- About Us
- Get Involved
- For Professionals
During the critical period for the Displaced Persons (DPs) of August 1945- December 1949, seven American Jews served as Advisers on Jewish Affairs to the Theater Commanders of the U.S. Forces in Europe. They interpreted Army regulations to the DPs and advised and guided the American commanders, who were not familiar with Jewish matters. Except for passing references, historical literature on the postwar era has neglected this important subject. It is my aim to examine and evaluate the activities of Philip S. Bernstein, who served for the longest period as Adviser on Jewish Affairs.
In the summer of 1945, the survivors of the concentration camps in Germany and Austria were liberated but not yet free. Living in mixed assembly centers for Displaced Persons alongside Poles, Ukrainians, and Balts, they suffered from discrimination and antisernitism because of the Army's policy of placing all DPs on an equal footing and disregarding the uniqueness of the Jews; this policy caused fear and depression among the Jews. The attitude of the military authorities toward Jewish DPs, particularly in the lower echelons, was often far from cooperative or understanding. The situation in Bavaria, where General George Patton's Third Army held responsibility, was especially bad.1
Pressure from American Jewry, as well as humanitarian and political considerations, led President Truman to dispatch Earl G. Harrison to investigate the DP situation in Germany, with particular reference to the Jewish refugees. Accompanied by Joseph Schwartz of the American joint Distribution Committee (JDC) and others, Harrison toured DP camps in July 1945 and submitted his final report on 24 August 1945. He used harsh words and blamed the Army. "We appear to be treating the Jews as the Nazis treated them, except that we don't exterminate them." The report, realistically pointing out the major grievances of the DPs, recommended setting up separate camps for the Jews and granting them preferential treatment. Furthermore, Harrison called upon the Army to review the personnel that had been selected to work with DPs, and suggested better cooperation between the United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation Administration (UNRRA), the Army, and the DPs. Harrison appealed to Great Britain and the United States to accept a "reasonable number" of Jewish DPs into Palestine and America.2
Harrison's report caused excitement in Washington as well as in military circles in Europe. Secretary of War Henry Stimson cabled to General Eisenhower, Commander in Chief of U.S. Forces in the European Theater (USFET): "We are extremely concerned about its implications. I want to emphasize the importance we attach to this problem and request that everything possible be done to improve present situation."3 Eisenhower promptly responded, by issuing orders to segregate Jewish DPs in special assembly centers and to provide them with special care, including an increase of food to provide 2,500 calories daily. He recognized Jewish refugees as United Nations Displaced Persons, to be treated as stateless and nonrepatriable. Commanders were granted the powers of requisition to ensure that "these persons are accorded priority of treatment over the German population."4
Acceding to pressure, President Truman insisted to Eisenhower that the "conditions which now exist ... require prompt remedy." He called on him "to intensify our efforts" as far as Jewish DPs were concerned.5 Thus Harrison's report, intensified by Truman's personal intervention, significantly changed the atmosphere. Senior generals, including the Theater Commander, visited DP camps and personally inspected the implementation of their orders.6
During the crucial period of Harrison's mission and his report, uncoordinated Jewish efforts had been made, which necessitated the establishment of a liaison officer of Jewish affairs to General Eisenhower. Partially in reaction to the appeal of British Jewry to follow their example of suggesting the attachment of qualified officers to the British Military Government, and mainly in answer to the great need for an adviser to the American Commanding General, intensive Jewish lobbying was carried out during the months of May-July 1945. The American Jewish Conference wrote to the War Department and UNRRA, the American Jewish Committee appealed to the State Department, and Rabbi Stephen S. Wise of the American Jewish Congress wrote directly to Eisenhower.7 It is difficult to determine which steps were most effective. It seems clear, however, that only the repercussions of the Harrison report gave impetus to the decision to nominate an Adviser.8
After some hesitation, on 24 August 1945 Eisenhower appointed Major Judah Nadich, who had served as a chaplain since 1942, as temporary Special Adviser on Jewish Affairs to the Theater Commander for a period of 30 days.9 Since the position of Adviser on Jewish Affairs was "the first of this kind in American annals," Nadich recalled the initial difficulty of defining his responsibilities. His duty was to investigate and observe the conditions of Jewish DPs and to report on his findings. He was supposed to advise military officials as well as UNRRA teams concerning the special problems of Jewish displaced persons.10
