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Exile and Expatriation

American Jewish Mobilization in France after World War II: Crossing the Narratives

Laura Hobson Faure


Cet article propose une analyse de la philanthropie juive américaine en France après la Seconde Guerre mondiale selon la méthode de l’histoire croisée. Dans quelle mesure les organisations et les individus juifs américains influencent-ils la reconstruction de la vie juive française après la Shoah ? Après une analyse descriptive de ce que l’on nomma le « Plan Marshall juif », cet article se penchera sur l’American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee (le JDC ou le Joint), l’organisation juive américaine la plus importante dans la France d’après-guerre. Deux récits, l’un d’une femme américaine, l’autre d’une femme européenne, nous aideront à élucider comment les individus européens et américains se sont perçus lors de cette rencontre.

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  • 1 The Jewish Labor Committee (JLC) was established in New York City in 1934 by Jewish individuals who (...)

1Before, during and after World War II, American Jewish individuals and organizations mobilized to assist Jews in Europe who were suffering from Nazi persecution and its aftermath. Mobilizations occurred in various arenas of American Jewish life, under multiple organizational auspices, showing the class, ideological and even ethnic diversity of American Jewry in the 1930s and 1940s. Some organized boycotts of German products on the grassroots level, some worked to raise funds for rescue, while others sought to pressure the Roosevelt administration to respond more aggressively to Nazi persecution and reform US immigration laws (Gottleib, 1982 ; Gurock, 1998 ; Zuroff, 2000). The Jewish Labor Committee, for example, played an important role in the emigration of threatened labor activists and political leaders from wartime Europe, demonstrating the distinct response of one sub-group of American Jewry (Collomp, 2000, 23-30 ; Collomp and Groppo, 2001, 211-46 ; Collomp, 2005, 112-33).1 In spite of such documented efforts, the historiography has at times portrayed American Jews as indifferent to the plight of European Jews or incapable, due to internal divisions, to successfully pressure the Roosevelt administration (Feingold, 1983 ; 1992, 225-265 ; 1995 ; Peck, 1980 ; Penkower, 1980, 122-39 ; Wyman, 1984). Historian David Wyman, for example, opens his study on the United States and the Shoah with the following statement : “America, land of refuge, offered little succor. American Christians forgot about the Good Samaritan. Even American Jews lacked the unquenchable sense of urgency the crisis demanded. The Nazis were the murderers, but we were the all too passive accomplices. (xiii)”.

  • 2 These themes are explored in greater detail in my book (Hobson Faure, 2013).

2My research on American Jewish efforts to reconstruct Jewish life in Europe in the period immediately following World War II has sought to question the historiographical discourses on both the American Jewish response to the Shoah and American presence in postwar France.2 By analyzing what was later called the “Jewish Marshall Plan” in France (Goldman, 1998, 68), this article will ask to what extent American Jewish organizations and individuals were able to influence the reconstruction of European Jewish life. After an overview of the “Jewish Marshall Plan,” this article will focus specifically on the accomplishments of the American Joint Distribution Committee (JDC), the American Jewish organization that ran the most extensive program in France after World War II. Two personal accounts will help elucidate how individuals perceived their respective partner in reconstruction.

  • 3 On the American presence in postwar France, see, among others, Wall, 1991 ; Kuisel, 1993 ; Tournès, (...)

3By looking at the interactions among American and European individuals and organizations, linked by their shared desire to reconstruct Jewish life, we can approach this period from the “bottom up,” on the scale of a community, and nuance the portrait of American dominance and expansionism in the post World War II period.3 This methodological orientation is part of the histoire croisée method, theorized by Michael Werner and Bénédicte Zimmermann, which argues that :

  • 4 More generally, see Michael Werner and Bénédicte Zimmermann, 2004.

[…] the entities, persons, practices or objects that are intertwined with, or affected by, the crossing process do not necessarily remain intact and identical in form. Their transformations are tied to the active as well as inactive nature of their coming into contact. Such transformations are usually based on reciprocity (both elements are affected by their coming into contact), but also may derive from asymmetry (the elements are not affected in the same manner). (2006, 38).4

4With its emphasis on the dynamic nature of encounters between groups, and an awareness of the unequal power dynamics that can characterize their interaction, this method is particularly useful for thinking about the American Jewish presence in postwar Europe, as it allows us to avoid the oversimplified assumption that American funding led to a linear process of “Americanization.” By “crossing” French and American sources from organizations and individuals, it becomes clear that even when “Americanization” did in fact take place, it was the outcome of a process in which Americans and local individuals participated. Let us turn to the example of the “Jewish Marshall Plan” in order to explore this process.

