AMERICAN JEWISH CHAPLAINS AND THE SHEARIT HAPLETAH: APRIL-JUNE 1945
by ALEX GROBMAN
WITH THE PENETRATION of the Siegfried Line in March 1945, the United States Army moved rapidly into southern and central Germany, advancing as far as the Alps and the Elbe River. As the war ended, the United States Military Government established in Germany gradually assumed responsibility for implementing policy in the American zone of occupation. That policy included a broad range of goals: among them, denazification and demilitarization of Germany; the rapid economic rehabilitation of Germany and Europe, thus ensuring "the continuance of free enterprise"; and halting the growth of communism, or at least "to contain the Soviet Union in central Europe."1 Nevertheless, these goals had to yield to more immediate problems created by the devastation of war, problems exacerbated by the presence of over 10,000,000 displaced persons in Germany - a group including concentration camp inmates, prisoners of war, slave laborers, voluntary workers, and foreign volunteers who had been transported to the Third Reich during the last months of the war.
The Jewish DPs (Displaced Persons), primarily survivors of the concentration camps, inevitably presented unique and difficult problems.2 The military government made every effort to assist these people, yet it failed to understand the specific dilemmas that liberation posed for them. This is not surprising, since the staff of the military government "had been trained mostly to get communication and transport going again, behind a front line, not to govern." Consequently, these military officials had no idea "how to deal with the wreckage of human minds and spirits, which was to constitute their major problem in Germany."3 They failed to recognize that the Jews, having been singled out for destruction, required special types of attention and assistance. Not only were Jewish survivors still beset by intolerable living conditions -inadequate food, clothing, plumbing facilities, medical attention - they also lacked the freedom to choose their own destiny. From the Army's standpoint, the logical solution to the problems of all the DPs, including the Jews, was to repatriate them -irrespective of conditions in their countries of origin-as soon as possible. Admittedly, the majority of non-Jewish DPs wished to return to their homelands. But of the approximately 200,000 European Jews who remained in Germany and Austria at the end of the war, many were reluctant to do so, particularly the Jews from Poland and Lithuania, who comprised a large portion of the Jewish survivors.4 Some of these people-the exact number is unknown-had gone back to their homelands to search for family and friends. Yet once they completed their search, they returned to Germany. Wherever they went in eastern Europe, they were greeted with disdain and frequently subjected to various kinds of harassment, including arrest on the absurd charge that they had collaborated with the Nazis. Many of them also found themselves homeless; their residences had often been confiscated by former friends and neighbors. Thus, unlike the Jews from western Europe, Hungary, Romania, and Czechoslovakia, who were in a better position to reclaim their possessions and begin to rebuild their lives, the majority of Jews from eastern Europe understandably feared repatriation.5
To organize the processing and care of the DPs, a special Displaced Persons Executive (DPX) had been established at Supreme Headquarters, Allied Expeditionary Forces (SHAEF). On April 16, 1945, DPX issued a memorandum asserting that no DPs were to be "returned to their countries of nationality or district of former residence unless they have committed war crimes," or were "identified as Soviet citizens by Soviet Repatriation Representatives. "Yet many local Army commanders neglected to inform the Jews of this option and even bribed or coerced them to accept repatriation.6 They did so in part because they simply could not comprehend why the Jews from eastern Europe wished to be recognized as a separate nationality. No information about the unique situation confronting these Jews had been given the military officers, either in the Handbook for Military Government used in Germany or in any of the other official army manuals. In fact, in an American War Department pamphlet in 1944, the United States Military Government was urged to "avoid creating the impression that the Jews are to be singled out for special treatment, as such action will tend to perpetuate the distinction of Nazi racial theory."7 Moreover, as combat soldiers who felt decidedly uneasy in their new role as arbitrators and administrators for civilian groups, these officers resented anyone who disturbed the status quo. Therefore, many of them operated as "free agents," amazed "that there was any place in field operations for policy decisions made in Washington."8
Under these circumstances, it fell to the relatively few American Jewish chaplains (approximately thirty) who passed through Germany during the initial occupation period April-June 1945, to deal with the problems of the Jewish DPs there. The chaplains were American military personnel who were among the first Jews from the United States to meet survivors. Although their primary obligation was to American soldiers, some chaplains chose to help the DPs. They were not official representatives of the American rabbinate or any other organization in this work. In helping the DPs, the chaplains had comparatively few options. They could attempt, by making these people's needs known to the army, to influence the military government's policies toward them or, failing that, take the initiative, which sometimes meant jeopardizing their own careers by engaging in covert actions, and thus ease at least the most immediate traumas and dilemmas confronting Jewish survivors in Germany.
Let us turn now to those chaplains who worked most intensively with these groups of Jews.
Chaplain Abraham Haselkorn, a reform rabbi, had been in the Mannheim- Heidelberg area only a few weeks when he learned that 249 survivors (Jews from Radom, Poland) from the Vaihingen concentration camp near Stuttgart desperately needed his help. After being liberated they had been taken to a village in the French occupation zone to be nursed back to health. When Haselkorn visited them in late May or early June, he found them in the care of a French Red Cross team and under the jurisdiction of the French Military Government. Only 100 of them were well enough to meet with him; the rest were still bedridden with typhus.