During September 1945, Nadich visited DP assembly centers in Germany and Austria and immediately reported directly to the Chief of Staff, General Walter Bedell Smith. Although he found the situation "slowly and gradually improving," he complained that in many instances orders from headquarters were either unknown or ignored. He called for the adoption of appropriate measures so that Eisenhower's instructions would be "translated into action."11
How effective was Nadich as an Adviser? How influential were his reports? It seems clear that in USFET headquarters the reports were taken seriously. After every report Nadich was summoned to discussions with General Smith as well as other generals. Three days after the submission of a report, clarifying orders went out to the commanding generals. Had these instructions been carried out in their entirety by all levels of field command, "the situation would have been changed radically for the better," lamented Nadich. "Unfortunately, however, the execution of the policy set forth . . . was spotty."12 Although not all of his recommendations were accepted and not every order was implemented, Nadich contributed to the implementation of Harrison's report by serving as the eyes and the ears of the Commander in Chief.13
At the same time, the Jewish organizations were holding behindthe-scenes meetings in the United States. From mid-July onward, the American Jewish Committee (AJC) considered several plans to collaborate with other Jewish agencies on DP problems in Europe, including the suggestion of cooperation only with "AJC-minded organizations." However, the Administration's insistence that any candidate as Adviser should be "acceptable to leading Jewish groups and would not be considered partisan of any one group," led to the foundation of the Five Jewish Cooperating Organizations. This body, which consisted of the American Jewish Committee, the American Jewish joint Distribution Committee, the American Jewish Conference, the World Jewish Congress, and the Jewish Agency for Palestine, selected the Advisers, financed their expenses, was consulted on every major issue, and reported periodically. The unified action of American Jews on DP matters from the fall of 1945 to the end of 1949 was a remarkable phenomenon in American Jewish history.14
Nadich considered the selection of Judge Simon H. Rifkind, a modest but firm AJC man, with a good reputation as a federal judge, as "an ideal choice for this newly created position."15 When Rifkind arrived in Frankfurt, where the Adviser's permanent office was located, in October 1945, he was warmly welcomed and treated respectfully by General Eisenhower. Eisenhower called on his subordinates to grant "my personal Adviser" any help requested, and encouraged the Judge to report to him directly. Although Eisenhower left his post a month later, his successor as Commander of the European Theater, General Joseph T. McNarney, continued to show Rifkind courtesy and cooperation. From the outset it was clear that Judge Rifkind commanded the respect of officers at various levels much more than had Major Nadich.16
The new Adviser on Jewish Affairs had barely begun his work when David Ben Gurion, chairman of the Jewish Agency Executive, arrived in Germany on 19 October 1945 to visit the "Saved Remnants." After his tour of the camps, where he was accepted with great enthusiasm as a savior of the DPs, Ben Gurion submitted a memorandum to the military authorities, suggesting self- government for camp inmates and more emphasis on agricultural, vocational, and physical training. What made this memorandum unusual was the proposal to establish a Jewish enclave inside occupied Germany, cleared of Germans, where East European Jewish survivors could almost independently organize their lives. Rifkind not only told Ben Gurion that his proposal of a Jewish enclave would be unacceptable to the Army, but also opposed it in a detailed memorandum to the Chief of Staff. General Smith answered Ben Gurion diplomatically. Although most of Ben Gurion's suggestions were in line with Army policy, Smith rejected the enclave proposal on the grounds that DPs would be opposed to living in a newly created ghetto and it would furthermore increase tensions between them and the German population.17
