in which each religion had a pavilion. A Jewish Women's Congress formed to represent the interests of Jewish women. After the fair, there was sufficent interest to form a permanent organization that would serve the philanthropic, educational, social, and religious needs of Jewish women. The NCJW expanded rapidly, starting with ninety-three members in 1893 and growing to 4,000 women only three years later. The activities of the NCJW eventually included providing assistance to recent immigrants from Eastern Europe. Consequently, it was not surprising that this group was crucial in aiding German Jewish refugee children once they reached the United States.
- US Committee for the Care of European Children (USCOM) - This organization was established in the summer of 1940, originally with the aim of evacuating English children to the United States who had been victims of German bombing raids. Eventually, the program was extended to include children from other war-ravaged European countries. In cooperation with European-Jewish Children's Aid, USCOM brought 350 Jewish children to America. The group disbanded in 1953.
- Hebrew Orphans Home - Originally known as the Hebrew Orphans Asylum, the Hebrew Orphans Home was located in Atlanta, Georgia. Founded in 1889, the Home took in Jewish children from across the Southeastern United States and taught them blue collar trades, such as plumbing, printmaking, and stenography. Although it ceased to be a residential facility in 1930, the Home continued to play an important role in Atlanta's Jewish community by providing adoption and foster home services. During World War II, the Home was responsible for placing Jewish refugee children with foster families in Georgia and Alabama. This organization is now known as the Jewish Education Loan Fund and provides interest-free loans for Jewish students throughout the Southeast.
- National Council of Jewish Women - Atlanta Section - See the main article for more information about this organization.
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