At this meeting, Haselkorn learned that the French planned to send these Jews to a Polish DP camp, and that all of them feared for their lives. Deeply concerned, he contacted Lieutenant Albert A. Hutler, an officer in charge of DPs in southwest Germany, to try to have the group transferred to the American zone. At first, Hutler appeared reluctant, the Army being extremely strict about moving DPs from one zone to another, especially when this required feeding, clothing, and housing them for a lengthy period. Haselkorn, however, remained adamant; after Hutler himself had met with the survivors, he, too, agreed that they had to be transferred. The French officer in charge proved very sympathetic and willingly provided the beds, mattresses, and pillows the survivors needed. Hutler arranged for transportation and had the group temporarily housed at a camp in Bensheim until more permanent quarters could be found.
Hutler than surveyed the area and soon turned up a castle, Schloss Langenzell, about nine miles from Heidelberg. He proceeded to evict the few German families and non-German collaborators living there and on June 18, 1945, moved the Jews in. Two workers from the United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation Agency (UNRRA) under the direction of Lieutenant Cal Plessner of the Heidelberg Landkreis (rural counties) detachment ran the "camp" for this group of Jews. The Army provided their basic needs, and many soldiers, both Jewish and non-Jewish, contributed clothing, food, and books. Within a short time, a camp committee was established, one of its many functions being to trace the survivors' families. Haselkorn spent much of his time with these survivors, serving as both counselor and friend.
Shortly after he had moved the Jews into Schloss Langenzell, Hutler informed his commanding officer, Lieutenant Charles Winning (a former professor at New York University), of what he had done. Until then he had acted strictly on his own initiative, knowing full well that the penalty for such independent action could have been a court-martial. But instead of reprimanding him, Winning praised his work and requested to see "our Jews." Hutler then went to the camp to arrange for him to visit Meyer Guttman, chairman of the Jewish survivors' committee. When Winning arrived, he was satisfied with what he saw and expressed his wish to help in every way possible.9
Like Haselkorn, some chaplains fo~nd they could count on the good will of their superior officers. In Buchenwald, for example, Chaplain Herschel Schacter, an orthodox rabbi assigned to the Third Army's VIII Corps, convinced the colonel in charge of civilian affairs that the Jews deserved special consideration. Although it required many long hours of discussion, Schacter received permission for a group of young people from the camp to set up a kibbutz to prepare them for life in Palestine.10
On June 3, 1945, the first group left Buchenwald for their new home on a farm at Eggendorf. Through this move they had hoped to demonstrate their abhorrence to living in the former camp, their dislike of being dependent on philanthropy and the good will of others, and their desire to channel reawakened energy that was seeking an outlet.11 Most of the members of this new kibbutz, which they named Kibbutz Buchenwald, had been Zionists before the war (from such divergent groups as Agudath Israel and Hashomer Hazair), while the rest came to realize, as a result of their suffering, that the only place for Jews was Erez Israel.
Within a few weeks, however, they were forced to move farther west as the Russian army advanced into their area. On June 24, 1945, the group arrived in Geringshof, outside the city of Fulda. Before the war, there had been a religious Hachshara there and the members of Kibbutz Buchenwald persuaded the American military authorities to let them rebuild it. Chaplains Herschel Schacter and Robert Marcus, an orthodox rabbi assigned to Headquarters IX Tactical Air Corps, visited the kibbutz whenever they could and brought food, clothing, and reading material. With the cooperation of the American military, Marcus provided furniture and household utensils and bought tools with money donated by Jewish soldiers in his unit. He was also instrumental in obtaining immigration certificates that the group had requested.12
As accommodating as some of the military officers could be, the chaplains recognized that they could not expect these officers to violate army regulations indefinitely, and in some cases they had to strike out on their own. This was the experience of Chaplain Ernst Lorge, a reform rabbi assigned to the 69th Division. During the period from April 26 to June 30, he assisted over 1,000 jewish women who had survived Auschwitz. He discovered that they were living in DP camps east of Leipzig, in Wurzen, Grimma, and Torgau, on a level close to starvation. He requested help from Major General Emil F. Reinhart, the commander of his division. Reinhart immediately ordered a twenty percent cut in the division's rations and had the surplus given to the Jews. Lorge organized a "mercy caravan" of five jeeps to distribute the food and also arranged to have medical supplies sent along.
Shortly before the Americans were to evacuate the region and allow the Russians to take over this zone, the Jews besieged Lorge with requests that they not be left behind. The Army, in fact, provided special trains to transport many of the DPs who wished to go to the American zone, but it insisted that Jews travel together with Christian Poles. These Jews, however, adamantly refused to board the train, and Lorge spent considerable time negotiating with the American military and German railroad authorities until the Jews were allowed to have their own train.
Lorge then had to decide what was to be done with the Jews who were still confined in the hospital in Grimma. They had vowed to commit suicide unless they were taken to the American sector, and Lorge believed many of them were prepared to carry out their threat. Yet rather than ask his commanding officer to violate army regulations, which strictly prohibited the removal of hospital patients without authorization, Lorge chose to ignore this rule. With the help of a Jewish major in the Ordnance Corps, he managed to find two trucks and non-Jewish drivers, who transported about thirty of the patients from Grimma and began searching for a hospital in Bavaria. Two hospitals refused to admit them, but they were accepted in a third, a field hospital.13
Like Lorge, other chaplains ran the risk of jeopardizing their careers in order to assist survivors. For example, Herbert Eskin, an orthodox rabbi attached to the Special Troops, 100th Infantry Division, won support for some of his requests, concerning special rights and privileges for the German Jews and DPs in Stuttgart, where his unit was stationed. But when his other requests were denied, he resorted to a number of illegal activities.