After Ben Gurion's departure, Rifkind, accompanied by Nadich, toured the DP assembly centers. In his report to General Smith of 1 November 1945, he complimented the Army for its tremendous part in the "rescue and deliverance stage," through which the survivors of the concentration camps had successfully passed, and suggested that "repatriation and resettlement" should be the next step for Jewish DPs. However, since resettlement was beyond the control of the Commanding General, the Army should prepare for a "prolonged duration" of DP life in the camps. This entailed the need to raise the DPs' standard of living for what was considered "semi-permanent residence." Accordingly, Rifkind recommended that they abandon the old view of camps and adopt a new concept of life in civilian communities. While the existing barracks could be used for schools, workshops, and other public activities, American Commanders should use their power of requisition to settle DPs in private homes in German villages. Thus the mental and physical rehabilitation of the survivors of the Holocaust would take place in a pastoral setting, where agricultural work should be encouraged, and educational facilities ought to be provided. But this plan was immediately rejected by General Smith and other officers, because it was "beyond the scope of our capabilities or responsibilities."18 As consolation to Rifkind, another part of his recommendation, namely, the inauguration of a moral and vocational training program, was adopted. Even this was the outcome of political pressure emanating from the United States. As Smith admitted to his superior: "We felt here that because of pressures at home it was desirable to do so to the extent which our means permitted."19
The growing wave of so-called infiltration of Polish Jews (the arrival in the American zone of large numbers of Jews fleeing from postwar Polish antisernitism) overshadowed accomplishments in improving the conditions of the inmates in the Jewish assembly centers. In November 1945 these Polish Jews were entering at the rate of 300-500 per week, overcrowding the existing camps. "The conditions are forcing us back into the so-called 'Rescue' phase," complained General Smith.20 The Army considered recommending that Washington close the Eastern borders, but Judge Rifkind forcefully demanded the opposite, namely, to establish, in Bavaria, a refugee area for East European Jewish refugees, and to construct additional assembly centers for the newcomers. In a frank discussion with the Chief of Staff, Rifkind repeatedly referred to the political pressure that existed in America and expressed his conviction that eventually the President and Congress would approve such a program. As a stopgap measure, the Army erected more DP camps but the influx from the East overwhelmed this effort. The struggle to prevent the closing of borders had only begun and continued to engage Rifkind and his successor.21
During his six-month term Rifkind dealt with the multiple problems of the Jewish DPs, discussing them directly with the top-level military authorities. "This was something revolutionary," noted Dr. Joseph Schwartz, JDC European director. Rifkind lifted the spirits of the DPs and won the respect of both the Army and the Jewish relief workers. In an urgent cable from Jacob L. Trobe, who was responsible for JDC operations in Germany, to JDC chairman Edward Warburg, Trobe indicated: "Rifkind . . . has made tremendous contribution. Urge appropriate authorities invite him stay . . . . All factors in situation here share respect for him by military authorities." Edward Warburg immediately responded, asking Simon Rifkind to continue "for a few extra months." But Judge Rifkind was unable to stay, because of his commitment to the bench, and he returned to the United States in March 1946.22
Rifkind's departure left a vacuum at Army headquarters. However, since the atmosphere in Germany was fairly quiet and stable, the Five Cooperating Organizations in New York felt that it would not be necessary to send a replacement for Rifkind. But violent clashes in April 1946 between the German police and the DPs, followed by riots in Stuttgart, Munich, and Landsberg, significantly changed the situation. JDC representatives in Europe cabled home in alarm: "Absence of representation at Rifkind level more seriously felt each day."23
Pressure from different circles led to the reconsideration of the aforementioned policy. The Five Cooperating Organizations had some difficulty in finding an acceptable candidate. Since Rifkind was an AJC man, the Zionists demanded that one of their people be sent, to which the non- Zionists would not agree. Eventually, in May 1946, they selected Rabbi Philip S. Bernstein. He was probably chosen in spite of his inactive membership in the World Jewish Congress and his Zionist outlook. Bernstein's qualification for the job of Adviser was his position during the war as executive director of the Committee on Army and Navy Religious Activities of the National Jewish Welfare Board. As the person responsible for the chaplains, he was familiar with the problems and, most important, he was available. The Five Cooperating Organizations therefore agreed on his candidacy but demanded from him a commitment to neutrality, to which he dutifully adhered.24 Thus Rabbi Bernstein became the third and most energetic Adviser on Jewish Affairs. He served as Adviser from May 1946 to August 1947, during the hectic days of Jewish "infiltration" from the East.
