Search JTA's historical archive dating back to 1923

Harold Trobe, Rescuer of Jews in Wartorn Europe, Dies at 82

July 4, 1996
See Original Daily Bulletin From This Date

Harold Trobe, a Jewish official who played a central role in helping refugees escape wartorn Europe and North Africa, has died.

Trobe, who was 82, died June 24 in Gainesville, Fla.

He was born in Beaver Falls, Pa.

In 1937, Trobe received his master’s degree from the Graduate School of Jewish Social Work, now part of Columbia University in New York.

That year, a large number of German immigrants arrived in the United States.

Hired as head of child care by the Jewish Welfare Service of Pittsburgh, Trobe’s responsibilities included finding employment for the recent arrivals.

In 1944, Trobe moved to Lisbon to run the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee’s European headquarters. He helped feed, clothe, shelter and provide medical attention to displaced persons in Europe.

He also aided in transporting two boatloads of refugees from Portugal who were on their way to Palestine.

“How they got across the border is not my business,” Trobe told The Jerusalem Post Magazine in 1979. “But the minute they come across they are. If they come across illegally, that’s also not my concern. I’m not the police, I feed them.”

At the end of World War II, Trobe worked in Czechoslovakia and Switzerland, where 6,000 to 8,000 Jews streamed through every month on their way to Palestine.

He then moved to Milan in 1946 to participate in JDC’s Aliya Bet-related program. The Aliya Bet program brought Jews recently liberated from concentration camps to Palestine. Trobe ran programs to feed and shelter the refugees before they left Europe.

From 1952 to 1957, Trobe worked with North African Jews, which culminated in his appointment as director general of the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society operation in Europe and North Africa. Four years later, he filled the same position in Latin America.

In 1966, he returned to the JDC, joining its office in Israel, where he remained until his retirement in 1980.

Recommended from JTA