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Chapter IX

Raising Money for the Cause

Rabbi Herzog was physically, mentally and emotionally exhausted by the Jewish situation in Europe. The “shearit hapleita” or the remnants of the Jewish people in Europe represented a hopeless scene of people with no hope. People sat in the D.P. camps and received food but most of them had nothing to do. They could not get work outside the camps for this was reserved for the German population. The camps provided a few jobs, but most people sat around, hoping for something to happen. As mentioned above, most countries refused to allow the survivors to enter their territory. Thus, the long waiting lists for the illegal ships that would take them somewhere where they could start a new life, namely Palestine. Most of the illegal refugees who boarded the illegal ships were pleased with the fact that they were leaving the cursed soil of Germany, even if it meant being intercepted by the British and sent to Cyprus. This brought them closer to their home – Palestine. Rabbi Herzog saw the situation and felt helpless.

Rabbi Herzog left the European continent and arrived in London on June 19, 1946.After nearly four intense months of travel, discussions, and negotiations, he was totally exhausted and near collapse. Doctors were called in to assess his condition. Tests revealed the rabbi was suffering from diabetes, an ailment that caused his exhaustion and depression. The rabbi was so weak that the doctors recommended bed rest, urging him to give up any work until he was better. If he had to work, they said, he was to keep his efforts to a minimum. But the images of the survivors weighed heavily on the rabbi's conscience. He was convinced that he could not rest while others were in need, especially the Jewish children who remained in non–Jewish homes. The Zabrze orphanage and similar institutions demanded money to redeem Jewish children and then to maintain them. While the Joint Distribution Committee, The Vaad Hatzala, the Jewish Agency in Palestine and private donors had contributed large amounts of money to the Jewish orphanages in Europe, the needs were constantly expanding and Rabbi Herzog felt that he must contribute his share.

Pulling himself out of bed, Rabbi Herzog continued his campaign to redeem the Jewish orphans. He arranged a meeting with the Central British Fund organized by Anthony de Rothschild. At the meeting with him were members of the British Board of Rabbis:

Rabbis Gold, Rozen and Dayan Grunfeld. Rabbi Herzog explained the need for funds to bring the Jewish orphans back to their Jewish community. He suggested the formation of a new fund, just for this purpose, based in Paris. He also suggested bringing emissaries from Palestine, the United States and Britain to staff this new fund. While the Central British

Fund committee members listened politely and agreed with his activities and admired his efforts, they claimed no money was available for the rabbi's initiative.

Undeterred, Rabbi Herzog then decided to launch his own fundraising campaign. The British rabbis helped him organize a series of talks around Britain, mostly in synagogues and Jewish community centers. The rabbi traveled to Manchester, Belfast, Dublin, Birmingham and other towns and cities, spending nearly four weeks on the road.

Then he ran afoul of the Jewish organizations in Britain that felt the rabbi's efforts would cut into their own fundraising campaigns. Back in London word had spread that the rabbi was trying to raise money. A meeting was called in a London synagogue where hundreds of people turned out to pack the hall in support of his cause. According to witnesses, over 30,000 pounds (about $47,500) were raised.

To further his goals, he also sought out political clout. Meetings were arranged for him with British government officials. On July 5, 1946, he met with British Prime Minister Clement Attlee, George Hall, the Minister of Colonies, and Dr. Geoffrey Francis Fisher, the Archbishop of Canterbury. He urged them all to permit the Jewish refugees in Europe to emigrate to Palestine.

As Chief Rabbi of Mandate Palestine, Rabbi Herzog also intervened on behalf of Jewish prisoners held in British jails in Palestine. On Saturday, June 29, 1946, while Rabbi Herzog was still in London, the British launched in Palestine Operation named “Agatha”, the Jews it called “Black Saturday”. It was a police and military operation conducted by the British authorities in Mandatory Palestine. Soldiers and police searched for arms and made arrests in Jerusalem, Tel Aviv, Haifa and in several dozen settlements; the Jewish Agency was raided. Thousands of British policemen and soldiers were involved. Individuals were arrested, among them Moshe Sharett, one of the leaders of the Jewish Agency. The official objective of the operation was to end ”the state of anarchy“ then existing in Palestine. Indeed, the various Jewish underground paramilitary organizations had become very active. The British wanted to destroy the Palestinian Jewish leadership and arrested almost all of its leaders except for Ben Gurion, head of the Jewish Agency who was in Paris, France. They searched for weapons and in some instances were successful.