Philip S. Bernstein was born in 1901 in Rochester, New York, studied at Syracuse University; Hebrew Union College in Cincinnati, Ohio; Cambridge University, England; and the Hebrew University, Jerusalem. He was a successful Reform rabbi in Temple B'rith Kodesh in Rochester. A stocky man and a friendly person, he was a good speaker though not an eloquent orator. Calm and dignified, Bernstein was a diplomat. He could listen well and was able to convince generals not to adopt hasty decisions. The chaplains during the war regarded him as a fair director, and even Orthodox rabbis respected him despite some reservations. Unlike Simon Rifkind, who had a broad Jewish education, Bernstein lacked Orthodox training and did not speak Yiddish well. However, with his tact and fairness he was able to overcome these obstacles in dealing with East European Jewish survivors.25
He requested that his congregation give him a four-month leave of absence, but he stayed in Germany for fifteen months, thus becoming the Adviser who served for the longest period. In fact, the short period of service, usually six months, had been one of this position's deficiencies. Hardly had the Adviser learned the complicated DP situation in depth, hardly had the military officials as well as leaders of other relief organizations learned to know and respect him, when he had to leave. When Bernstein's four-month term was about to end, he was faced with such pressing and difficult problems that "it was morally necessary" for him to continue, and so he decided to stay.26
Before leaving for Germany in May 1946, Bernstein invited Rabbi Emanuel Rackman to join him as assistant to the Adviser. Rackman, an Orthodox rabbi and a lawyer, had served during the war as a chaplain and had firsthand knowledge of military procedures. He had useful contacts in the Army and because he spoke Yiddish fluently could communicate easily with the DPs. Further, Rackman's legal training was particularly helpful to Bernstein.27
The Adviser's position in general, and Bernstein's in particular, was a very delicate one. On the one hand, he was nominated by the Secretary of War and was responsible to General McNarney, the Commanding General. The Adviser's main duty was, therefore, to interpret Army policy to the DPs as a loyal American official in Germany. On the other hand, he had been sent by the American Jewish organizations and was supposed to represent the interests of the Jewish DPs to the military authorities. Bernstein recalled later:
I constantly walked a kind of a tightrope, always feeling I had the legal and moral obligation to the commanding general to fulfill my duties, and at the same time the deepest kind of moral obligation to the Jews, my own people.