He obtained assistance for the most immediate problem he encountered: how to find a home for the Jews who were wandering aimlessly through the city looking for aid. He asked the new mayor of Stuttgart to allow him to use a three-story, block-long building that had once belonged to a prominent Jewish family. The mayor agreed, and Eskin established a committee, the Israelitische Kultusvereinigung of Stuttgart, to organize relief work. Subsequently, as a tribute to his efforts, the building became known as the Eskin House.
Each of the survivors who came to this center was able to find someone with whom he could discuss his problems. In addition, room, board, and clothing were provided for all those in need and an effort made to contact their relatives. The city administration also supplied these Jews with a daily ration of 2,000 calories, the amount accorded physical laborers. Eskin was able to supplement this with food provided by two Jewish soldiers in the Quartermaster Corps.
For the first few weeks after the liberation, Eskin reports that he was able to obtain meat from the local farmers and additional food from German groceries. Subsequently, however, he had to procure food through illegal means. At night, he and five or six otheriewish soldiers would go off to different villages in the area and force the farmers, at gunpoint, to slaughter their cattle and prepare them for cooking. For these trips, Eskin "borrowed" a two-and-a-half ton army truck from the motor pool and followed behind in his jeep. On the way back, he and his men would raid a German grocery store and take whatever else they needed. By four a.m. they would return the truck and be ready for the six o'clock formation.
During this same time, Eskin learned that twenty Jewish girls were in a labor camp near the city of Heilbronn, where they were still being used as prostitutes. When Eskin arrived with three otherjewish soldiers, he closed off the rear exit of the building and as the men came out the front, his soldiers struck them with their rifle butts. Eskin and his men liberated the girls, who were then taken to an army hospital and later to a convalescent home in Degerloch.
They were not the first group of Jews Eskin arranged to have transported to Degerloch. After learning that former residents of Stuttgart were still in Theresienstadt, he arranged to have them brought back to Stuttgart. He was forced to use charcoal-burning buses, because his request to the American and French Military Governments for gasoline had been denied. Actually, according to official regulations, he was prohibited from asking even for assistance with transportation.14
Another chaplain who took severe risks was Eugene Lipman, a reform rabbi, assigned to Headquarters XII Corps. In the Cologne region he found DPs who desperately required his help200 Jews from Buchenwald, Dachau, and Theresienstadt. To aid them, Lipman asked many Jewish soldiers scattered through the Ruhr (the region from below Cologne to Essen and Duisburg) to beg, borrow, or steal food packages from their mess units. In addition, together with a few Jewish soldiers, he would go out at night to army food dumps and steal huge amounts of rations. This project lasted only about a month, for on June 15, 1945, he was transferred to Pilsen, Czechoslovakia.15
For several reasons, most chaplains rarely encountered Jewish children who had survived. For one thing, very few of the children had managed to survive the war; for another, those who had were quickly removed from Germany by the Army. In fact, on June 7, 1945, a SHAEF cable stated that all unaccompanied children under seventeen years of age were to be taken out of Germany and cared for temporarily in liberated areas.16 To ensure that the children would be safely relocated, several Jewish organizations asked the French government to accept some of the orphans; in late May, France agreed to admit 500 of them in the first of two transports. At the time, the Jewish organizations that requested the move could not have foreseen the complications it was to entail; nor could the Jewish chaplains who helped transport the children to France.
In addition to the 500 children permitted, others managed to board this transport, raising the number to 535. Most of them had been interned in Buchenwald, though ninety-two had been in the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp. Sylvia Neulander, a Jewish woman working for the American Red Cross, brought the latter group to Buchenwald, because she learned that Hillersleben, the area to which the liberated Belsen group had been assigned, was about to be turned over to the Russians. From Buchenwald she then went on to Paris to await the children's arrival there.17
Chaplain Robert Marcus, who had worked with many of these children in Buchenwald, accompanied them on this trip. On June 7, the transport reached Thionville, a French border town, where it was met by representatives of SHAEF, the American Red Cross, and the French government. The children were then divided into two groups. *A SHAEF representative took 427 of them to a chateau in Normandy belonging to the French branch of the Oeuvre de Secours aux Enfants (OSE). According to an agreement announced on May 25, these children were to be cared for by the OSE and financially supported by the American Jewish joint Distribution Committee UDC). The other 108, including the ninety-two from Bergen-Belsen, went on to Paris with Marcus. He was determined to keep the Belsen survivors intact as a group in Paris, because they already had immigration certificates for Palestine.18
Nonetheless, when Marcus and his group arrived at the Gare de l'Est on June 8, an official of the French Ministry of Prisoners, Deportees, and Refugees informed him that "the children are in France now" and that the French government would decide their fate. Marcus reminded the man that the de Gaulle government was obliged to adhere to the agreement reached with SHAEF. The official refused to listen and a heated debate ensued.19
Sylvia Neulander, who was at the station to greet the children, tried to help Marcus, but several French welfare workers brushed her aside, explaining that the affair was none of her business. She then appealed to Carl Levin, a correspondent for the New York Herald Tribune. After Levin arrived and witnessed the scene, he wrote a story that appeared on the paper's front page under the headline: "Europe Vies for Orphaned Jews; Seeks Them to Build Population."
