Relief and Rescue After the War

Joy over the war’s end was clouded by news of the murder of six million Jews. The local community worked to save the remnants of European Jewry.

American Jews were shocked by the world’s seeming disregard for Holocaust survivors who remained behind barbed wire in DP (Displaced Persons) camps in Europe. By now a majority of American Jews were convinced of the urgent need for a Jewish state. Washingtonians mobilized a grassroots campaign.

Women’s organizations raised money and collected food and medical supplies for DPs. At the Pentagon and later the State Department, Herbert Fierst helped DPs gain access to the U.S. Occupation Zone in Europe. Meanwhile, the United Jewish Appeal stepped up fundraising to support immigration to Palestine.

At the end of World War II, my father couldn’t look in the mirror to shave. He felt that if he had lifted one more finger, raised one more dollar, knocked on the door of one more Congressman, signed one more petition, maybe one more Jewish child would have been saved.

Martin Kamerow Oral History, 1997

Rabbi Green
Photo of Givat Washington

1946: With the help of others, Rabbi Zemach Green established Giv’at Washington, a school and home for orphaned survivors in Palestine.

JHSGW Collections. Gift of Aviva Green. 1998.35

United Jewish Appeal ads
United Jewish Appeal ad

1946-48: Washington’s United Jewish Appeal held—and met—its first million dollar campaign in 1946. The Women’s Division of UJA raised over $250,000 in 1948.

Courtesy of Washington Jewish Week.

Photo of Hilldring & Fierst

1946: Captain Herbert Fierst (right) is awarded a Legion of Merit Award by General John H. Hilldring for his work for the “care and repatriation of the millions of displaced persons.” Fierst worked closely with Hilldring, Assistant Secretary for Occupied Areas, at the State Department.

JHSGW Collections. Gift of Herbert Fierst. 1998.34

S.S. Ben Hecht

1946: An illegal immigration operation known as Aliyah Bet smuggled groups of war refugees onto ships heading for Palestine. Peter Bergson’s lobbying groups raised money to purchase and equip one such ship — the S.S. Ben Hecht.

JHSGW Collections. Gift of Harry Selden. 1998.44

Photo of Bergman & Ben Hecht

Washingtonian Elihu Bergman (right) was held at a detention camp on Cyprus when his Aliyah Bet ship was captured by the British. Bergman was one of 250 American volunteers working on Aliyah Bet ships.

Courtesy of Elihu Bergman

Rabbi Green
Photo of Givat Washington
United Jewish Appeal ads
United Jewish Appeal ad
Photo of Hilldring & Fierst
S.S. Ben Hecht
Photo of Bergman & Ben Hecht