To be sure, Bernstein saw himself as a U.S. representative and not a lobbyist for Jewish interests. He purposely refrained from involvement in internal Jewish matters. Therefore, he could not be regarded as a typical Jewish sh'tadlan [interceder]. He solved the problem of double loyalty by promising General McNarney to resign if his conscience would not permit him to continue his duties.28
Judge Louis E. Levinthal, Bernstein's successor as Adviser, said that Bernstein "thought of himself more as an Army man, whereas I wanted to be more a representative of the DPs." While there was an element of truth in Levinthal's statement, one should not accept it entirely at face value. And yet, while other Advisers sent detailed reports to the Cooperating Organizations, Bernstein dutifully reported on everything to his Commanding General, only sending short surveys of the DP situation to the Jewish agencies from time to time. After he had sent reports and recommendations directly to McNarney, he wrote briefly to the Five Cooperating Organizations as follows: "It would not be wise or proper for me to render similar reports to other persons or groups." It is also true that Levinthal and Rifkind, because of their background and language skills, were able to forge closer and more personal contacts with DPs than Bernstein could. Nevertheless, Abraham Hyman, who replaced Rackman and served as the Adviser's assistant for three-and-a-half years, was also correct in opposing the attempt to draw a distinction between Bernstein and Levinthal, claiming that the former had readily and wholeheartedly attended to every problem that the DPs brought to him, whether personally or as a group. Furthermore, the Office of the Adviser, with its devoted team, dutifully helped Bernstein to interpret DP problems to Army authorities.29
Immediately after Bernstein's arrival in Frankfurt at the end of May 1946, he held a series of consultations with the military authorities. He found that "the policy levels are cooperative and considerate." General Joseph T. McNarney was particularly friendly and understanding and was praised as a "fine human being," "most liberal and humane," and "really a kind-hearted man."30 At the lower levels, however, Bernstein met with resentment and irritation toward the Jewish DPs. By 1946 most of the GIs in Germany had arrived after the end of the war and had neither seen the concentration camps nor participated in the fighting. They were attracted by the external orderliness of the Germans. As time passed and no prompt solution for the resettlement of the DPs emerged, the Jewish refugees were perceived as "increasingly burdensome."31
To reduce tension between the Army and the DPs, Bernstein initiated an education program, utilizing Army newspapers and other official publications. He tried to bring about a change of the Army's attitude by explaining the DPs' way of thinking, their needs, and the causes for their emotional behavior. Lieutenant General C. R. Huebner, McNarney's Chief of Staff, gave the Adviser an opportunity to lecture to the officers of the European Command on Jewish history and Jewish problems. "That was the most interesting class I have ever had in my life," Bernstein later recalled, "and it was for them an eye opener, because they did not have the most elementary knowledge of Jewish life and problems."32 Fifteen years after he had left the position of Adviser, Bernstein regarded that educational campaign as one of his successes, maintaining that "we did bring about a change in their attitude." However, in his last report to the Secretary of the Army, on 26 October 1947, he complained about frequent "ugly incidents" between the Army and the DPs, calling for needed education on both sides. He stated, more realistically, that "the underlying irritations remain and are likely to get worse as time passes." Judging from his own reports as well as those of later Advisers, it seems that Bernstein's claim that he changed the Army's attitude is questionable.33
One of the major causes of the Army's irritation was the increasing number of refugees coming from the East in 1946-1947. Jewish infiltration became Bernstein's major problem as Adviser. Whereas Rifkind's most important contribution was the establishment of a framework in which the Adviser and his office could operate to take care of concentration camp survivors, Bernstein's chief task was to help infiltrees and to prevent the closing of the eastern borders.34