 

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A room in Kibbutz Yagur after a weapon search
conducted during Operation Agatha

Yad Vashem

 

The British tried to sweet talk their way out of the mess they created by stating that they only wanted to restore order, that is, a continuation of the White Paper. Palestinian Jewry refused to accept these explanations. The Irgun and the Lehi group continued their attacks. The international press continued to show pictures of Jews kept behind barbed–wire fences. The British mandatory administration had to talk to someone to restore some measure of administration and had to release the leaders of the Jewish Agency. This event weighed heavily on Rabbi Herzog and he seriously considered returning to Jerusalem to plead with the British to release the Palestinian Jewish leaders. But the news he received from Poland was growing more and more worrisome. Chaim Weitzmann, president of the Zionist Executive, was due in London, and Rabbi Herzog extended his stay to meet him.

Chaim Weitzmann was born in Motol, Russia, in 1874. He received his education in biochemistry in Switzerland and Germany. In 1905, he moved to England and was elected to the General Zionist Council. Weitzmann's scientific assistance to the Allied cause in World War One brought him into close contact with British leaders. In 1918, Weitzmann was appointed head of the Zionist Commission sent to Palestine by the British government to advise on the future development of the country and in 1920, he became the President of the World Zionist Organization (WZO). This office represented all the national Zionist organizations in the world. He also headed the Jewish Agency, which was established in 1929. Chaim Weitzmann again served as President of the WZO from 1935–1946. During the years that led up to World War II, and during the war, he invested much effort in establishing the Jewish Brigade. He also tried to alter British policy toward Palestine but was unsuccessful.

While in London he met Rabbi Salomon Wohlgelernter, who represented the American Vaad Hatzala in Europe and was also attached to UNRRA. Rabbi Wohlgelernter was an American Orthodox rabbi who volunteered to help the Jewish refuges, especially Jewish orphans. The two rabbis soon discovered that UNRRA had already arranged children transports out of Eastern Europe to the West. In May, 1946, an UNRRA train carrying 105 Jewish children had traveled from Prague to London. The discovery that UNRRA was already in the business of transporting Jewish orphans out of Poland ignited Herzog’s imagination.

Herzog realized that there might be a chance to take as many Jewish children out of Poland as possible in one packed train. The train could carry a large number of children to Western Europe, mainly France. Rabbi Herzog had in his possession the French visa permit for 1,000 Jewish orphans to enter France and a Belgian permit for 250 children to enter. Both rabbis presented the visa permits to the UNRRA officials. Discussions began between the rabbis and the officials. UNRRA consented to assign the project to a team that would work out a plan of transportation.

Now the real problems began, lodging the children once they had left Poland. The Jewish orphanages in France and Belgium were full. Besides, UNRRA did not function in France, so homes had to be maintained by the Joint Distribution Committee or French Jewish social organizations. No one could provide lodging for a large transport of Jewish children. Rabbi Herzog spoke with many people but no solution was in sight.

 

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Seated on the left is Chaim Weitzmann, head of the World Zionist Organization. On the right is Rabbi Herzog, chief rabbi of Palestine. Standing in the middle is Moshe Sharett, an important official of the Jewish Agency of Palestine.

 

Meanwhile, Chaim Weitzmann, president of the Zionist Executive, arrived in London, and Rabbi Herzog met him to hear the latest news from Palestine. Rabbi Herzog was told that several members of the Jewish underground in Palestine had been arrested by the British, tried and condemned to death. The news deeply shocked Rabbi Herzog. He thought of returning to Palestine to intervene on their behalf. But he had a deep commitment to the Jewish orphans and their rescue. Weighing his options, he decided to try diplomatic means to help the Jewish prisoners in Palestine rather than abandon the children to an uncertain fate. Rabbi Herzog finally left London on July 22, 1946, heading to Poland via Paris.

