After the Liberation: The Hard Work of Relief and Recovery Begins

After the Liberation: The Hard Work of Relief and Recovery Begins

By: Ilana Stern

As we commemorate the 75th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz-Birkenau, we invite you to learn how JDC, acting on behalf of the Jews of North America, sprang into action as one Nazi death camp after another was liberated.

Fulfilling its role as the global Jewish 9-1-1, JDC raced to meet a crisis of staggering proportions, determined to ensure that tens of thousands of newly liberated Jews would “survive to enjoy the fruits of freedom.”

In this hour of greatest Jewish need, the unprecedented outpouring of support from Jews in the U.S. and other allied countries fueled an all-encompassing JDC aid program of massive dimensions, one that would literally bring both individuals and entire communities back to life.

A JDC nurse looks after infants in the nursery of a Munich displaced persons (DP) camp. Germany, c. 1947.

By late 1945, some 75,000 Jewish survivors had crowded into displaced-persons (DP) camps in Germany, Austria, and Italy. Over the next two years, that number would triple, as Jews fled westward from countries whose populations were soon locked behind the Iron Curtain.

Supplementing the relief provided by the U.S. Army and U.N. agencies, JDC distributed supplies that nourished body and soul: food, medicine, clothing, equipment, and educational, cultural, and religious materials, including books, Torah scrolls, ritual articles, and holiday provisions. JDC provided medical care and supported schools, synagogues, and cultural activities, along with vocational training programs, legal representation, tracing services, and emigration assistance.

JDC’s actions are documented in texts, photos, oral histories, and films in the JDC Archives, which you can access online at https://archives.jdc.org/.

Everything Possible: JDC and the Children of the DP Camps is a stand-out curated exhibit on this site. Its facts, figures, and moving images explore eight aspects of JDC’s post-Holocaust work, and it shines a particular spotlight on the children (survivors, orphans, and newborn) whose stories are a little-known part of this historic saga.