The population of Jewish DPs in Germany and Austria was constantly growing. In May 1945 there were 30,000-50,000 camp survivors and on 1 February 1946 the combined number of Jews in the Western zones of Germany, Austria, and Italy was 130,000; in the summer of 1947 this figure had jumped to 245,000.35 The great majority, probably 80 percent, of the newcomers came from Poland. There were two types of refugees from Poland. The first were camp survivors, who returned to Poland after liberation to look for relatives and to regain property they had left behind. But a much larger group consisted of those who had been repatriated from Russia. In 1939 many Jews fled to Soviet Russia before the advancing German Army. After the war, the Soviet authorities permitted those who could prove their Polish citizenship to return to Poland. Most of these Jews, approximately 150,000, returned to Poland between the fall of 1945 and the spring of 1946. They found no relatives alive and their property confiscated or stolen by Poles who were unwilling to relinquish what they had gained. Polish antisemitism, extreme as ever and encouraged by leaders of the Catholic Church, found its expression not only in vilification, discrimination, and in refusal to relinquish confiscated property, but also in pillage and murder. During the last four months of 1945, 26 pogroms of varying sizes were reported. Between May 1945 and January 1946, more than 300 Jews were murdered. Many Jews thus decided to leave Poland and illegally entered the American zones of Austria and Germany, as a transit stop enroute to new homes in Palestine or the United States.36
During warmer weather (May and June 1946), infiltration increased to a monthly rate of 10,000. These happened to be the months after the publication of the Anglo-American Commission of Inquiry's report, which recommended opening Palestine's doors to 100,000 DPs. The hope of reaching Palestine soon, on the basis of these recommendations, also led many Hungarian and Romanian Jews to enter the American zones and to gain DP status. The Army was naturally less than happy about such an influx. The DP camps became overcrowded and Army resources were "greatly overtaxed," as a confidential military memorandum of June 1946 indicated.37 However, military authorities showed great restraint and tolerance. Bernstein had obtained McNarney's agreement not to intervene if the monthly rate did not exceed 5,000 refugees. When this number doubled in May and June, the Adviser suggested that the Army be prepared to house and feed an additional 40,000-50,000 newcomers during the summer months, to which McNarney, the humanitarian, again consented.38
The pogrom of Kielce in Poland, significantly changed the situation. On 4 and 5 July 1946, 41 Jews were murdered and 75 were beaten in and around the small town of Kielce, south of Warsaw. This pogrom, which was planned in advance, was carried out with the active help of the local police, while the Catholic Church refused to intervene.39 The Kielce pogrom was a clear reply to those who had been asking themselves whether life for Jews could be reconstructed in Poland in the foreseeable future. The mass movement to get out of Poland began in near hysteria.
The Brichah, the Zionist underground that directed the movement of Jewish immigration through European countries to Palestine, notified Bernstein of its plan to organize the immigration of 80,000-100,000 Polish Jews. This figure was much higher than that which Bernstein had discussed with McNarney less than two weeks earlier. Now the Adviser found himself in a delicate position. Could he ask the Commanding General to change his mind for the third time in a mere six weeks? To save himself embarrassment and to provide legitimate reasons to ask for the alteration of his own projection, Bernstein complied with an urgent summons to inspect the Polish scene at first hand. After conferring with McNarney, he flew to Poland, accompanied by Herbert Friedman, a chaplain in Berlin, who later became his assistant in the Office of the Adviser. During the last week of July, Bernstein visited Warsaw, Lodz, and Silesia, discussing the problems with Jewish leaders as well as with victims of the recent pogrom. He learned at first hand of the violent antisernitism and saw the desperate attempts to leave Poland: ". . . we tried to sound them out ... [but] nothing we could say would deflect them from their intention to get out." After returning to Frankfurt, the Adviser took up the matter immediately with General McNarney, urging him "to anticipate . . . and be willing to receive" 100,000 Polish refugees. In the detailed report he submitted, he suggested utilizing all available facilities, not only in the American zone, but also in the British and French zones, and even in France and Italy. Jewish organizations, such as the JDC and the Jewish Agency for Palestine, should also be asked to pay their share. However, he opposed the Zionist plan to evacuate all Jews from Poland.40
With every new wave of refugees, military authorities once again discussed the prospect of closing the eastern borders. After lengthy deliberations, an Army order, issued in December 1945, excluded the infiltrees from DP camps, though it did not close the borders. Separate assembly centers were established for the newcomers, who were deprived of the status of "persecutees," so that their food rations, as well as other facilities, were inferior to those of the United Nations Displaced Persons. But this discrimination was abandoned in February 1946, and infiltrees were again entitled to enter regular DP camps.41
