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J. D. C. Statement Replies to Charges of Max D. Steuer

The men quoted by Max D. Steuer is his authority for the criticism of the Joint Distribution Committee include in the most unqualified praise and approval of the achievements of the Committee, declared a statement issued by the Joint Distribution Committee over the signatures of Felix M. Warburg, Chairman, Herbert H. Lehman, Vice-Chairman of the Reconstruction Committee, and Paul Baerwald, Treasurer, replying to the charges made by Mr. Steuer on his return from Zurich.

The statement which gives a review of the entire work of the Joint Distribution Committee since 1914, lays particular emphasis on Mr. Steuer’s charge concerning the alleged loss of 40 per cent, of the moneys forwarded to Europe prior to 1925 through the fluctuation of East European currency. The leaders of the Joint Distribution Committee declare that they were aware of the difficulties and chose their course with “eyes wide open,” it being a question of either extending help in the hour of need or postponing it beyond time when any help from American Jewry to the suffering masses abroad would be needed.

“It is misleading to imply that money was lost or stolen either through carelessness, thievery or incompetence,” the statement declares. “Not a cent of the money so generously contributed by American was lost or diverted from the real purpose for which it was given. Had the J. D. C. altered its work because of an inevitable currency depreciation during the time the Polish mark went from 800 to the dollar to 250,000 to the dollar, or had refused to give help to the needy simply because their loans probably could not be repaid when due, they would have been inexcusably remiss both in their duty to those whom they represented here and to those unfortunates whom they were trying to succor abroad.

“Fortunately, we of the J. D. C. appreciated the situation and refused to pursue the cowardly course, which would probably have saved us from irresponsible criticism now voiced, but which undoubtedly would have meant the suffering and destruction of untold thousands abroad, and would have subjected us to the more serious charge of sacrificing the lives of those whom the Jews of America sought to save from starvation. Our work had to be carried on under conditions created by the unprecedented calamity which had overwhelmed Eastern Europe and which had destroyed its entire economic structure, and had isolated it from the rest of the world.

“To show that we chose our course with our eyes wide open, we beg to quote the following resolution adopted after full discussion and consideration by the J.D.C. in executive session in December, 1922:

“This Committee is now and has been since the inception of its work fully aware of the risk of depletion of its funds through a depreciation in the currency of the various countries in which we are operating , and through other caurses. It has considered the matter from every angle and it has been faced with the following choice:

“1. “To discontinue its credit activities until the currencies of the countries in which we are operating become stabilized, or

“2. “To continue its work in the face of almost certain substantial loss or diminution of capital.

” ‘It is felt that to postpone the work until economic conditions become so stable that there will be no longer wide fluctuations or depreciations in the currency would be both inconceivable and indefensible. Our funds have been given to the Joint Distribution Committee with the understanding that relief or reconstructive aid would be furnished at a time when such relief or aid was urgently needed, as is now the case. To postpone our work until the currency becomes stabilized would mean in all probability postponing it beyond the time when any help from American Jewry to the suffering masses abroad would be needed. Such help is obviously needed to-day in Russia, Poland, Rumania, Lithuania and elsewhere, and it is the opinion of the committee that there is no doubt as to its duty in offering such help as we can even in the face of almost certain very great losses or diminution in capital.

“‘This point of view has been publicly expressed by our Chairman on many occasions at meetings and conferences of the Joint Distribution Committee, the American Jewish Relief Committee, and of gatherings of others interested in economic help abroad.’

“We are proud of this decision made in 1922 and have no apologies to make of the course followed by the committee since that time. We know from our own investigations and from the testimony of thousands of those who have been helped abroad that the work has been thoroughly worthwhile, and that the staff here and abroad has brought to it devotion, loyalty and honest effort.

“Famine and disease and the hand of death could not be stayed until the financial downfall could be rehabilitated. We were confronted by a question of life and death and not one of making a good or bad bargain.

“The very men who are now quoted as the authority for the criticism now voiced by a single individual, who does not pretend to have personal knowledge, have, in the past, indulged in the most unqualified praise and approval of the achievement of the Joint Distribution Committee.” the statement concludes.

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