The “Jewish Marshall Plan”

  • 5 The American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee, Report by Loeb and Troper, October 1914 through D (...)
  • 6 Serge Klarsfeld estimates the total number of Jewish victims of the Final Solution in France at 80, (...)
  • 7 Doris Bensimon and Sergio Della Pergola estimate the population at 180,000 at the end of 1944 (Bens (...)
  • 8 The strong American Jewish support of Jewish life in France, compared to other European countries, (...)

5American Jews contributed over 194 million dollars to the reconstruction of European Jewish life from 1945 through 1948 (Bauer, 1989, xviii). While American Jewish aid was distributed throughout Europe, France stands out as a particularly important site in the “Jewish Marshall Plan.” From 1944 through 1954, 26.9 million dollars were channeled to the Jews of France by one American Jewish organization alone.5 The importance of France to European Jewish reconstruction can be explained by demographic, geographic and structural factors : three quarters of the Jews of France had survived the war, meaning France had one of the highest Jewish survival rates in Western Europe.6 At liberation, with its Jewish population of 180,000 to 200,000 individuals, France was the home to the largest Jewish community in Western continental Europe.7 France’s ports provided access to the Americas and to Palestine, turning it into an important crossroads for postwar European Jewish migrations. As a result of such migrations, France was one of the rare places in Europe where the Jewish population was actually growing- by 1960, France had recovered its pre-war Jewish population figures (Grynberg, 1998, 267). While liberation marked the beginning of a difficult period in which Jews emerged from hiding and waited- often in vain- for the return of loved ones, most did not suffer in isolation. A diverse network of French Jewish welfare organizations had survived the war, which helped Jews as they sought to recover shattered lives and communities. These organizations provided a solid infrastructure into which American Jewish aid could be infused. Finally, as the first Western European country with a considerable Jewish population to be liberated, France was the first place American Jews began sending their aid. As a result of this fact and the above factors, Paris became a “hub” for American Jewish reconstruction work.8

The American Jewish Presence : A Diverse Group

6Jewish members of the American Armed Forces were the first to assist European Jewish survivors. As they liberated France, such soldiers and chaplains sought out local Jews as they emerged from hiding and provided them with basic necessities, moral support and at times even military clout to help them reclaim their stolen property (Grobman, 1993 ; Hobson Faure, 2013, 74-89). This aid, significant yet difficult to quantify, co-existed, especially after December 1944, with the more formal efforts of American Jewish organizations.

  • 9 In June of 1940, the JDC transferred its activities from Paris to Marseilles, where it provided aid (...)
  • 10 The JDC offices had been used during the occupation by the Union générale des Israélites de France (...)

7The largest and most significant organizational response came from the American Joint Distribution Committee (known as the JDC or the Joint). This welfare organization was established in the United States at the outbreak of World War I to aid Jews affected by the conflict, and quickly became the official philanthropic representative of the American Jewish community overseas. In the interwar period, the JDC was especially active in the former Soviet Union and Poland, and played only a minor role in France until 1933. After this date, however, the JDC moved its European Headquarters from Berlin to Paris, where its intervention in France intensified in light of the Central European Jewish refugee crisis. It remained active in France throughout the war- even after the rupture of diplomatic ties between Vichy and Washington- and was able to contribute to an estimated 60 percent of the cost of the French Jewish resistance (Lazare, 1987, 282).9 In December of 1944, the JDC managed to send its first postwar American representative to France and began responding to the needs of Jewish orphans and refugees by funding a network of welfare organizations of diverse ideological affiliations within the French Jewish community.10

8The JDC was not the only American Jewish organization to establish a program in postwar France. The Hebrew Sheltering and Immigrant Aid Society (HIAS, also known as HICEM), established in New York at the end of the 19th century, was also active in France in the period leading up to World War II and during the war years, helping Jews emigrate from Europe. In the postwar period, this organization reestablished offices throughout France to help those who planned on leaving Europe. The American Jewish Committee, founded in the United States in 1906 to protect Jewish civil rights in the United States and abroad, established an office in Paris in 1947, where it sought to monitor anti-Semitism, facilitate the restitution of Jewish property, and, fitting with the period, fight Communism in French society. The National Council of Jewish Women, founded in 1893, established a home for young Jewish women in Paris and organized a scholarship program for European Jewish women to study social work and related subjects in American universities. Other American Jewish organizations, such as the Jewish Labor Committee, worked closely through their ideological counterparts in France, directing their aid to assist the members of their cause (Pâris de Bollardière, 2012). Still other organizations, such as the World Jewish Congress, or the World Union for Progressive Judaism, were not technically “American” organizations, yet deserve note because the majority of their funding, as well as the drive behind their French programs, came primarily from the United States.