The influx of Polish Jews intensified the discussion in the Administration about closing the borders. The War Department proposed to close the borders on 1 September 1946. Jewish organizations made a coordinated effort to prevent this. Bernstein tried to influence military authorities in Europe, and the representatives of the American Jewish groups met on 22 July 1946 with Robert P. Patterson, Secretary of War, and Dean Acheson, Under-Secretary of State. The Jewish lobby appealed to Senators, Congressmen, and other politicians, calling on them to write directly to President Truman to remind him of the humanitarian and political implications of such a policy. In view of the coming mid-term elections, the Truman Administration would suffer much more from the necessity to fight, and even shoot at, Jewish infiltrees who were escaping for their lives, than by the inconvenience of feeding and housing an additional several thousand people.42 Although the Secretary of War supported the closure of the borders, the State Department favored less drastic action. The Assistant Secretary of State, General John H. Hilldring, who was a warm friend of the Jewish DP cause, informed Moses A. Leavitt of the JDC on 31 July 1946 of the Administration's intention not to close the eastern borders. Hilldring did, however, call for a voluntary halt in Polish emigration, appealing to the JDC leader: "I sincerely hope that we may count on you ... to assist in limiting to the very minimum the number of persecutees who seek refuge in our zone."43
Hilldring's suggestion that the JDC could stop the influx of Polish Jews to the West irritated JDC leaders because it was based on the false assumption that the JDC had directed it, while the truth was that "nothing short of shooting could prevent this movement," as a JDC representative pointed out. Accordingly, Edward M. Warburg, the JDC chairman, replied to Hilldring that while his organization had "never participated in any organizing of this movement," the JDC policy was nevertheless to assist Jews in distress.44 In point of fact, no Jewish group initiated the mass movement. Even the Brichah was caught unaware by this mass exodus.45
The Truman Administration was exposed to British as well as Jewish pressure. The Foreign Office led a diplomatic campaign to block Jewish emigration in Europe, under the pretense that these people were terrorists whose aim was to infiltrate to Palestine and to stimulate an anti-British revolt there. American military officials in Europe were in favor of the British demand and were actually ready to accept it.46 Thus, on 6 August 1946, General McNarney declared that "all organized movement of Jewish refugees will be turned back from the American zones of Germany and Austria in the future." Bowing to British pressure, McNarney also said that America "had never adopted a policy of the American zone being a station on the way to Palestine."47
McNarney's statement incited the Jewish community in America, and its leaders promptly went into action: " . . . we went to Hilldring, and the President, and Morgenthau and everybody that was around," recalled Joseph Schwartz of the JDC.48 Philip Bernstein was also active and flew to Washington to talk with high officials. However, his main influence was in Europe. Utilizing his good contacts with top generals, and mainly with the Commander in Chief, he played a role in keeping them well informed and sympathetic. Eventually, Jewish pressure bore fruit. On 21 August McNarney retracted his earlier statement. Two days later, addressing an American Jewish group, he reemphasized his original policy as follows: "It has been my policy not to deny haven to Jews fleeing from persecution ... I continue to grant shelter and care to persecutees filtering into the zone."49
Why did McNarney retreat after two weeks from his earlier declaration on closing the borders? According to Bernstein, McNarney "was never opposed to keeping the border open." If this was true, certainly his colleagues, such as Generals Clay and Huebner, as well as his superior, the Secretary of War, thought differently.50 Although Bernstein's role should not be overlooked, "the retreat was due to pressure from Washington."51
Thus the flow of refugees continued at the rate of several thousand per month almost without interference for an additional eight months. With its decreased budget, however, the Army was reluctant to continue to feed and clothe the newcomers. The tough approach against infiltration eventually prevailed with the promotion of General Lucius D. Clay to the post of Commander in Chief of the European Command in March 1947. Clay was a strong supporter of German reconstruction, economically as well as politically. Since the DPs were considered a burden to the German economy, a new policy was adopted, which, while not closing the borders, excluded the infiltrees from UNRRA care and refused to permit them to join DP camps, thus denying them the food, clothing, and shelter that the DPs enjoyed. Although the new line probably originated in the War Department, Clay's headquarters were strongly in favor of it.52 On 21 April 1947 General Clay issued an order that "Admission to United Nations DP Assembly Centers ... will be denied to all persons who enter the U.S. Zone of Germany ... after 21 April 1947." The order was careful to add that "there will be no exceptions to this policy."53