Rabbi Herzog returned to Paris with his son Yaakov. On a previous trip to Paris, Rabbi Herzog had reported to his supporters at the Agudah headquarters that the orthodox Jewish world must make a great effort to present a unified front to restore to Judaism some “ten thousand orphans.” Let the rabbinate take the lead and exploit, to the fullest, this possibility. In his cable he tried to enlist the cooperation of all the orthodox Jewish groups, including those in Britain. One of his first stops was to meet again with French Prime Minister Georges Bidault to ensure that the promise of French entry visas was still on the table. He was assured that the visas for 4,000 were available. He had already received 1,000 visas and presented them to UNRRA in London. Sometime during the meeting the French prime minister asked Rabbi Herzog for his blessing, which the rabbi gave.[1] The rabbi also visited his family in France and decided to meet Dr. Joseph Schwarz, the director of JDC operations in Europe.

 

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Dr. Joseph Joshua Schwartz in his military uniform

 

Joseph Joshua Schwartz was born in Novaya Odessa, Ukraine, March 23,1899.[2] The family left for the United States in 1907 and settled in Baltimore. His father was an orthodox rabbi and young Joseph followed in his father’s footsteps. He graduated from the Rabbi Isaac Elchanan Seminary in New York City (now Yeshiva University) and served as rabbi at Congregation Pincus Elijah in New York. He received a doctorate in Semitics and turned to teaching Semitic languages and literature at the Cairo University in Egypt. He returned to America in 1929, and for the next seven years taught at Long Island University.

Schwartz was a bon vivant and enjoyed his liquor. He moved with ease among people, especially women. Yet he was a closed person and kept to himself. Few people knew that had a doctorate or that he was a rabbi.[3] Suddenly, he left academic life and devoted himself to the plight of Jewish refugees throughout the world. He joined the Joint Distribution Committee as secretary in 1939. In 1940, he was appointed director of European operations. He left for France and established his headquarters in Paris. The city was teeming with Jewish refuges from Germany, Belgium, Holland and Eastern Europe. They tried to get out of Europe and visited the JDC office in Paris. Schwartz became a well–known figure in Paris. He was a tireless worker and very independent. In 1940, he traveled to Italy, Switzerland and Hungary in connection with JDC rescue operations. He returned to France two days prior to the arrival of the Germans. He moved to the city of Bordeaux and when France collapsed moved his operations to Lisbon, Portugal.[4] Portugal remained neutral throughout the war and provided good communications with the United States and with the rest of Europe. Schwartz remained in Portugal throughout the war.

 

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Dr. Joseph Schwartz (third seated from left) with Polish JDC staffers

 

Following the war, Schwartz returned to Paris and reopened the JDC offices. In his military uniform and with a diplomatic passport he crisscrossed Europe except for Soviet territories. Schwartz played a vital role in helping Jewish Shoah survivors. The JDC provided food, clothing and housing for the Jewish refugees and the money to pay for it.

Joseph Schwartz was later considered one of the true heroes of the rescue of Jewish refugees after the war. Schwartz was part of the JDC team that, from 1946 to 1952, oversaw the distribution of nearly $280 million dollars of aid to Jewish refugees.

Rabbi Herzog decided to meet Schwartz regarding lodging facilities for his planned transport out of Poland. Herzog had previously sent several cables to Schwartz asking that the Joint should do everything in its power to extract Jewish children from non–Jewish homes. The rabbi also discussed the need of space for Polish Jewish children. Schwartz told him that there was no room in France for a large transport of children. Finally, Herzog met Schwartz in Paris. Schwartz sent a report on that meeting to the JDC in New York.

AMERICAN JOINT DISTRIBUTION COMMITTEE EUROPEAN EXECUTIVE COUNCIL
19, RUE DE TEHERAN, PARIS (8th)

Memorandum of Conversation with Chief Rabbi Herzog, Sunday, July 21, 1946

After a preliminary talk with the Chief Rabbi, he was joined by Rabbi Wolf Gold and Rabbi Michkowsky who has recently returned from a visit to New York. Rabbi Herzog went into great detail about the information which he has gathered with regard to Jewish children in Christian homes and institutions. He also dwelt, at length, on his conversations with the Pope, Queen Wilhelmina of Holland and with a number of other Church and Government officials.

I indicated to him that, on the basis of our best information, the figures which he was citing for grants in Belgium were highly exaggerated.

I also indicated to him that the matter of children in Holland was certainly not a question of money but rather one of government policy. This policy was now under review and the Dutch Government is sending a commission to Belgium and France to see how those two governments are handling the problem of Jewish children. On the basis of these investigations recommendations will be presented and a revision of the government's attitude may result.