At this stage, Marcus did not know how the French proposed to handle his charges, but until a satisfactory solution could be found, he consented to have them taken to the deportee center at the Hotel Lutetia. There, however, he discovered that the French planned to send most of them to the Nonsectarian Committee of the Resistance, as wards of the French state. Marcus was deeply disturbed by the news. And as nuns circulated among the children, he realized that the struggle for the children's souls had just begun. France was not the only country vying for the custody of Jewish orphans, but this confrontation brought the problem into the open.20
Marcus had to return to his unit before the question could be decided, but Neulander stayed in Paris to continue the fight. She sent letters to Hadassah; to the Jewish Agency for Palestine; to Rabbi Stephen S. Wise, President of the American Jewish Congress and one of the most prominent leaders of American Jewry; and to anyone else she thought could help. What impact, if any, her correspondence had on these organizations and individuals cannot be determined.
In the meantime, the children were moved to a rest camp, but with the aid of a Jewish chaplain she located them. This episode generated so much publicity that the French ambassador to the United States issued a statement reassuring all those concerned that his government would not interfere with any program sponsored by a Jewish organization to rehabilitate Jewish children. Shortly thereafter, the children were returned to the OSE.21
All these facts notwithstanding, it is equally true that Jews throughout the world owe an enormous debt of gratitude to the nuns of France, Belgium, and Italy, especially for giving refuge and care to thousands of Jewish children in the prewar and early war years. Had it not been for the nuns, these children doubtlessly would have perished.
Chaplain Herschel Schacter accompanied a second transport of children from Buchenwald to Switzerland on June 19. The Swiss government had stipulated that only 350 children under the age of sixteen would be allowed into the country. Schacter found only 250 in Buchenwald, but Chaplain Ernst Lorge sent along others. When the transport left, it included 279 children under the age of sixteen. With Schacter's help, another 171 stowaways of varying ages, some over the age of sixteen, also managed to get aboard the train.
While still at Thionville, Schacter obtained permission from the French government to allow 102 of his charges to remain in France, where they would be cared for by the OSE. The remaining 348 continued on to Switzerland with him. When the train reached Switzerland, armed troops surrounded it to ensure that only the prescribed number of children, and only those under age sixteen, be allowed to enter the country. After the troops discovered there were children over the age limit, they- refused to admit the transport. Schacter contacted the Swiss Jewish community and the American consul to help with this impasse, and after some time, the Swiss agreed to admit all 348 children.22
While the problems of what to do with the Jewish children had been resolved quickly, those affecting adult Jewish survivors would require some time. Chaplain Abraham Klausner, a reform rabbi, did everything possible to make the Army acknowledge the uniqueness of the Jews' situation. He worked not only to ameliorate immediate problems and needs, but also to have Jewish survivors recognized as a separate nationality, to establish separate camps for them, and to create an organization that would represent their interests to the military. At the same time, he tried to alert American Jews to their plight.
Klausner arrived at Dachau during the third week in May to join the 116th Evacuation Hospital Unit. Conditions at the camp had been so horrendous that the medical staff worked day and night to save those who could be nursed back to health. No one knew what functions Klausner was to perform aside from presiding over the burying of the dead and signing the death register. Klausner was surprised and relieved that the survivors did not vent on him the anger they felt toward American Jews for failing to save them. Instead of recriminations and bitterness, they expressed an eagerness to rebuild their lives and rejoin their families. Embarrassed because he had nothing to offer these people except the little mezzuzot ordinarily distributed by chaplains to Jewish soldiers, Klausner was also deeply disturbed to see that the Jews in Dachau were still dressed in their camp uniforms and still forced to live behind barbed wire.
Shortly before his unit was ordered out of Dachau on June 2, 1945, he realized that he could do something to improve their lot. Many inmates questioned him about their relatives in the United States, among them, a man so ill that he was still confined to his barracks. He told Klausner he had a brother who had emigrated to America and become an orthodox rabbi. Fortunately, that very rabbi, Chaplain Abraham Spiro, had come to Europe with Klausner and been assigned to the 17th Reinforcement Depot. After Klausner had brought the two brothers together, he realized how urgently survivors needed to be reunited with relatives, and he conceived of a plan to help facilitate such reunions.
His idea was to compile and publish volumes containing systematic, exhaustive lists of survivors and distribute these volumes throughout the world. Prior to this, chaplains stationed in specific areas had assembled lists of the Jews confined there and generally sent these to Chaplain Judah Nadich, a conservative rabbi who served at the office of the Theater Chaplain in Paris. At Buchenwald, for example, Chaplains Herschel Schacter and Robert Marcus had asked a group of inmates to list all their fellow survivors at the camp, including many women who had drifted into the camp from surrounding areas. Through Judah Nadich, these lists were then sent to the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp and the JDC in New York.
