Menu JTA Search

Aiding the Exiles

Download PDF for this date

High Commissioner for Refugees Coming From Germany


One of the encouraging features of our work during the last six months has been the continuation and expansion of the retraining activities. In almost every country of refuge groups of young men and women who in Germany were engaged in the professions or in commerce or as employes are undergoing courses of training to prepare them for manual work. The High Commissioner has made efforts to obtain support for several of these constructive activities, and has been able to enlist the help of the principal fund-raising organizations for the bodies that are conducting the activities.

The principal organization in the field is the Jewish youth movement, the Haluz or pioneer, which aims especially at training settlers for Palestine. It has established agricultural centers in the countries adjacent to Germany and also in Sweden, Latvia, Italy and Yugoslavia. In addition, it is engaged in several countries in apprenticing the refugees with the local farmers. In France it is responsible for the training of over 300 persons. However, it has been more difficult in recent months to obtain permits for the retraining of additional young German Jews in several countries.

In Denmark, the Haluz has placed 200 young men and women with Danish farmers. Most of them have come expressly from Germany for the training, and have given an undertaking to leave at the end of a year. The government authorities have been most helpful.

In Czechoslovakia, Italy, England, Latvia, Lithuania and Holland all sections of Jewish people are associated in this constructive activity. In several countries the orthodox community of the Agudas Israel and the organization known as the ORT as well as the Zionists maintain training centers.


In Holland, over 200 are being trained in agricultural, manual and domestic work, partly on the land, partly in towns. I recently had the privilege of participating in the formal opening of a Jewish training village in a reclaimed area of the “Zuyder Zee” which has been generously put at the disposal of the Jewish Committee by the Netherlands government for a period of ten years. At present, 120 young persons are working there, and they will receive a thorough preparation in agriculture, horticulture or technical work. A special branch of the Jewish Pioneer organization in Holland has placed over 100 young men as apprentices to the Netherlands farmers.

In France, apart from the Haluz, the organization known Agriculture et Artisanart, whose president is Senator Justin Godart, has concentrated this year on placing refugees in French technical schools. The French education authorities have generously made available the splendid facilities of these schools. Nearly 250 refugees completed their training this summer, and have now gone or are hoping soon to go to Palestine and other countries overseas.

Another 200 have taken their places; and a valiant effort is being made by the organizations to find the funds required for their board. The education in the schools is given free of charge. Recently I had the opportunity in Paris to see the work produced by these artisans of less than a year’s training, and I was struck by the extraordinary aptitude they had shown. The exhibit was a striking proof of the falsity of the common assumption that Jewish young men and women have not the capacity for manual work.


Several private or semi-private enterprises have been established in France and elsewhere to prepare pupils from Germany for manual work. Among those which have been brought to my attention is the farm school of the Renouveau and a horticultural school at {SPAN}Grass#{/SPAN} known as the Domaine des Chenes. In Holland the Quakers have founded a school at Ommen, which is designed mainly to provide training for children from Germany, and in England they have helped to set up a small group training for land work in the Garden City of Welwyn. In England, too, there is another semi-private enterprise, a school in the countryside of Kent, mainly for German boys and girls, which is directed by a German teacher and aims at training the pupils for land work and manual work.

There are probably a number of enterprises of a similar kind in the different countries of refuge which have not been brought to my notice. But those that are known are a sufficient indication of the widespread and earnest effort to bring about the reorientation of those who in Germany were engaged in the liberal professions and in commerce, so as to fit them for a simpler productive life in a new home.


Surely we have a right to hope that the enlightened nations of the world will be willing to accord exceptional privileges to these organizations so that their work may not be hampered. The granting of facilities for training refugees cannot in any way jeopardize the interests of the native residents.

The authorities in some countries are unwilling to give facilities for training those refugees who are not of German nationality; and I would earnestly request that a more generous policy should be pursued and that the opportunity to prepare for a new life should be given to any refugee from Germany without discrimination, whether he is stateless, or of Polish or other than German nationality.


Much less encouraging than the work of retraining have been the efforts for relief during recent weeks. Destitution among the refugees is increasing. Many of those who heretofore have been able to support themselves by their own means are no longer able to do so because their resources are exhausted. Others who have been receiving income of their own from Germany or from friends or family in Germany now find themselves suddenly cut off from this help and dependent upon charity. And as the winter approaches and the need becomes more and more urgent, the relief organizations in nearly all the countries are being compelled to restrict very rigidly the permanent assistance of the refugees and in some countries to suspend it altogether. The explanation invariably is lack of funds. There is no lack of willing social workers, many of them volunteers; but they have not the means with which to help.


This tragic situation should make a compelling appeal to generous men and women irrespective of creed or race. The larger Jewish organizations either are limited by their regulations to so-called “constructive purposes,” or have exhausted their funds for relief. For the first time since the refugees fled from Germany, many of the Jews among them are in want and misery. Even more desperate is the condition of the non-Jewish refugees, particularly in Paris and in Prague. At no time, despite repeated appeals by labor and church leaders and by the High Commissioner, have substantial funds been supplied from Christian sources. Within the last week I have had repeated conferences with heads of trade unions and of the great church organizations in this country. They have assured me of their earnest desire to help. Now I once more plead with the Christian communities here and on the Continent and overseas to aid their fellows to survive the winter or until opportunities for permanent settlement can be made available to them.

The refugees have thus far not been charges upon the public funds of the countries where they are resident. Perhaps, however, now, in view of the present emergency situation, some of the governments will be willing to extend to the refugees who are sick, infirm or destitute, the benefit of the provisions for public relief, if not on the same basis as to citizens, then at least in a modified form.


Nearly one-half of the persons who have felt that they have had to leave Germany have now found new homes. It is for a considerable proportion of the others that a large-scale emigration program is essential. This program was stressed at a

It was the general view that only exceptionally were plans of group settlement in countries overseas practicable, and that an effort should be made to transport most of these persons as individuals to countries in which they could be absorbed into existing communities. For such emigration it was reckoned that a sum of £250,000 (1,250,000) would be required.

No way was suggested at the meeting, and no way has since been found to obtain that amount for emigration in addition to what is required for the maintenance of the relief and other activities of the organizations.


The difficulties of settlement and emigration do not consist solely in finding countries to which the refugees can go. Small numbers are being assisted constantly in finding their way to countries in all parts of the world, and larger numbers have found their way during the year to countries overseas in North and South America as well as to Palestine. An even more formidable difficulty is that of finding the necessary funds for emigration.

However, there is a concensus of opinion among those qualified to speak, that the necessary resources could be found if a detailed and specific emigration program agreed to by certain countries of immigration could be worked out. In fact, in the case of Palestine, where such a program of immigration is provided for, the money essential to carry it out has been found. Therefore, I intend to submit to my colleagues on the Governing Body for consideration a proposal for negotiations on the spot with certain countries overseas, for the admission each year during certain periods of a fixed number of refugees already outside of Germany or of others who may feel required to leave the Reich.

I am confident that such emigrants, aided to establish themselves as they would be by specially created financial institutions, would not only not be a burden, but on the contrary would be assets of great value to their new homelands. If my proposal is favorably considered, I shall probably be absent from Europe for three or four months during the first half of next year.

Founding Funders

The digitization of the JTA Archive would not have been possible without the generous support of the following donors:
  • The Gottesman Fund
  • Righteous Persons Foundation
  • Charles H. Revson Foundation
  • Elisa Spungen Bildner and Robert Bildner, in honor of Norma Spungen
  • George S. Blumenthal
  • Grace and Scott Offen Charitable Fund