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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 deportations forced labor

type: Letter

Jewish Social Self-Help (JSS) was a Jewish humanitarian relief organization that belonged to the larger network of organizations helping Jews in German-occupied Poland.1 From its Kraków office in the so-called Generalgouvernement, the JSS tried to organize relief and distribute aid to Jews. The organization had a network of offices in a large number of ghettos.2 The organization was deemed "legal," which meant that the German authorities allowed it to exist and operate, though it remained under strict control. The leader of JSS was Michał Weichert,3 a former theater director and relatively well-known cultural figure.

JSS was a different type of organization from the Jewish Councils—the German-appointed administrations in the ghettos. JSS had a very specific and limited scope of operation. It also lacked enforcement functions—a police force, prisons, etc.—that the councils controlled. But JSS also shared some similarities with the Jewish Councils. It was a bureaucracy under the control of German authorities, and it kept records of its work. A substantial number of JSS records have been preserved, allowing historians to study the organization's history and impact.

In October 1942, amid widespread deportations from the Generalgouvernement to killing centers as part of Operation Reinhard, the German authorities renamed JSS and narrowed its activities. JSS was now known as the "Jewish Aid Center" (Jüdische Unterstützungsstelle, or JUS). JUS continued to operate on a limited scale into 1943, when it was finally abolished.

The featured announcement was sent by the JSS/JUS leadership to its offices in October 1942 shortly after it had been ordered to restructure itself and become the JUS. Today we know that this was a consequence of the mass deportations from the ghetto, and that it ultimately meant the end of the organization's operations. But this is not reflected in the tone of the letter, which suggests that the organization was still trying to conduct its business as usual.

Did the leaders of JSS/JUS really believe that their mission would still continue, even as targeted recipients of their aid were being taken to their deaths? The handwritten notes at the end of the letter in German ("return" and "resettled") indicate that this particular piece of paper ended up in JSS/JUS's archive because it was returned from its destination (the town of Denkow). 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. 

See the US Holocaust Memorial Museum Holocaust Encyclopedia on Jewish aid and rescue for more details. 

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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für das Generalgouvernement
Krakau, Postschliessfach 211

in the Generalgouvernement
Krakow, P.O. Box 2111

No. 11230/42 - Wt/Sch


Circular No. 65 /J.U.S.  1./

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:


für das Generalgouvernement                                  
Jüd. Hilfskommitee.....................                             
(Delegatur) in.............................                              

in the Generalgouvernement
Jewish Care Committee
(Branch Office) in ....



Aid Center for Jews
In the Generalgouvernement


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
Kraków, Poland
Document Type Letter
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