Before Klausner could implement his plan, however, his unit was ordered out of Dachau and sent to a resort over 100 miles away to recover from battle fatigue. The soldiers had been in Europe since the battle of Anzio. Klausner accompanied the men, but once at the resort, he realized that he was needed back at Dachau. As the truck began its return trip, he jumped on board, being careful to disembark before it entered the camp so as to forestall objections to his return. He then went to the 127th unit, which also had been working in Dachau, and informed the offices that he had been reassigned. His papers, he assured them, would arrive later. After the 127th departed, Chaplain Max Braude, an orthodox rabbi stationed with the Seventh Army Headquarters, arranged to have Klausner assigned to another unit to prevent his being court-martialled. Fortunately for Klausner, this period of postwar transition was utterly chaotic: either no one knew of his return or whoever may have did not report him.23
Before leaving Dachau, Klausner set up a committee to compile thorough lists of Jewish survivors. In Landsberg, where Adolf Hitler had written Mein Kampf over twenty years earlier, he found a print shop and bribed the printer to publish these lists. On June 21, 1945, the first volume appeared. Containing the names of thousands of Jewish survivors in Bavaria, the volume was sent to Jews throughout the world. just how important it and the subsequent volumes were, can be gauged by the enormous demand for copies. Requests for all six volumes came from Jewish relief agencies in the United States, England, France, Spain, and Palestine, as well as from other chaplains, UNRRA teams, and civil affairs officers.24
The first volume had particularly great significance for the survivors, because it represented their first major attempt to communicate with Jews in the west. Klausner used this Shearit Hapletah volume not only to comfort and reassure the survivors, but also to inform them of their rights. In his foreword, he explained that for several reasons the volume could not provide a definitive account of all survivors in the area: former inmates of the camps and hospitals were constantly on the move and some camps were being closed; in addition, a number of Jews were returning to their former lands. Consequently, in some cases, a name listed merely signified that an individual had been at the camp indicated when the list was compiled. Klausner assured the survivors that he would do everything he could to reunite them with their families and friends, and that more complete lists of all the Jews in Germany would be forthcoming within a few weeks.
In his foreword, Klausner also pledged to do whatever he could to help the survivors until they were free to rebuild their lives where they chose. By this time, schools were being established at the larger DP camps and initial efforts made to provide Jews with religious materials. The latter became available when the United States Military Government seized an enormous library that the Nazis had stolen in Warsaw and brought to Germany. Klausner acted quickly and had the collection distributed throughout Bavaria.
To enable survivors to know and understand their rights, Klausner also prefaced this volume with a special page entitled "Regarding Your Rights." Here, he emphasized that Jews did not have to return to their former countries, that they were entitled to decide the question of repatriation freely, not under duress. He pointed out that those who wanted to be repatriated would be able to return home when regular transports began operating, and that all other immigration problems would be resolved on an individual basis by the JDC as soon as it established its office in Germany.
Klausner also asserted that the Jews had a right to communicate with their families and friends throughout the world. Since there was no mail service at this point, and civilians were forbidden to use the army postal system, Klausner urged Jewish DPs to give their mail to their camp leaders. The latter than forwarded the letters to Klausner, who sent them through the army mail under his own name and address. Much of this mail was sent to the Jewish Welfare Board in New York. The JWB sorted the letters and then mailed them to all parts of the world.
Klausner concluded his foreword to the first volume by asking for the survivors' indulgence. "It is difficult," he said, "to beg of those who have so long and severely suffered to be patient. Yet we must constantly remind our unfortunate brethren that the tyrants destroyed our world in six years and as much as we would like to, we cannot repair it in six weeks."25
Before detailing Klausner's other activities, we should note that other chaplains were also involved in letter-writing campaigns, either individually or with committees of soldiers. For example, Chaplain Eli A. Bohnen, a conservative rabbi assigned to the 42nd Infantry Division, arrived at Dachau with his assistant, Eli Heimberg, on April 30, a day after the camp was liberated. They found that many survivors were desperately eager to communicate with relatives in the United States. Bohnen and Heimberg listened to their stories and then wrote a number of letters for them to their families in the U.S.26
Similarly, in Buchenwald, Chaplain Herschel Schacter had a committee of Jewish soldiers handle the large volume of mail sent out from the camp. To prevent the Army from curtailing this project, he had the letters placed in military envelopes and readdressed by the soldiers' committee.27
Chaplain Robert Marcus also handled survivors' mail, sending it to the World Jewish Congress; on one occasion, he sent 933 letters. Many of them, however, could not be forwarded to the survivors' home towns because of misspellings and insufficient information. A good number of the letters were addressed to Christians, probably friends and neighbors, indicating that few survivors believed their fellow Jews were alive. In fact, when a visiting American Jewish journalist told these DPs that about 40, 000 Jews were still in Poland, they did not believe it possible. They were convinced that no Jews had survived.28
The World Jewish Congress observed that many of the letters, written on scraps of paper, started with the same type of sentence: "I cannot describe my sufferings to you. It is sufficient to tell you that I am all alone in the world; all of my relatives have been killed by the Nazis. I wonder how and why I have survived. I do not know what to do with myself. I would be very grateful to you if you were to facilitate my immigration to Palestine or to the United States."29
But to return to Klausner, the next project he undertook involved placing the Jewish DPs in Bavaria in separate Jewish camps, and those in need of medical care in separate hospitals. At the end of the war, people released from concentration camps were allowed to enter any of the DP camps established by the Army. Although the Army had learned from bitter experience in Italy "the necessity of segregating nationalities into separate camps or at least within separate parts of the same camp," it overlooked this lesson when dealing with the Jews in Germany.30 To Klausner, the need for separate Jewish camps had become abundantly clear, especially after he had made lengthy visits to seventeen DP camps in an area extending northward from the Brenner Pass to the North Munich Staging Area, and westward from Eggenfelden to Turkheim. Someday, he believed, an organization or group would come and lead the Jews out of Germany, and he wanted them to be ready. Until then, by consolidating them in Jewish camps, he could at least protect them from the frequent harassment and mistreatment they had suffered earlier at the hands of non-Jewish inmates.
