Group portrait of participants at a meeting between Jewish DP leaders and visiting American Jewish leaders in the American Zone of Germany.
July 1946 - September 1946
- Variant Locale
- Photo Credit
- United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, courtesy of Herbert Friedman
Group portrait of participants at a meeting between Jewish DP leaders and visiting American Jewish leaders in the American Zone of Germany.
Pictured in the back row, from left to right, are: Rabbi Herbert Friedman; Abraham Hyman; Isaiah Kennen; Philip Bernstein; Philip Forman; Leon Retter (Aryeh Nesher); Boris Pliskin; Rabbi Gerhard Rose. In the front row from left to right, are: Rabbi Samuel Snieg; Nahum Goldmann; Rabbi Stephen Wise; Jacob Blaustein; and Samuel Gringauz.
- Event History
- The adviser on Jewish affairs to the commander of the US 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 US 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 US 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 US and Palestine. They secured American recognition for the Central Committee of Liberated Jews in the US 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)]
The Central Committee of the Liberated Jews in the U.S. Zone of Germany was the official representative body of displaced Jews in the American zone of Germany from 1945 to 1950. The Central Committee was founded on July 1, 1945 at the first meeting of representatives of Jewish DP camps held in Feldafing. It came into being through the joint effort of Dr. Zalman Grinberg, the head of the St. Ottilien hospital DP camp and former director of the Kovno ghetto hospital, and Rabbi Abraham Klausner, an American reform rabbi serving as a chaplain in the U.S. Army. The newly created body established its headquarters in Munich (located first at the Deutsches Museum and later at 3 Sieberstrasse) and set up seven sub-committees to formulate policy and coordinate activity in the areas of education, culture, religious affairs, clothing, nutrition, emigration and information. The Feldafing meeting was quickly followed by a conference in St. Ottilien on July 24. Its purpose was to expand the representative base of the Central Committee and to draw public attention to the plight of Jewish survivors in DP camps, so as to put pressure on Britain to open Palestine to DP immigration. The 94 delegates from German and Austrian camps issued a resolution demanding the abrogation of the British White Paper, which prevented them from leaving the camps and starting their lives afresh in their own homeland. In addition, they called for the recognition of the Jewish DPs as a distinct group meriting their own camps, in which they would govern themselves. The Central Committee failed in its bid to incorporate the Jewish DPs of Austria and the British zone of Germany into their organizational structure. However, it continued to represent the largest group of Jewish DPs and eventually won recognition by the American Army of Occupation (September 7, 1946) as "the legal and democratic representation of the liberated Jews in the American zone." In the five years of its existence, the Central Committee convened three formal congresses: Munich, January 27-29, 1946; Bad Reichenhall, February 25-28, 1947; and Bad Reichenhall, March 30-April 2, 1948. Dr. Zalman Grinberg served as the Chairman of the Central Committee from its inception until his immigration to Palestine in 1946. He was succeeded by his deputy, David Treger (another Kovno ghetto survivor), who was elected Chairman at both the second and third congresses. The Central Committee was involved in every aspect of Jewish DP life, either independently or in conjunction with one or more of the Jewish welfare agencies operating in the area. Through its constituent departments the Central Committee played a central role in education, culture, religious affairs, historical documentation, employment and training, supply and distribution, politics and public relations, family tracing and immigration, legal affairs and restitution.