  • 11 On the UJA, see Karp, 1981 and Raphael, 1982.

9This nebulous group, which I call the “American Jewish presence,” generated various levels of conflict due to the overlapping missions and limited funding of those involved. Yet infighting co-existed with collaborative efforts, and the JDC remained in a dominant position, due primarily to its funding from the United Jewish Appeal (UJA). The latter, established in the United States in 1939, unified all fundraising among American Jews for Palestine, Europe and domestic welfare needs into one national campaign. Its creation was significant, as it reduced competition among organizations, which thereafter coordinated their fundraising campaigns under UJA auspices and then collectively negotiated the distribution of the funds according to the most urgent needs. Since the inception of the UJA, the JDC annually received more than half of what was raised by the UJA, which financed its rescue and reconstruction work in Europe.11 The JDC thus had the most extensive funding and, as a UJA beneficiary, the official mandate of American Jewry.

The Joint Distribution Committee

  • 12 The American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee Archives-Israel (JDC-I), Laura Margolis Jarblum co (...)
  • 13 JDC Primer, 1945, page France-8 ; percentages based on a Jewish population of 180-200,000 individua (...)
  • 14 Pointing out the changes that the JDC inspired in French Jewish life, Mandel characterizes the orga (...)

10The JDC was arguably the American Jewish organization that was the most involved in European Jewish reconstruction. In France, it covered 72 % of the expenses of Jewish welfare organizations in 1946, 54.5 % of these costs in 1949, and 40 % of them in 1952.12 It is estimated that the JDC aided 50,000 individuals in France in 1945 alone, which represents between 25 and 28 % of the estimated Jewish population at this time.13 Historian Maud Mandel has also studied the role of the JDC in postwar France and has demonstrated that its influence in France extended beyond a purely financial role (Mandel, 2002, 53-94).14 Indeed, the influence of the JDC was compounded by the fact that it did not simply write a check to the organizations it assisted. Influenced by American principles of philanthropy and self-help, the JDC philosophy of aid stressed the importance of building autonomous, self-sufficient Jewish communities (Goldman, 1998, 72). In order to achieve this goal, the JDC played a hands-on role in the daily operations of the French Jewish organizations it subsidized and actively sought to change practices that it judged out-of-date or inefficient. This placed the JDC in a paradoxical role- advocating autonomy, but exercising authority.

  • 15 JDC-New York, France 1945/54, 151, Executive Committee minutes, 29 January 1957.

11The efforts of the JDC to reform French Jewish welfare practices according to an American model intensified as the postwar emergency situation stabilized. In 1946, a new country director for France, Laura Margolis, was named and the JDC policy for France shifted its objectives to create institutions that (it hoped) would ensure the long-term survival of the French Jewish community. While the JDC continued to support local Jewish organizations and agencies with diverse religious and political backgrounds (from Communist to ultra-orthodox), the most significant importation of American welfare concepts and structures occurred during Margolis’ tenure, from 1946-53. For example, the JDC established two professional schools in 1948 and 1949 to train nurses and social workers for European Jewish communal institutions, using both American faculty and methods. Its social work school, the Paul Baerwald School of Social Work, brought in experts from the New York School of Social Work to teach a one-year training program based on the American social work curriculum. Operating in Versailles from 1949 to 1953, this school influenced both the practices in French Jewish welfare organizations and wider European social work circles by helping to import the casework method to Europe (Hobson Faure, 2012). Perhaps more importantly, in the fall of 1947, the JDC began working with leaders from French Jewish institutions to create a centralized fundraising body modeled after the American “United Jewish Appeal.” After multiple conflicts, the JDC and a group of French Jewish leaders succeeded in this task, establishing the Fonds Social Juif Unifié (FSJU) in 1949. Jewish community centers, modeled on a structure that was popular in the postwar period among American Jews, were also introduced to France by the JDC in the early 1950s. By the end of 1957, Paris, Lens, Belfort, Rouen and Lyon all had this type of structure.15 The Fonds social juif unifié and the Jewish community centers still operate in France today, indicating that this American influence left a lasting mark on French Jewry. We can thus see that the JDC enabled a cultural transfer, allowing for the importation of American welfare methods and structures.

