Jewish leaders attend a conference in the US Zone of Germany.
Photograph | Photograph Number: 42488
Circa 1946 - 1947
- Photo Credit
- United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, courtesy of Abraham Atsmon
Jewish leaders attend a conference in the US Zone of Germany.
Among those pictured are Jacob Zerubavel (second from the left) and Rabbi Philip Bernstein (second from the right).
- 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)]
- Jacob (Vitkin) Zerubavel (1886-1967), leader of the Zionist Poale Zion movement. Born in Poltava, Ukraine, Zerubavel joined the Poale Zion in his youth and in 1906 was elected to its executive board. After helping socialist Zionist ideologue Ber Borochov publish an underground newspaper, Zerubavel moved to Vilna, where he was imprisoned for 18 months. Upon his release he moved to Lvov. There, he worked on the editorial board of a Jewish newspaper called Der Yiddisher Arbeter. In 1910 Zerubavel immigrated to Palestine, where he edited the Hebrew newspaper of the Poale Zion movement, Heachdut, together with Yitzhak Ben-Zvi and David Ben-Gurion. During World War I Zerubavel was sentenced to prison by the Turkish authorities for criticizing their treatment of the Yishuv [Jewish community in Palestine]. He managed to escape and fled to America in 1915, where he again worked on the editorial board of a Poale Zion newspaper. When the Russian Revolution took place in 1917, Zerubavel returned to Russia and became a member of the National Jewish Council of the Ukraine. He spent the next decade and a half (1918-1935) in Poland, where he numbered among the leaders of the Poale Zion and later, of the Left Poale Zion. He also worked as an editor of a Yiddish newspaper and served on the Warsaw community council Though he visited Palestine at this time, the British would not allow him to resettle there until 1935. Once back in the Yishuv, Zerubavel took up publishing Yiddish books and journals. He also served on the executive committee of the Histadrut [Labor council]. During World War II Zerubavel was a member of the Yishuv's rescue committee. In 1948 he became a member of the Zionist Executive and helped forge the MAPAM party. From 1951 he directed the Histadrut's labor archive. He continued to write and edit in Hebrew and Yiddish. Among his published works are two volumes of memoirs, published in 1960 and 1966.
[Source: Encyclopedia Judaica 16:999-1000]
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)]
- Photo Source
United States Holocaust Memorial Museum
Copyright: United States Holocaust Memorial MuseumProvenance: Abraham AtsmonSource Record ID: Collections: 1999.A.151
Record last modified: 2002-02-14 00:00:00
This page: https://collections.ushmm.org/search/catalog/pa1129066