“The Ringing Warning to All People:” Holocaust Relief and Remembrance in the Jewish Labor Committee
Today’s entry is written by Rachel Schimke, project archivist at the Tamiment Library and Robert F. Wagner Labor Archives.
January 27th is designated by the United Nations as International Holocaust Remembrance Day. On this date in 1945, the Nazi concentration camp at Auschwitz-Birkenau was liberated by Soviet troops. The records of the Jewish Labor Committee (JLC) at the Tamiment Library document the response to the Holocaust in the United States within the Jewish community and the labor movement. A previously unprocessed addendum of the JLC’s records provides new insights into the organization’s involvement in Holocaust relief and education.
The JLC was founded in 1934, largely to lobby for the American labor movement’s support against the growing threat of Nazism. During the Holocaust and in the years that followed, the JLC organized numerous rescue and relief efforts for the victims of Nazi persecution. One such relief effort was an “adoption” program for children who were orphaned or otherwise affected by the Holocaust. The children were not actually adopted and brought to the United States; rather, the program allowed unions and other organizations or individuals to give the children financial support. Card files in the Jewish Labor Committee Records addendum list the names of the adopted children and provide biographical information about them, and also include the names of the children’s sponsors. These card files, along with the child adoption program correspondence and case files in Part II of the JLC collection, are a rich resource for genealogical researchers.
As the immediate need for aid started to decline, Holocaust commemoration and education became one of the JLC’s top priorities. In 1985, the Educators’ Chapter of the JLC, along with the United Federation of Teachers and the American Gathering of Jewish Holocaust Survivors, cosponsored the Holocaust and Jewish Resistance Teachers’ Program. This three-week summer seminar took thirty secondary school teachers to Israel and Poland, where they learned from historians and academics and visited memorials and historic sites. The JLC continues to cosponsor the program and the biennial conferences held for the program’s alumni.
The addendum to the JLC Records includes extensive documentation of the teacher training program. The records were predominately created or collected by Vladka Meed (1921-2012), who, in addition to instituting the teacher training program, also served as Vice President and Executive Committee member of the JLC. As a young woman, Meed played an integral part in the Warsaw ghetto uprising, acting as a courier for the Jewish underground. In a 1992 speech, Meed stated that “our memory is the ringing warning to all people in all times.” Her advocacy with the JLC and other Holocaust education and commemoration groups demonstrated her commitment to ensuring that the devastation of the Holocaust is never forgotten.
The addendum to the JLC Records will be open for research in late February.