Tag Archives: holocaust

Jewish Telegraphic Agency Archives Go Online

 

The Jewish Telegraphic Agency (JTA), a news agency that has been covering news of the Jewish community worldwide since 1917 has released a searchable archive, dubbed the JTA Jewish News Archive, of their news releases going back to 1923. This archive is free to use.

The archive is really an amazing snapshot of the modern history of the Jewish community in the United States and worldwide. The archive can be browsed by date or topic, or searched.

A look at the earliest date in the archive, January 2, 1923, shows 9 stories covering mostly not-so-nice topics including restrictions on Jewish admission to universities in Hungary and Romania, a false blood libel in Poland (the police search house-to-house and found the alleged victim alive), the banning of a Jewish sports club in Poland, banning of private synagogues in the Ukraine, a note of two Jewish leaders elected to the Council of People’s Commissaries of Soviet Russia, announced Jewish immigration to Palestine (802 in November 1922), a new pogrom in Kishineff, and a dinner honoring the fifth anniversary of Colonel Ronald Storrs as Governor of Jerusalem.

It should be noted that the JTA covered the Holocaust as no other news wire at the time. It was more willing to detail what was going on in Europe than the mainstream news wires. It also covered in detail the plight of Soviet Jewry and the Jewish involvement in the civil rights movement in the US.

With such weighty topics it is perhaps easy to overlook the fact that the JTA archives also cover the day-to-day details of what was going on in Jewish communities over the years. I’ve discussed the use of historical newspapers to research one’s family before (it’s a good article, read it), including pointing to several local Jewish community newspapers that have archives online, but many towns either didn’t have local Jewish papers, those papers were not archived, or those archives are not yet available online. The JTA archive fills in part of that gap for people who want to understand what the communities their families lived in were like over the years. These articles will not, of course, have the birth announcements and obituaries of everyone in every community like the local papers, although obituaries of famous Jews are present.

A random sampling of towns shows I searched shows wide coverage, with 145 articles on Savannah, GA, 46 articles mentioning Palo Alto, CA, 46 articles mentioning Knoxville, TN, 22 articles mentioning Tarrytown, NY, and and 180 articles that mention Brookline, MA.

The coverage of communities outside the US is also extensive, with articles on what was going on in communities across Europe as well as detailed coverage of life in Israel even before it was the modern State of Israel. As a sampling, there are over 9000 articles that mention Paris, 10,000 that mention London, 1000 articles that mention Baghdad, 500 that mention Antwerp, 900 that mention Cologne, 1000 that mention Krakow, etc.

As an interesting experiment I searched for the organization whose archive was put online earlier this week, the JDC, and there are over 7000 articles that mention the JDC in the JTA archives. If you wanted a better understanding of what the JDC has done over the years, searching this new JTA archive will give you a detailed look at all the different programs the JDC carried out.

In summary, the JTA Jewish News Archive is a welcome addition to the online resources available to the Jewish researcher, or anyone interested in Jewish history over the past century.

Footnote.com Holocaust Records Free for May

Continuing the Holocaust records theme from yesterday, I noticed that Footnote.com has announced that for the month of May they will be making their entire Holocaust Collection available for free. Footnote, for those who don’t know, has a partnership with the US National Archives where they make many of the archival records from the National Archives available online. As I’ve mentioned on the Naturalizations page, this includes holding like Naturalization papers, but also records from the Civil War, US Census, and even records captured by the US military during WWII relevant to the Holocaust.


The Holocaust Collection includes records related to assets looted by the Nazis, German war crime records, pre-trial Nuremberg interrogation transcripts, captured German records including from concentration camps, and more.

While not all of these records are relevant to genealogy, many are, especially the registers from various concentration camps. As the records are free for the rest of May, it’s  good way to take a loot at these incredible historical documents if you’re not a Footnote.com subscriber.

UPDATE: If you are coming to this post from a search or some other way, note that Footnote.com is now Fold3.com and has changing its focus to military records only. While the older records are still on the site, they will not be expanding their non-military collections.

JDC archives with over 500,000 names now online

Today is Yom HaShoah in Israel, Israel’s Holocaust remembrance day. Coinciding with this fact, the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee (usually just called the JDC or the Joint) has released a new section of their website called Our Shared Legacy which contains two large databases of interest to Jewish genealogists.


Child Refugees in Bolivia helped by the JDC

The first database is their Photo Galleries, which contains photographs from all the countries where the Joint operated when helping Jewish refugees from the Nazis to flee, and to resettle after the war. The Joint also assisted Jews to flee Eastern European countries affected by the Communist takeover in the post-war years. Countries which have photo galleries include, Australia, Austria, Belgium, Bolivia, Brazil, China, Cuba, Cyprus, Czechoslovakia, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Lithuania, Morocco, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Spain, Sweden and Uruguay.

If you spot someone in one of the photos that you know the identity of, you can click on a link to submit their identity.

