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Circular Letter of the Aid Center for Jews

Jewish Social Self Help Circular Letter 1942
Courtesy of the Jewish Historical Institute, Warsaw
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tags: bureaucracy forced labor

type: Letter

Jewish Social Self-Help (JSS), a Jewish humanitarian relief organization, was part of the larger network of organizations dedicated to aiding Jews in Nazi-occupied Poland. From its Kraków office in the Nazi "capital" of the Generalgouvernement, the JSS tried to organize relief and distribute aid to the Jews in occupied Poland, relying on its network of offices in a large number of ghettos, both major ones and other ones. The organization was "legal" in the Generalgouvernement, which meant that the Germans allowed it to exist and operate; the price for this was that it was under strict German control. The leader of JSS was Michał Weichert (1890-1967), the interwar director of the Yiddish Experimental Young Theater in Warsaw, and a relatively well-known cultural figure.1

JSS differed from the Jewish Councils because of its specific, more limited scope of operation, and its lack of enforcement functions—a police force, prisons—that the councils controlled. But like the Jewish Councils, JSS was a bureaucracy with multiple "offices" (even though sometimes they were offices in name only) with correspondence, records, and other characteristics of an organization. A substantial number of records of JSS have been preserved, allowing historians to study the history and impact of JSS.

In October 1942, amidst widespread ghetto liquidations in the Generalgouvernement as part of Operation Reinhard, the Germans downgraded JSS to the "Jewish Aid Center" (Jüdische Unterstützungsstelle, JUS). JUS continued to operate on a limited scale into 1943, when it was finally abolished.

Featured here is the announcement that the JSS leadership sent to its offices in October 1942 following the Germans' order to restructure and become the JUS. In retrospect, we know that this downgrade was a direct consequence of ghetto liquidations, and that it ultimately spelled the end of the organization's operations. Yet the tone of the letter projects a "business as usual" attitude, an interesting issue to consider. Did the leaders of JSS/JUS really believe that their mission would still continue, even as the purported recipients of their aid were taken to their deaths around Kraków? In that respect, the ominous notes handwritten at the end of the letter in German ("return" and, upside-down, "resettled"), indicate that this particular piece of paper ended up in JSS/JUS's archive because it was returned from Denkow (which we can glean from the postal stamp), to which it had originally been sent, because the Jewish community there had been "resettled"—a common Nazi euphemism for deportation to the killing centers.

For a brief overview of the JSS and its work from 1939 to 1942, see Yehuda Bauer, American Jewry and the Holocaust: The American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee, 1939-1945 (Detroit: Wayne State University Press, 1981), 318-20. For a more detailed discussion about the controversy surrounding Weichert, see David Engel, "Who Is a Collaborator? The Trials of Michał Weichert," in Sławomir Kapralski, ed., The Jews in Poland, vol. 2 (Kraków: Judaica Foundation and the Center for Jewish Culture, 1999), 339-70.

The address is printed in German and Polish.

Department of Population and Welfare.

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JUEDISCHE UNTERSTUETZUNGSSTELLE J.U.S.
für das Generalgouvernement
Krakau, Postschliessfach 211

AID CENTER FOR JEWS
in the Generalgouvernement
Krakow, P.O. Box 2111

No. 11230/42 - Wt/Sch

 

Circular No. 65 /J.U.S.  1./

To
Jewish Care Committees and Branch Offices

 

1.  Concerning: Organizational Changes

By virtue of the edict of the administration of the G.G. [Generalgouvernement] from 16.X.1942 [October 16, 1942] the Bevoelkerungswesen und Fuersorge Department,2 in agreement with the security authorities, has appointed in the place of the Jewish Social Self-Help a central care institution for Jews in the [Generalgouvernement] under the name "Jüdische Unterstützungsstelle für das Generalgouvernement," abbreviated J.U.S., whose Polish name  is "Aid Center for Jews in the Generalgouvernement." Through its Care Committees and Branch Offices, the Aid Center continues the activities conducted up to this point by the Jewish Social Self-Help. The Aid Center assumes the property rights and takes on the obligations of the Jewish Social Self-Help.  As before, the supervisory authority is the administration of the Generalgouvernement, Hauptabteilung Innere Verwaltung, Abteilung Bevölkerungswesen und Fürsorge. Dr. Weichert, up to this point the head of the Jewish Social Self-Help Executive Committee, who has heretofore maintained the closest-knit circle of co-workers, has been appointed director of the Aid Center.

The Municipal and County Care Committees as well as the Branch Offices will retain their current make-up while continuing their existing activities. As before, monthly reports should be submitted to us.

 

2.  Concerning: Labor Camps

In accordance with the above-mentioned edict, it is also possible to provide aid for labor camps, which has, in fact, been provided rather often in the past. For the purposes of gaining an overview of existing labor camps and other barracked labor sites in the Generalgouvernement, we kindly request that you send us as soon as possible an accurate and exhaustive list of the activities that take place on their grounds as well as in the vicinity of the labor camps and sites.

 

3.  Concerning: Aid

The above-mentioned edict from the administration establishes that the Aid Center for Jews in the [Generalgouvernement] is to acquire from the Jewish community itself the financial resources necessary to conduct its work. Therefore, we shall henceforth be unable to provide cash to our offices, but we will have some means—modest for the time being—of supplying them with medicine, bandaging materials, foodstuffs, clothing and underwear from donations received from charitable organizations from abroad. We are unceasingly working to expand these opportunities and have reasonable hopes that the outcome of our efforts will be successful. In order to ensure an equitable distribution of the donations, we request supplementary data on the present size of the Jewish population in individual localities and at social welfare facilities.

 

4.  Concerning: Shoe Production

The production of shoes from the leather allotted to us by the Bewirtschaftungsstelle für Leder und Pelze in the amount of 50,000 pairs of shoes with wooden undersides (10,000 pairs for each district) was delayed for reasons beyond our control. In the Radom and Lublin districts, a portion of the shoes has already been produced and in the next few days will be distributed to the sites which placed the orders. In the Kraków district, production is in full swing, in the Lwów district it is to be started soon, and in the Warsaw district production, which has been interrupted, will soon be restarted.

 

5.  Concerning: Address Imprint Change

On signs, letter forms and rubber stamps, the address imprint should henceforth read:

 

J.U.S.                                                                      
JUEDISCHE UNTERSTUETZUNGSTELLE    
für das Generalgouvernement                                  
Jüd. Hilfskommitee.....................                             
(Delegatur) in.............................                              

J.U.S.
AID CENTER FOR JEWS
in the Generalgouvernement
Jewish Care Committee
(Branch Office) in ....

        

Regards,

Aid Center for Jews
In the Generalgouvernement
[Stamp]

 

Return [handwritten in German]

Resettled [handwritten upside-down in German]

Archival Information for This Item

Source (Credit)
Courtesy of the Jewish Historical Institute, Warsaw
RG Number 15.190M
Date Created
October 16, 1942
Author / Creator
Aid Center for Jews
Language(s)
Polish
Location
Kraków, Poland
Document Type Letter
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