Shifting the Gaze to Individuals

12If institutional reports and intra-organizational correspondence allow us to draw the conclusion that the JDC greatly influenced and “Americanized” the structure of French Jewish life in the postwar and contemporary period, what do personal accounts- letters, personal writings, interviews – say about this encounter ? Two sources from the postwar period help us better understand the atmosphere that reigned in the JDC offices immediately after the war, allowing us to better discern the individual perceptions and difficulties faced by American and European aid workers in this key institution. Taken in isolation, hasty conclusions should not be drawn from these two personal accounts. They are subjective in nature and represent a fleeting moment in an encounter that lasted over a decade. Nevertheless, they provide clues to the deeper issues affecting American Jewish philanthropic efforts in France.

  • 16 On Razovsky Davidson’s activism during WWII, see Zucker, 2008.

13The first source stems from the personal papers of Cecilia Razovsky Davidson, an American Jewish social worker with over four decades of experience working with Jewish immigrants in the United States and Latin America.16 Officially an employee of the United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation Administration (UNRRA), Razovsky Davidson was assigned to the JDC in Paris, where she worked closely with the American director of the JDC, Arthur Greenleigh. The second source is a comic sketch, written by one of the local European staff members of the JDC, an individual who worked under Razovsky Davidson. These sources provide two distinct points of view : that of the American management and that of the local European staff. Interestingly, both documents address the same problem : the difficulty of getting work done in the JDC offices after the war.

  • 17 American Jewish Historical Society (AJHS), Cecilia Razovsky Papers, P-290, Box 6, folder 1, Telegra (...)
  • 18 I make this assumption based on her use of expressions such as “An UNRRA worker will have to” Ameri (...)

14As seen above, after December 1944, American management had returned to the JDC in Paris, which also hired local staff for administrative positions. Cecilia Razovsky Davidson had been hired by UNRRA in September of 1944 as a displaced persons specialist for the European mission.17 She arrived in February 1945 and stayed until June 1945, thus participating in the implementation of the JDC’s postwar program. Soon after her return to the United States, she gave several lectures on her experiences in Europe, most likely to a group of UNRRA recruits, in which she described her experiences with the JDC.18 Her observations show us what posed a problem for Americans, and how they approached their work in Paris.

  • 19 Ibid. In light of the fact that the JDC offices were used by the UGIF during the war, it is possibl (...)

15First, of course, were the material problems, as the JDC offices, once pristine, lacked basic necessities. According to Razovsky Davidson, “the Nazis had taken away everything and torn down every electric wire in the place and had broken up the elevators. The fireplaces were ripped open and the heating apparatus broken. […].”19 Yet in addition to the problem of reestablishing a proper workspace, JDC management was struck by the inefficiency of their local employees. They soon discovered the reason : their employees, weary and malnourished after years of persecution, still lacked food. Razovsky Davidson notes :

We were beginning to set up an office but could not get typewriters, clips, erasers, etc. Also, we would give dictation in the morning and suddenly would remember at the end of the day we had not seen it finished. I asked about a cable one afternoon and with much crying and excitement, the typist admitted she had not done it. When we pressed them to work hard and fast we found them fainting on our hands and then we learned that they did not ever get enough to eat. So we set up a canteen for our own office force (we had to buy the food on the black market) and then we got results, a half-day’s work a day, anyhow.

The relief expert was sitting in a staff meeting one day and fainted away. He was in the hospital unconscious for two days and we found it was all due to malnutrition. He had lived on potatoes for eleven months ; no butter, no milk, no bread. (The French are great bread eaters).

  • 20 Idem.