[Sources: Bauer, Yehuda. "The Organization of Holocaust Survivors," Yad Vashem Studies, vol. 8 (1970); Hyman, Abraham S. The Undefeated, Jerusalem, 1993; Mankowitz, Zev. "The Formation of She'erit Hapleita,"Yad Vashem Studies, vol. 20 (1990); Schwarz, Leo.The Redeemers, New York, 1953]
- Rabbi Stephen Samuel Wise (1874-1949), American reform rabbi and Jewish political leader. Born in Budapest on March 17, 1874, Wise was the son and grandson of religiously orthodox but politically liberal rabbis. When he was 17 months old, his family immigrated to the United States and settled in New York City. From childhood Wise intended to become a rabbi, which he did in 1893 after completing his undergraduate education at Columbia University. In 1902 he went on to complete a doctorate, also at Columbia. After serving as a rabbi in Portland, Oregon for six years, Wise returned to New York in 1907 to found the Free Synagogue, a congregation he headed until his death. Ardently committed to the establishment of a Jewish state in Palestine, Wise helped to found the first American Zionist organizations in the final years of the nineteenth century. In 1898 he met Theodor Herzl at the Second Zionist Congress in Basle and agreed to serve as American secretary of the world Zionist movement. A decade later with Louis Brandeis and Felix Frankfurther, Wise helped to convince President Woodrow Wilson to support the British Balfour Declaration of 1917. He also spoke on behalf of Zionist aspirations at the Paris Peace conference (1919-1920). Wise served as vice president of the Zionist Organization of America (1918-1920) and later as president (1936-1938). He also played a leading role in the establishment of the American Jewish Congress (1920) and served as its vice president and president for many years. Wise was equally committed to a host of liberal political and social causes. He co-founded the NAACP (1909) and the ACLU (1920), in addition to crusading for child labor laws and labor's right to organize and strike. Wise was an early and passionate opponent of Nazism and was a featured speaker at numerous mass rallies in New York beginning in the spring of 1933. He also worked hard to rally support for an international boycott of German goods. In an attempt to create a worldwide organization to defend Jews against the ravages of Nazism and anti-Semitism, Wise helped to found the World Jewish Congress (1936), an organization he headed until the end of his life. On August 28, 1942 Wise was the recipient of the Riegner cable, a telegram sent by the representative of the World Jewish Congress in Geneva confirming the existence of the Final Solution, the Nazi program to concentrate, deport and exterminate the Jews of Europe. Directed by Undersecretary of State Sumner Welles not to publish the message until the State Department could confirm its accuracy, Wise did not make a public announcement until November 24, 1942. The following month Wise, together with a delegation of American rabbis, met with Roosevelt to urge him to action. At this time it became increasingly difficult for Wise to maintain political unity within the American Jewish community. Factions under the leadership of fellow reform rabbi Abba Hillel Silver and the revisionist Zionist Peter Bergson group, became impatient with Wise's reluctance to confront the Roosevelt administration publicly and undertook their own programs to bring pressure on the American government. By 1944 Wise had become deeply disillusioned. Though the end of the war and the subsequent founding of the State of Israel were a source of great relief and gratification, the realization of the extent of the losses suffered by European Jewry during the war filled him with despair during his last years. Rabbi Stephen Wise died in New York in 1949.
Philip Sidney Bernstein (1901-1985), American reform rabbi who served as the adviser on Jewish affairs to the commander of the US forces in Europe between May 1946 and August 1947. Born in Rochester, New York, Bernstein was ordained in the first class of rabbis at the Jewish Institute of Religion in 1926. He went on to become rabbi of Temple Brith Kodesh in Rochester. During World War II the Jewish Welfare Board appointed him executive director of the Committee on Army and Navy Religious Activities. In May 1946 Bernstein became the nominee of the newly-created Five Jewish Cooperating Organizations to succeed Rabbi Judah Nadich and Judge Simon Rifkind as the third adviser on Jewish affairs to the commander of US forces in Europe. During his fifteen months of service under Generals Joseph McNarney and Lucius Clay, Bernstein labored to smooth relations between the American military and Jewish survivors, to improve the living standards of Jewish DPs and to provide educational, vocational and employment opportunities for them in Germany while they awaited immigration elsewhere. He also worked to gain official American recognition for their representative body, the Central Committee of the Liberated Jews in the US Zone of Germany (September 1946) and to push through some of their projects, such as securing a DP delegation at the first postwar Zionist Congress in Basel (December 1946) and the publication of the Shearit Hapleita [Surviving Remnant] edition of the Talmud (1947-1951). Bernstein's most notable challenge and achievement during his tenure as Jewish adviser, was assisting the mass movement of Jewish infiltrees from Eastern Europe into the American zones of occupation and helping to dissuade the US Army from closing the borders during the period of the mass migration of Polish Jews after the Kielce pogrom of July 1946. Following his return to the US in the summer of 1947, Bernstein served as president of the Central Conference of American Rabbis and later as chairman of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee.