The question in Poland was complicated because of the fact that there had been actually competitive bidding among organizations for these children and that, as a result, the price requested had gone up enormously. I indicated that most of this competition resulted from the fact that delegations of the Vaad Hazalah, Agudah, and the Chief Rabbi's Emergency Council had come to Poland and had offered reckless sums for children and that this destroyed the careful and well laid–out plans that had been formulated by organizations who had been dealing with the problem long before the above mentioned organizations appeared on the scene. I told him that, in my opinion, the chief contribution he could make to the situation in Poland was to get the representatives of these groups to act in an organized and disciplined manner.

Four chief points were discussed

  1. What provision the JDC would make for Orthodox children who will be brought out of Poland or other countries into Western Europe.
    My answer was that the JDC would treat Orthodox children as it always has in the past, in the same way it treats other children, and that within the possibilities of its resources it would make the same per capita provision and aid in the same manner in the establishment of suitable homes for Orthodox as for other Jewish children. There would have to be limitations because of the fact that our budget was a limited one and we could not assume unlimited obligations. The Rabbis indicated their approval of the principle as stated.
  2. With regard to the question of removing Jewish children from Christian homes and environments, I indicated that the JDC policy would continue to be what it has been in the past – to do everything within its resources to make it possible for Jewish children to be brought into Jewish environments. The question was not, however, solely one of money, but also of physical resources such as housing, equipment, etc. I indicated to him that this was not a job that could be done overnight but required time and patience as well as tact in dealing with Christian foster parents. The JDC would, however, be prepared to set up all facilities that could be made available for children taken out of Christian homes. This, too, was accepted as a basis for future work.
  3. The Chief Rabbi then indicated that he was going to Poland and one of the things he hoped to do was to bring out of that country a number of religious personalities who were in extreme danger. He also indicated that he would like to go into the question of Jewish children with Christian families and asked whether for the purposes indicated above as well as for general religious work we would not place a sum at his disposal so that he would not come into Poland “with empty hands.” I agreed to place at his disposal the sum of $25,000 as a one–time grant for general religious purposes including the projects mentioned above. This was done because of the fact that I think we have been a little skimpy in our allocations to the Orthodox community and groups in Poland because of our desire to keep the total budget down to a reasonable level. In view of the subsequent telephone conversation with New York, I felt that we could allow ourselves to make this one–time grant for the needs that exist in this area in Poland. This amount is being placed at the disposal of the Chief Rabbi in Palestine and is to be charged against Polish appropriations.
  4. The Chief Rabbi indicated that he had established in Palestine an Institute of Jewish Law where a number of Jewish scholars were dealing with basic problems of Jewish law affecting the everyday life of religious Jews the world over. He asked whether the Cultural Committee would be prepared to make a grant of “several thousand pounds a year“ for this purpose. I told him that I would be glad to recommend this to the Cultural Committee and asked him to submit a memorandum on the subject which I could pass on to the committee. I believe that a grant of $2,000 for the purpose indicated would be satisfactory. As soon as the memorandum is forthcoming I shall pass it on to the Cultural Committee with my recommendation.
After my conversation with New York yesterday, I met again briefly with the Chief Rabbi and asked what his intentions were in connection with an independent fund raising campaign in the United States. He told me that an independent campaign was now completely out of the question and that he would work solely in connection with the JDC as far as the United States is concerned.

The meetings between Herzog and Schwartz were friendly and productive but Herzog still needed a place for his children transport. He also informed Kahana in Warsaw that he was planning to transport a large group of children and yeshiva students out of Poland. He asked that lists of children be drawn up so as to see how many children would be able to leave Poland on short notice. Herzog also advised many other Jewish homes to prepare lists of children. Kahane was placed in charge of coordinating all the preparations for the transport. He was also charged with preparing the necessary legal papers for the departure of children and escorting adults. Rabbi Herzog also met some UNRRA officials regarding the children transport. He also asked UNRRA to provide him with the necessary travel permits to Prague, Czechoslovakia.


Footnotes

  1. Szulc , pp18-22 Return
  2. Szulc, p.19 Return
  3. Szulc, p.20 Return
  4. Szulc, p.22 Return

 

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