There were also hundreds of Jewish survivors left in German hospitals, where they were being cared for by German physcians. Klausner understood how traumatic such an experience was for them, but before he could remove the Jews from these hospitals, he had to find suitable replacement quarters.31
The first turned out to be St. Ottilien, a Benedictine monastery located in the village of Schwabenhausen about thirty miles from Munich. During the war, the Nazis had used the monastery as a military hospital; when Klausner found St. Ottilien, it was still functioning as a hospital, caring for 400 Jews, as well as a number of German and Hungarian soldiers. Most of the Jews there, former inmates of Dachau, had been removed from the camp by the Nazis just before it was liberated. Subsequently they were freed by the United States Army in the village of Schwabenhausen. Captain Otto B. Raymond, one of the first American officers to arrive in the village, immediately placed Dr. Zalman Grinberg, a young physician from Kovno, in charge of the hospital. Grinberg had been among the Jewish survivors liberated at Schwabenhausen. Together with Captain Raymond, he had the wounded among the survivors driven by ambulance to St. Ottilien. Klausner then proceeded to have the Hungarian and German soldiers moved out, so that S.t. Ottilien became a DP hospital strictly for Jewish survivors.
Klausner soon located a second hospital-Gauting, a tuberculosis sanatorium southwest of Munich-and informed the German in charge that he was taking over. Grinberg came down from St. Ottilien to help organize the hospital and see that it was staffed with competent Jewish physicians. Until the latter arrived, however, the German physicians were retained. Klausner tried to set up other medical centers for the Jews during this period, but the obstacles proved too great. Eventually, though, he did manage to establish a third Jewish hospital.32
Having satisfied the need for separate medical facilities, Klausner devoted his energy to setting up separate Jewish camps. He chose a camp called Feldafing, which previously had been an internment camp for prisoners of war and, at an earlier date, a training school for Hitler youth. Lieutenant Irving J. Smith, an American Jew serving with the United States Military Government, supervised the camp. Smith had arrived in the nearby village of Tutzing in early May 1945 and, together with other officers, had found many former concentration camp inmates in an abandoned train at the Tutzing railroad siding. These inmates had been in the Muh1dorf and Wald concentration camps; they had been brought to the railroad siding by a small group of SS guards. After Smith and his men had liberated these survivors, he placed the most seriously ill among them in local hospitals and transported the rest to the Feldafing camp.
In the surrounding areas, Smith found another large contingent of Jews whom he took back to the Feldafing camp. Thus, during the month of May, there were 3,500 Jewish DPs in the camp, including 800 women and 300 children. Smith also established a hospital and staffed it with refugee physicians. He had food procured from the local German villages and supplemented with Red Cross packages. Chaplain Max Braude also helped obtain supplies. Together with a group of American Jewish soldiers, he provided tons of food for the people in the Feldafing camp. On one occasion he even brought them five tons of bread and 2,000 pairs of shoes. With the aid of a Hungarian rabbi, he also set up a synagogue in the camp, equipping it with prayer books, talltot, and a Torah scroll.33
Despite all these efforts, Feldafing had not yet become an exclusively Jewish camp. Braude, Klausner, and Smith were eager that it should, but before this could be accomplished, the Hungarian nationals in Feldafing had to be moved elsewhere and Jews brought in from another camp. Although this transfer of Hungarians and Jews ran counter to army regulations, Klausner had scarcely any difficulty convincing the - authorities of the wisdom of the move, for an upsurge of nationalistic feeling in many camps throughout the region had resulted in fights and killings. By limiting the number of national groups in each camp, most of these episodes of violence could be prevented. Naturally, the Army could not provide separate camps for all nationality groups, but it agreed to permit Feldafing to become predominantly Jewish. Some Jews were also sent to the Landsberg DP camp; ultimately, through Klausner's efforts, it became a Jewish camp as well.
Klausner adroitly resolved the question of which Jews should be sent to Feldafing. As with the transfer of the Hungarians, he found a solution that coincided with the needs of the military.
Dachau was then to become a processing center for captured Nazis, which meant that all the camp inmates had to be transferred elsewhere. Klausner offered to resettle them at St. Ottilien, Gauting, and Feldafing. With the official aid of Colonel Milton Richmond, who headed a special American military transport unit in Dachau, the transfer was arranged. Those who went to St. Ottilien and Gauting were transported in ambulances provided by the medical officer at Dachau. Klausner used these ambulances also to search for and transport ailing Jews scattered throughout Bavaria. Dr. Sidney Berkowitz (Burke), attached to the Tenth Army Hospital at Allach (a sub-camp of Dachau), accompanied Klausner on these trips and personally determined which Jews needed special care. By late June or early July, when they had completed their trips, Feldafing was predominantly Jewish. Although Lieutenant Irving J. Smith, who, as noted earlier, supervised Feldafing, regarded this as an end in itself, Klausner intended the success of Feldafing merely as the first step toward a broader goal: the official recognition of the Jews by the Army as a separate nationality.