[Sources: Bauer, Yehuda. Out of the Ashes, Pergamon Press, Oxford, 1989, pp. 113-4; Geniizi, Haim, "Philip S. Bernstein: Adviser on Jewish Affairs, May 1946-August 1947," Simon Wiesenthal Center Annual 3 (1997)]
Herbert Friedman (b. 1918), American Reform rabbi and U.S. Army chaplain, who during the American occupation of Germany served as the chief military aid to the Advisor on Jewish Affairs to the Commander of U.S. Forces. He also played a key role in supporting the efforts of the Bricha organization to move thousands of Jewish survivors from Eastern Europe into the American zones of occupation in order to facilitate their immigration to Palestine. Born and raised in New Haven, CT, Friedman was the son of Jewish immigrants from Eastern Europe. He had two brothers. Friedman attended Yale College from 1934 to 1938, during which period he closely followed political developments in Germany. He found himself growing increasingly angry at the inaction of American Jewry in the face of the Nazi threat and steadily more drawn to the political activism and Zionist commitment of Rabbi Stephen S. Wise. Soon after graduation Friedman decided to become a rabbi in order to find a platform from which to rouse American Jews to political action on behalf of European Jewry. In 1939 he enrolled at the Jewish Institute of Religion, a Reform rabbinical school established in New York by Stephen Wise, and imbued with his political ideology. After graduating in 1943 Friedman took a pulpit in Denver, CO. One year later, he enlisted as a chaplain in the army. After attending chaplaincy school and infantry training, Friedman was assigned to the 9th Infantry Division, U.S. Third Army and sent to Europe. He arrived in the spring of 1945 at the end of the war and spent a brief period in Belgium before being moved to Bavaria. Friedman met his first Jewish survivors in April 1945 wandering around the country roads as they emerged from the hundreds of slave labor camps and factories that dotted the region. On his own initiative, he borrowed a truck and drove along the roads in search of Jewish survivors. Once he collected a group he would find a building and establish a temporary shelter where they could be housed, fed and disinfected until a more permanent residence could be found for them.
During this period, Friedman was recruited by members of the Palestinian Jewish underground (Haganah) in Europe who sought his help for the Bricha, the organization in charge of moving Jewish survivors from Eastern Europe into the American zones of occupation from which they could sail illegally to Palestine. Friedman was put in charge of running the Bricha route from Stettin to Berlin. In order to perform this assignment he first had to secure an army transfer to Berlin. This he did by offering to replace the departing Jewish chaplain in Berlin, Rabbi Joseph Shubow. Immediately after his move to Berlin, Friedman established a base of operations in the Jewish Chaplain's Center in Dahlem. He then secured six trucks from the army motor pool and stole a year's worth of gasoline tickets to fuel them. Every night these trucks ferried 300 Jewish survivors into Berlin, where they were housed at one of two new displaced persons camps at Schlachtensee and Tempelhof. During its nine months of operation over 100,000 Jews were infiltrated into the American zone by this route. Much of Friedman's activity on behalf of the Bricha consisted of amassing large quantities of cigarettes (the currency of the black market) to finance the operation. Initially, much of this supply came from Jewish soldiers and contributions sent by Friedman's father and his fellow congregants in New Haven, before the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee was able to organize large shipments through the port of Antwerp.
In July 1946 Friedman moved to American army headquarters in Frankfurt to become the military aid to Rabbi Philip Berman, the newly appointed Advisor on Jewish Affairs to General Joseph McNarney. Soon after his appointment Friedman accompanied Bernstein to Poland on a weeklong mission to assess the situation of Jews living there in the wake of the July 4 Kielce pogrom. In the course of his work for Bernstein over the next year, Friedman visited every displaced persons camp in the American zone. He also accompanied David Ben-Gurion on his October 1946 visit to the Babenhausen DP camp. Friedman returned to the U.S. in the summer of 1947 after narrowly escaping a court martial for his role in removing five crated of rare Jewish books and manuscripts from the Offenbach collection depot and shipping them to Palestine. The materials were discovered and set aside by the Jewish historian Gershom Scholem during his three-month mission to Germany to sort through more than three million Jewish books seized by the Nazis during the war. Scholem sought Friedman's help in getting the rare books to the Jewish National Library in Palestine after his request was turned down by army authorities. On New Year's Eve, December 31, 1946, Friedman drove a JDC ambulance to the depot and removed the five crates, signing for their release with the name of a former JDC officer. He then hid the ambulance until he could arrange to ship the books to Palestine. Ultimately they were mixed in with the shipment of Chaim Weitzmann's personal library from London, via Antwerp, to Palestine.
Upon his return to the U.S. Friedman resumed his rabbinical career, first in Denver and then in Milwaukee. In addition, he worked clandestinely on behalf of the new Jewish State to collect and transport munitions for its fledgling army, and openly as a fundraiser for the United Jewish Appeal. In the mid-1950s Friedman went to work full time for the UJA as its chief executive officer. He remained in that position until the 1970s when he moved to Israel. Friedman returned to the U.S. for family reasons several years later.
[Source: "Interview with Rabbi Herbert Friedman," June 12, 1992, Holocaust Museum Oral History Project.]
ADVISERS ON JEWISH AFFAIRS
CENTRAL COMMITTEE OF THE LIBERATED JEWS
- Photo Source
United States Holocaust Memorial Museum
Copyright: United States Holocaust Memorial MuseumProvenance: Herbert Friedman
Record last modified: 2007-08-01 00:00:00
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