One girl worked for us who had been in hiding for four years, during that time her husband had been deported and her baby was born. She had crossed the Pyranees [sic] with her baby in her arms to get away from the Germans. She had to hide for several years, never had enough to eat in hiding. Now she had found a place to board the baby but most of her salary at JDC was spent on board for the baby, and even if she had some money she would have to go to black markets to buy anything […].20

16Razovsky Davidson’s observations represent the account of an American Jewish woman’s first-hand discovery of the living conditions of Jews in postwar France (and indirectly, the depth of their suffering during the Occupation). Yet they are also those of a trained social worker. Avoiding emotion, she simply states the facts and explains why work was not getting done, and how this was corrected. Finally, Razovsky Davidson’s observations point out the fine line between the European Jews who were hired to provide aid and the populations they assisted. Both groups, in fact, were in need of help.

  • 21 The sketch was found in the personal papers of Razovsky Davidson. On its title page was written, in (...)

17On an altogether different register, a comic sketch given to Razovsky Davidson on the occasion of her departure in June of 1945, provides a different perspective on why it was difficult to get work done at the JDC. The sketch, nine pages long and signed by “Liselotte,” a secretary in the JDC Paris office, was titled “Scherzo Capriccioso in AJDC Major.”21 The humorous nature of the sketch does not limit our ability to exploit this document for historical purposes. Indeed, it describes the busy offices of the organization through the perspective of Liselotte and serves as a particularly rich example of how European JDC staff perceived their American employers. The sketch describes the comings and goings of JDC employees and the incessant ringing of the telephone from the point of view of Liselotte, who cannot manage to start typing, and then reports the ensuing rampage of “Arthur” [most likely Arthur Greenleigh, JDC director]. The author then mocks the American director of the JDC, portraying him as a time-obsessed taskmaster. Far from the image of the passive secretary, she handles her superior’s uproar with irony.

18Later in the play, Liselotte writes of her confrontation with “Cecilia” [most likely Razovsky Davidson] who is also wondering about the status of her dictations :

  • 22 Idem.

Cecilia : Where are my letters ?
Liselotte : I’am [sic] afraid, none of them are ready as yet.
Cecilia : I can’t beliefe [sic] that.
Liselotte : I realize it must be hard to believe it.
(…a nearby American employee, Dora, makes a phone call loudly)
Cecilia : (to Liselotte) but what did you do all morning ?
Liselotte : I am just wondering.
Dora : Liselotte, I am telephoning !
Cecilia : But all the letters I gave you are rush cases and have ab-so-lute priority over everything else. Arthur will…
Liselotte : Oh, he did already.
Dora : Liselotte, I am telephoning.
Cecilia : (whispering) do these calls prevent you from working ?
Liselotte : Yes, certainly, I don’t know, perhaps (crying) I don’t know whether it is the incomings or the outgoings or the arguments or the numbers or the messages or the overseas cables or the visitors. And these drafts, these drafts !
Cecilia : I see, have a peppermint, it will clear your throat. Now look, dear. You should’nt [sic] give way to your emotions like this. You should’nt [sic] care about all these…
Liselotte : Superiors
Cecilia : Right. You should absolutely concentrate on your typing. Work behind a symbolic screen, build up a barbed wire fence. Will you just try ?
Liselotte : I will try to try.
They shake hands. Cecilia walks out.
Liselotte : catches a deep breath, then proceeds to the left hand door, locks it, goes to the right hand door, locks it, goes to the door behind her, locks it, puts the three keys on her desk […].22

  • 23 Idem.

19Raising the same problem Razovsky Davidson discussed in her lecture, Liselotte’s account also describes Europeans crying on the job and Razsovsky Davidson’s professional distance (she asks Liselotte to avoid “giving way to her emotions” and to “build up a barbed wire fence”).23 The author here is clearly exaggerating, keeping with the humorous tone of this sketch. Nonetheless, we can still point out an important difference between the two accounts : Liselotte does not mention a lack of food as an explanation for idleness. On the contrary, she attributes the problem to incessant interruptions, often caused by Americans. By making fun (of herself and others), by not mentioning a lack of food and recent hardships, Liselotte places herself firmly outside of the victim category.


20The American Jewish presence in postwar France influenced the lives of Europeans by providing funds for their welfare organizations, immigration assistance for those who chose to leave the continent, housing and cultural programming, and political advice to those who would listen. These organizations left a deep mark on French Jewish life- traces of their action, especially the work of the JDC, can still be seen in France today. It is clear that a certain number of structural changes in the postwar period rendered French Jewish life more “American.” Yet before assuming that these changes were imposed by American organizations in exchange for funding, it behooves us to explore how Europeans responded to this presence, and what they thought of the proposed changes.