To implement this goal, in mid-June 1945 Klausner went to the Army headquarters in Munich to speak to Captain McDonald, the officer in charge of DP affairs. While waiting for his interview, Klausner observed that McDonald was virtually besieged with endless demands for help from DPs of various nationalities. When Klausner's turn came, he used a different approach. Instead of adding to the lists of grievances, he offered to relieve the Army of some of its responsibilities toward the Jews. He proposed to assemble the Jews of southern Germany and Austria into an organization that would represent them in all negotiations with the American authorities. McDonald was so impressed with the wisdom of Klausner's proposal that even before clearing it with his superior, he gave Klausner permission to proceed. Obviously, the scheme did not accord with army regulations, but McDonald was more intent on finding practical solutions than on pleasing the higher echelons of the military bureaucracy.
Having obtained approval for his plan, Klausner acquired part of the Deutsches Museum in Munich to house the organization; then he toured all the camps to build support for it. On June 24, 1945, he discussed his ideas with an enthusiastic group of camp representatives, who had come to the Flak-Kaserne (a DP center in Munich) to greet the first men to arrive with the Jewish Brigade. Established by the British in September 1944, the Brigade was formed by absorbing a number of Palestinian units serving in the British Army. Together with the camp representatives, Klausner decided to convene a special conference on July 1, 1945, at Felclafing to establish this organization, which subsequently became known as the Central Committee of Liberated Jews in Bavaria.
Just before the conference, which was to be attended by representatives of all DP camps, convened, McDonald's superior officer, a Colonel Elkins, called Klausner into his office and told him that army regulations prohibited the founding of such an organization. He advised Klausner to restrict himself to supplying information, though as Klausner was leaving, he added: "But do a good job." Klausner thanked him and returned to Dachau.
In the short time Klausner had been in Bavaria, he had initiated many crucially important changes that inspired renewed faith and trust in many of the Jewish DPs. By establishing a unique relationship with the Army, he had acquired the freedom to act exclusively on the Jews' behalf and significantly improved their lot.
To review his achievements: he had compiled, printed, and circulated throughout the world the first Shearit Hapletah vol- ume; established St. Ottilien and Gauting, which were providing Jewish DPs with excellent medical care; taken measures to supply Jews with food, clothes, and religious items; initiated a mail ser- vice; proposed an idea, rapidly gaining acceptance, for an organi- zation to represent the Jews of southern Germany and Austria in all negotiations with the American military authorities; and carefully informed Jews of their rights. These achievements were indeed outstanding. Otherjewish chaplains, as noted in this article, also assumed responsibility for aiding survivors, and frequently solved immediate problems most effectively. Generally, however, they were unable to produce major changes in the Army's policy toward the Jewish DPs, there simply being neither time nor op- portunity for such long-range solutions. Nevertheless, all these chaplains created better conditions for the Jewish DPs and significantly eased their lot.
ACRONYMS USED IN ARTICLE
||(Supreme Headquarters, Allied Expeditionary Forces)
||(National Jewish Welfare Board)
||(United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation Agency)
||(American Jewish joint Distribution Committee)
||(Displaced Persons Executive)
||(Cleuvre de Secours aux Enfants)
1. John Gimbel, The American Occupation of Germany.- Politics and the Military 1945-1949 (Stanford, 1968), xii.
2. Malcolm J. Proudfoot, European Refugees (London, 1957), 324.
3. Edward N. Peterson, The American Occupation of Germany, Retreat to Victory (Detroit, 1977), 86 and 90.
4. The New York Times (hereafter referred to as NYT), April 22, 1945, Section IV, p. 5; April 25, 1945, p. 1; May 30, 1945, p. 6; Yehuda Bauer, Flight and Rescue.- Brichah (New York, 1970), 47, 50-51.
5. Dorothy Rabinowitz, New Lives (New York, 1976), 61. Atlantic Monthly, July 1945, pp. 87-90; The Jewish Telegraphic Agency Daily News Bulletin (hereafter referred to as JTA), June 10, 1945, p. 4; June 22, 1945, p. 4; Bauer, Brichah, 50; Joseph S. Shubow to Stephen S. Wise, May 23, 1945, World Jewish Congress, New York (hereafter referred to as WjC-NY).
6. Administrative Memorandum Number 39, Revised April 16, 1945, Adviser on Jewish Affairs Archive- Property of Abraham Hyman, Jerusalem, Israel (hereafter referred to as AH).
7. Cited in Leonard Dinnerstein, America and the Survivors of the Holocaust (New York, 1982).
8. Peterson, 87. Interviews with Sylvia Neulander, a Red Cross worker and Chaplains Herschel Schacter and Eli Bohnen, Oral History Division of the Institute of Contemporary Jewry, Hebrew University, Jerusalem (hereafter referred to as Jerusalem, OH).
9. Interviews with Abraham Haselkorn, Albert A. Hutler, and Ernest Michel, Jerusalem, OH. Albert Hutler file at the Central Archives of the Jewish People (hereafter referred to as CAH); Albert Hutler to this author November 8, 1975, author's private file (hereafter referred to as PM). To show their appreciation for this aid, the Jews from Vaihingen concentration camp wrote Abraham Haselkorn a poem with the following inscription: "To Mr. Chaplain Abraham Haselkorn as a sign of profound gratitude for the great help and everything what he made [sic] in the interest of the political ex-prisoners from the concentration camp in Vaihingen," PM.