The second, and much larger, database is their Names Index. The Names Index contains 500,000 names from a series of files which document the JDC’s assistance programs worldwide. For every name in the database, they have a scanned version of the original document which you can view online in high resolution. This is truly an amazing resource.

Two of the larger card files which have been scanned and indexed on the site include what they called the Jewish Displaced Persons and Refugee Cards, 1943-1959, and the Transmigration Bureau. On site they describe these two resources as follows:

Jewish Displaced Persons and Refugee Cards, 1943-1959

After the fall of France, tens of thousands of Jewish refugees seeking to flee Nazi Europe streamed into Spain from France. JDC set up an office in Barcelona and provided support, housing and emigration assistance to these refugees. JDC also assisted refugees waiting for emigration papers and passage on transatlantic vessels. This collection contains index cards from 1943-1945 for 8220 refugees supported by JDC.

and

This is a collection of registration cards of Jewish survivors who registered with the Emigration Department of JDC in Munich and Vienna after World War II for help in emigrating to countries other than Israel. The database includes individual cards from 1945-mid 1950s for 51,554 Displaced Persons in Munich and 25,374 Displaced Persons in Vienna.

Transmigration Bureau

The Transmigration Bureau was established by JDC in New York to help refugees emigrate from Germany, Austria, Czechoslovakia, Holland, Belgium and Luxembourg, primarily to the U.S. Its primary role was to accept deposits from friends or family overseas towards the travel costs of Jews emigrating from Europe. Included are deposit cards for 37,732 individuals who emigrated from 1940-1956, with the bulk from 1940-1942.

In addition to these large card files which make up the bulk of the entries in the database, there are many smaller lists. Interestingly, in addition to viewing the single page that your database hit shows up on, they also allow you to download the entire list from which your hit came from (only for the lists, not for the large card files), even though these files can be hundreds of megabytes.

Some of the lists I’ve come across include:

  • Aid to Rabbis in the Russian Empire and Palestine, 1916
  • Beneficiaries of JDC’s Free Parcel Service in the Soviet Union, 1943-1945
  • CARE Packages to DP (Displaced Persons) Camps I, 1946-1948
  • European Jewish Refugee Arrivals from Havana to Miami, 1944-1945
  • Ezras Torah Fund, 1948
  • JDC Shanghai Refugee Client List, 1950
  • Jewish Refugees in Italy Receiving Aid, 1946
  • Polish Jewish Repatriates Following World War II, 1948
  • Rabbinical Students in Shanghai II, 1947
  • Refugees in Zbaszyn, Poland, 1938-1939
  • Shanghai Clients Registering for Emigration to Canada, 1948
  • Vilna Refugees, 1940

I haven’t seen a way to jump directly these lists, but if you search for someone and they show up on one of the lists, you will be able to view the page they show up on, or download the whole list. In some cases they also have explanatory documents connected to the lists, such as letters written at the time related to the lists. For example, in the case of the CARE package sent to DP camps after the war, they have scanned the original brochure they used to raise money to send those packages.

Another interesting thing about the lists is that some of them list relatives in the US when they were known. This is presumably to help the JDC contact the relative to work out their immigration to the US. For example, in the Refugees in Zbaszyn list, there are different sections of the list, including a section listing the addresses of US relatives which lists the following information on each refugee:

  • Given Name
  • Surname
  • Date Born
  • Town Born
  • Occupation
  • Last Town Lived in Germany (since these were refugees from Germany)
  • Present Address in Zbaszyn (street address)
  • Address of Relatives (in US)
  • Degree of Relationship (i.e. cousin, sister, brother, aunt, etc.)

Obviously this is a treasure trove of information for people who find their relatives on this list, but there are some other interesting aspects to this list. For example, I’ve noticed that when listing the name of a brother as the relative in the US, the surname is not always the same. This means this list can be used to find out name changes between Europe and the US. Some quick examples include:

  • Grobulska, brother’s surname is Godwin
  • Fuhrman, brother’s surname is Blatter
  • Loszak, brother’s surname is Wachtel
  • Mazur, brother’s surname is Maltzer
  • Glaser, brother’s surname is Glass
  • Schueterman, brother’s surname is Brand

Some of might be predictable (somewhat) but in general the ones I’ve listed are not logical where you could easily guess such a name change.

Also, you might actually want to search this list not for the refugees but for your relatives from the US, as it can show you relatives you may not have known about in Europe (especially if you didn’t know what the surname was in Europe).

For the Zabaszyn list in particular, I should add that there are actually several lists, mostly from Zabaszyn, but there is also a list of refugees in Kolomyja (Stanislawow) from 1939. Looking at the date stamped on this list, it was created just weeks before the Nazis invaded Poland.

Overall, this is a truly amazing new resource that the JDC has provided Jewish researchers, and I hope they will continue to add to this resource over time, making the rest of their archives accessible to the public in this fashion.