  • 24 Most employees of the JDC in postwar period were Jewish. Individuals were recruited from Jewish soc (...)

21Here we saw two accounts on the banal problem of getting work done in the postwar JDC offices, in which Americans and Europeans emphasized different reasons for inefficiency and demonstrated different attitudes toward their work environment. Cecilia Razovsky Davidson explained with considerable distance the inefficiency of JDC workers due to the hardship of their lives as Jews in Occupied France. Her account shows that the JDC’s American management was forced to engage with this complex reality, treating its European staff as workers, yet also as European Jews who had survived the occupation.24 Fittingly, the JDC helped establish a professional association for local Jewish welfare workers in the immediate postwar period, l’Association des travailleurs sociaux juifs. The JDC provided its members with food at preferential prices, medical care in JDC-sponsored clinics, and, for the first three years of its existence, subsidized summer vacations (Kahn, 1954). The above-mentioned Paul Baerwald School of Social Work can also be seen as another way in which the JDC sought to retrain Jewish welfare workers, providing those who had entered the field of Jewish welfare during the Occupation with a means of professionalization.

  • 25 This can be seen in other instances, such as in Reims in the immediate postwar period, where French (...)

22Yet American aid efforts towards European Jews were not always received with gratitude, ambiguous feelings abounded. Local Jewish welfare workers had lived through the Occupation, whereas the Americans had not. This fact furthered the legitimacy of French Jews in matters involving postwar Jewish communal life. Paradoxically, while victimhood granted added legitimacy, French Jewish individuals often presented themselves to their American benefactors as partners in the reconstruction process, not as victims.25 Fitting with this attitude, Liselotte’s account does not evoke the hardships of the Occupation or her own hunger. Instead, her humorous piece blames her American colleagues and the busy JDC offices for her inability to type. Emphasizing her own agency, she presents a world in which employees respond to management. Liselotte, the presumed author of the play, had no qualms giving a copy to Razovsky Davidson, a superior and close colleague of her boss, Arthur Greenleigh. Liselotte’s example of “talking back” suggests that the reconstruction of French Jewish life is best understood as a European-American dialogue, rather than an American monologue.

  • 26 Idem.

23Taken together, the two accounts allude to the complexities of the “Jewish Marshall Plan” in France, in which American Jewish organizations sought to assist Jews as they rebuilt their lives after the Shoah. The end result of “Americanization” should be seen as the outcome of a negotiated process involving multiple parties, not just one unilateral benefactor. Indeed, at the end of her sketch, Liselotte, the European secretary, finally orders her American officemate to keep silent and get to work.26

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1 The Jewish Labor Committee (JLC) was established in New York City in 1934 by Jewish individuals who were closely involved in the American Labor movement, as well as political leaders, direct descendants of the Eastern European Bundist movement. On the JLC see the article by Catherine Collomp in this Transatlantica issue.

2 These themes are explored in greater detail in my book (Hobson Faure, 2013).

3 On the American presence in postwar France, see, among others, Wall, 1991 ; Kuisel, 1993 ; Tournès, 1999, 2011 ; Pottier, 2003 ; Endy, 2004.

4 More generally, see Michael Werner and Bénédicte Zimmermann, 2004.

5 The American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee, Report by Loeb and Troper, October 1914 through December 31, 1973. This can be compared with the aid provided by other American organizations in France, such as the Comité Americain des Secours Civils and its American affiliate, American Friends of France, which channeled 2.2 million dollars and 4 million dollars to France in 1944-1945, and 1945-46, respectively, yet after 1948 were unable to raise sufficient funds in the United States (Claflin, 1999, 118).

6 Serge Klarsfeld estimates the total number of Jewish victims of the Final Solution in France at 80,000 (Klarsfeld, 1985, 180). For a discussion of this survival rate, see Renée Poznanski, 1997, 579-83 ; more generally, see Susan Zuccotti, 1993.

7 Doris Bensimon and Sergio Della Pergola estimate the population at 180,000 at the end of 1944 (Bensimon and Della Pergola, 1984, 35). Annette Wieviorka estimates the Jewish population of France at just under 200,000 in the summer of 1944 (Wieviorka, 1995, 5-6).