10. Interview with Herschel Schacter, Jerusalem, OH.
11. Leo Schwarz, The Root and the Bough (New York, 1949), 319. 110 ALEX GROBMAN
12. Robert Marcus to Stephen S. Wise, July 5, 1945, WJC-NY File 92 Drawer 2 72; Robert Marcus to Stephen S. Wise, July 3, 1945 WJC-NY File 55 Drawer 272; Schwarz, 314, 317; and interview with Herschel Schacter, Jerusalem, OH.
13. Interviews with Ernst Lorge and Isaac Zaleon (Lorge's assistant), Jerusalem, OH; Ernst Lorge to Judah Nadich, May 1, 1945, WJC-NY File 64 Drawer 272.
14. Interview with Herbert Eskin, Jerusalem, OH: Herbert Eskin to CANRA, July 1945, JWB Box 20 1; Corps News, no date, JWB Box 20 1.
15. Eugene J. Lipman, Summary of War Experiences, no date, Amcrican Jewish Archives; Eugene Lipman to Philip Bernstein, June 5, 1945, JWB Box 218.
16. Charles 1. Schottland, Memorandum on Stateless and NonRepatriables, August 5, 1945, AH.
17. Interview with Sylvia Neulander, OH; Congress Weekly, June 22, 1945, p. 4; June 9, 1945, pp. 13 -14; JTA, May 7, 1945, p. 4; May 2 7, 1945, p. 4; and NYT, June 9, 1945, p. 4.
18. Congress Weekly, June 9, 1945, pp. 13-14.
19. JTA, May 27, 1945, p. 4; June 11, 1945, p. 2; Robert Marcus to Stephen S. Wise, July 3, 1945, WJC-NY File 55 Drawer 272.
20. New York Herald Tribune, June 9, 1945, pp. 1-2. Also appeared in Jewish Exponent, June 15, 1945, p. 1 andjewish Advocate, June 14, 1945, p. 1; interview with Sylvia Neulander, Jerusalem, OH.
21. Congress Weekly, June 22, 1945.
22. JTA, June 15, 1945, p. 4; Report of the First JDC Team in Germany; Arthur Grcenleigh to JDC office in New York, June 16, 1945, JDC, American Jewish joint Distribution Committee (hereafter referred to as JDC), Germany Displaced Persons File, 1945; Ernst Lorge to CANRA, July 4, 1945 Commission on Jewish Chaplaincy (hereafter referred to as QJC), Box 3 File D; interview with Herschel Schacter, Jerusalem, OH; NYT, June 26, 1945, p. 4; radio program transcript, WINS (New York), November 14, 1945, PM; JTA, January 29, 1945, p. 2.
23. Interview with Abraham Klausner, Jerusalem, OH. For a description of the work done by the Army see Marcus J. Smith, The Harrowing of Hell: Dachau (Albuquerque, 1972).
24. Klausner file, CAH.
25. Shearit Hapletah Volume 1, PM; Abraham Klausner to Philip Bernstein (no date, probably late June 1945), CJC Box 3 File D; Abraham Klausner to Philip Bernstein, June 11, 1945, QJC Box 3 File D.
26. Interviews with Eli Bohnen and Eli Heimberg, Jerusalem, OH; letter from Eli Hcimberg to wife, May 12, 1945, PM; Louis Barish, Rabbi's In Uniform (New York, 1962), 82-86; letter from Rabbi Eli A. Bohnen, CJC Box 3 File D.
27. Interview with Herschel Schacter, Jerusalem, OH.
28. Chaim Finkelstein to office committee, July 5, 1945, WJC-NY, File 67 Drawer 272; The Jewish Spectator, November 1945, pp. 21-23. This differs from the data that Yehuda Bauer found (see Brichah, 54) and from an observation by Kieve Skidell, a former member of Habonim (American Poale Zion youth organization) who was serving in the United States Army in Germany. Skidell remarked that the Jews in Poland had not lost hope that their families were alive ( Yiddisher Kempfer, July 16, 1945). Yet, judging from articles in Pkhias Hamesim, May 4, 1945 (a newspaper published by the Jews in Buchenwald), a number of people talked about being the sole surviving members of their families: WJC-NY, Drawer 272, no file number.
29. Chaim Finkelstein to office committee.
30. Proudfoot, European Refugees, 97.
31. Interview with Abraham Klausner, Jerusalem, OH.
32. Zalman Grinberg, Schuchrarnu MeDachau (Herziliya, 1948), 44-46; Leo Schwarz, The Redeemers (New York: 1953), 3-6; Congress Weekly, February 15, 1946, pp. 6-8; interview with Abraham Klausner, Jerusalem, OH.
33. The New Palestine, October 12, 1945, p. 8; The IndianaJewish Chroni- cle, June 22, 1945, p. 2; October 26, 1945, p. 1; Max Braude to Eunice Braude, May 6, 1945, CJC Box 3 File D; The Jewish Community of Bavaria, YIVO Archives, Shearit Hapletah -Germany File 209; G.R. More to Arieh Tartakower, May 2, 1945, WJC-NY File 91 Drawer 272; Abraham Klausner to Philip Bernstein June 11, 1945 / CJC Box 3 File D; Center Courier, March 1946, p. 3, PM.
34. Interviews with Abraham Klausner and Sidney Burke, Jerusalem, OH.