NEW YORK – From 1945 through
1961, the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee (JDC), a 94-year-old
humanitarian aid organization, collaborated with Australian Jewish welfare organizations-often
behind the scenes-to re-settle tens of thousands of Displaced Persons (DP) from
the atrocities of the Holocaust in Europe.
In addition to obtaining landing permits into Australia, after World War II,
JDC helped carry Jewish refugees’ to the port from which ships departed to
their ultimate destination in Australia.
From August 3-September
7, 2008, JDC and the Jewish Museum of Australia will present Nationality:
Stateless, Destination: Australia, an exhibition which features previously
untold personal stories and photos from JDC’s vast archives that illustrate the hardships-and triumphs-of these
Jewish refugees as they migrated from Europe and attempted to rebuild their
lives in Australia.
She is twenty-six. A dressmaker. A typewritten address, ‘Azbergerlager’, has
been crossed out and ‘Rothschild Hosp’ scrawled over the top. Her nationality:
stateless. Her destination: Australia. She is accompanied by her husband.
He is seventeen. A student. His address is also Rothschild Hospital, but unlike
her, he is accompanied by no one. His nationality: stateless. His destination:
This is JDC’s first
exhibition to be held at the Jewish Museum of Australia’s Gross Gallery. On
Wednesday, August 6, JDC President Judge Ellen M. Heller and Chief Executive
Officer Steve Schwager will host a special evening to honor Holocaust survivors who will share their own stories
of immigration and of strength.
"Immediately following the Holocaust, JDC quickly mobilized to help people
who lost everything-from their homes and jobs to their loved ones, friends and
communities-by building Displaced Persons camps, feeding the hungry, and helping re-settle Jewish refugees," said Steve Schwager,
Chief Executive Officer, JDC.
Under-resourced local community leaders turned to JDC, already known to respond
quickly to crises, in the immediate post-war years and after the Australian
Government restricted the number of refugees to the country and refused to
provide assistance for their passage or resettlement. JDC swiftly organized
visas and chartered ships to bring the refugees to Australia and then worked
with local Jewish welfare organizations to provide basic necessities such as
food, clothing, and housing as well as provide small business loans.
In the 1970s and 1980s, working again with local Jewish welfare organizations,
JDC brought nearly 2,500 Jews to Australia from the former Soviet Union (FSU).
JDC’s Australian connection continued by supplying the funds for the planes which flew Soviet Jews first to Rome, providing
accommodation and food while they were in transit there and assisting many with
their passages to Australia.
"The importance of this story for all Australians is manifold. It tells of
a significant migration of Jews to Australia and the conditions in which they came;
it represents the lessons of the Holocaust that need to be taught in each generation; and it reminds us of our obligations to those who
arrive in this country in need," said exhibition curator, Sarah Rood.
JDC’s historic work with vulnerable Jews and non-Jews around the world today
includes unwavering assistance to 188,000 elderly Holocaust survivors
throughout the FSU.
"Nationality: Stateless, Destination: Australia is a fitting tribute to Holocaust
survivors and other Jewish refugees. JDC is proud to have helped to build the
impressive and vibrant Australian Jewish community of today," said Schwager.
Founded in 1914, the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee (JDC) gives
global expression to the principle that all Jews are responsible for one
another. On behalf of North America’s Jewish communities, JDC works in over 60
countries to rescue those in danger, provide relief to those in distress,
revitalize overseas Jewish communities, and help Israel overcome the social
challenges that beset its most vulnerable citizens. JDC also provides non-sectarian disaster relief and long-term development
assistance to the world’s least fortunate populations. For more information,
visit www.jdc.org .