8 The strong American Jewish support of Jewish life in France, compared to other European countries, can be seen clearly in a 1948 report of the American Joint Distribution Committee. In 1948, this organization was financing twelve reception centers for immigrants in France, while it funded two each in Portugal and Yugoslavia, and one each in Austria, Belgium, Czechoslovakia, and Holland. Likewise, at the same moment, the JDC was funding fifty-four children’s homes in France, compared to thirty-six in Romania, thirty-one in Hungary, fifteen in Poland, ten in Germany, eight each in Belgium and Italy, four in Czechoslovakia, and one each in Austria, Greece, Holland, and Yugoslavia ; Archives départementales de Seine Saint Denis, Fonds David Diamant, 335J/115, JDC, Budget and Research Department Report no. 59, JDC Assistees in Europe and North Africa, 10 November, 1948.

9 In June of 1940, the JDC transferred its activities from Paris to Marseilles, where it provided aid to individuals in the French internment camps. When diplomatic ties between Vichy and the United States were ruptured in November 1942, the JDC was obliged to withdraw all of its American employees from France. However, it did not cease its activities in France during the second half of the war : two French citizens continued to represent the organization, and funds from the JDC were channeled into France via Switzerland and through other diverse means (Hobson Faure, 2011, 293-311).

10 The JDC offices had been used during the occupation by the Union générale des Israélites de France (UGIF). Maurice Brener, one of the French representatives of the JDC, took over the offices after the liberation of Paris. In the spring of 1945, the JDC re-opened its European headquarters in Paris, which where then moved to Geneva in 1958.

11 On the UJA, see Karp, 1981 and Raphael, 1982.

12 The American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee Archives-Israel (JDC-I), Laura Margolis Jarblum collection (non-catalogued), Statistical Report, France, Country Directors Conference, October 1952.

13 JDC Primer, 1945, page France-8 ; percentages based on a Jewish population of 180-200,000 individuals.

14 Pointing out the changes that the JDC inspired in French Jewish life, Mandel characterizes the organization as a vector of American cultural imperialism. My book nuances these findings by analyzing the intense negotiations among French and American Jews to rebuild French Jewish life. My book argues, instead, that the French responses to American Jewish aid strongly influenced the transfer of American structures and practices. See, for example, Hobson Faure (2013, 139-76).

15 JDC-New York, France 1945/54, 151, Executive Committee minutes, 29 January 1957.

16 On Razovsky Davidson’s activism during WWII, see Zucker, 2008.

17 American Jewish Historical Society (AJHS), Cecilia Razovsky Papers, P-290, Box 6, folder 1, Telegram from CH Cramer of UNRRA to Razovsky, September 6, 1944 ; Letter from Director of UNRRA to Razovsky, January 18, 1945.

18 I make this assumption based on her use of expressions such as “An UNRRA worker will have to” American Jewish Historical Society, Cecilia Razovsky Papers, P-290, Box 6, folder 1, Collected Notes on Lecture #3, Cecelia [sic] Razivsky Davidson, 26 July, 1945.

19 Ibid. In light of the fact that the JDC offices were used by the UGIF during the war, it is possible that this damage occurred during the liberation of Paris (Poznanski, 1997, 547 ; Adler, 1989, 221).

20 Idem.

21 The sketch was found in the personal papers of Razovsky Davidson. On its title page was written, in longhand, “Bon voyage ! Liselotte, June 28 1945.” Liselotte is thus most likely the author of the piece, yet it is unclear if the sketch was performed publicly or simply written down. The names of the individuals in the play correspond with the employees of the JDC at that time, allowing us to assume that the author did not attempt to fictionalize the characters. AJHS, Cecilia Razovsky Papers, P-290, Box 6, folder 1, “Scherzo Capriccioso in AJDC Major,” signed “Bon Voyage, Liselotte,” June 28, 1945.

22 Idem.

23 Idem.

24 Most employees of the JDC in postwar period were Jewish. Individuals were recruited from Jewish social networks, and Yiddish was often necessary for assisting Jews from Eastern Europe who sought JDC assistance.

25 This can be seen in other instances, such as in Reims in the immediate postwar period, where French Jews, in dire need of basic necessities, granted hospitality to American Jewish soldiers. As the former emphasize in oral history interviews, French Jews exercised distinction ; hospitality was not granted to all (Hobson Faure, 2013, 90-97).

26 Idem.

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Laura Hobson Faure, « American Jewish Mobilization in France after World War II: Crossing the Narratives »Transatlantica [En ligne], 1 | 2014, mis en ligne le 29 septembre 2014, consulté le 21 mai 2024. URL : ; DOI :

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