Bernstein tried, in advance, to prevent the adoption of this new policy. Writing to General Huebner, Clay's Chief of Staff, he argued that the new line was unwise, unnecessary, and also difficult to enforce. Since infiltration from Poland had declined, no mass movement was anticipated at that time. Furthermore, the plan to encourage the refugees to integrate into the German economy and into the German cities would not work because of housing shortages, unemployment, and antisernitism. He suggested an alternate plan, to fix "a reasonable maximum figure for the camps." Infiltrees would enter only those camps where inmates had already left, or where the number of residents did not reach the maximum figure. Bernstein also proposed that the new program be discussed with the JDC, who would be asked to provide more assistance to the newcomers. Sensing that his appeal had not changed the European Command's attitude, he sent another memorandum to Huebner on 3 April 1947 in which he reported on the stable position in Poland, hence "no infiltration is prospect [sic]." He added that due to his interference, Jewish groups "are doing whatever is possible to discourage such movement."54
The Adviser failed to prevent Clay's order of 21 April, denying DP care to infiltrees. From that time on, they were entirely dependent upon JDC care. In June, 2,400 Romanian Jews arrived in Austria and the UNRRA refused to take care of them. The JDC leaders maintained that the Committee was unable to finance the infiltrees alone. Therefore, a meeting of the Five Cooperating Organizations was called to discuss with Bernstein the most effective ways of exerting pressure on the Army in Austria. Only a few days after this meeting, the headquarters of U.S. Forces in Austria (USFA) received a cable proposing that USIA again assume care of the newly arrived Jewish refugees. It is not clear whether this was due to the Adviser's intervention. In unusually forceful language, General G. Keyes, the new Commander of USFA, strongly objected to that suggestion, which "would be complete reversal of announced policy, with accompanying loss of prestige and confidence previously gained with the Austrians." He recommended a tough approach, which had already proven itself. "It is of interest to note that when the policy of non-care after 21 April became effective the large influx of refugees from Poland stopped immediately. There is reason to believe that migration out of Romania and Hungary will soon be organized and controlled likewise." The cable went on to say that the heavy burden on the JDC and local relief agencies would soon stop the influx of migrants. The Commander of U.S. Forces in Austria also argued that the Romanian and Hungarian Jews had left their country not because of persecution but because of famine. "If aid is extended to Jewish migrants who are under no duress, there are no grounds to deny care to Yugoslav Volksdeutsche, who are being forcibly and illegally expelled," General Keyes's cable concluded.55
Surprisingly, Bernstein also stated in a memorandum to the Commander in Chief on 5 August 1947 that "the chief reason for the movement is hunger." By this argument he undermined the demand to grant the infiltrees the status of persecutees, and virtually admitted that the Romanian Jews were not entitled to DP care. It is understandable, then, why Judge Levinthal, the new Adviser, lost no time in sending a correction to General Clay. He asked for a revision of Bernstein's statement because it was inaccurate. The Romanian Jews were leaving not primarily because of famine, "but rather because of the rising tide of rabid antisernitism among the masses of the population," he argued. Therefore, Levinthal asked that the Romanian infiltrees in Vienna be recognized as "persecutees and not economic refugees."56 Although Levinthal's purpose at that time was quite obvious, historically he was accurate in his description of the situation. Romanian antisernitism drove many Jews into poverty. Several droughts worsened the situation. Thus economic hardship and antisernitism combined to cause emigration.57
So the Army stood fast. Nevertheless, it helped to persuade the Austrian Government to undertake the feeding of Jewish DPs in the American zone, commencing on 18 August 1947. By this agreement the JDC burden was significantly reduced, since it only had to supplement the food provided by the Austrians.58 Eventually, almost all of the 12,000 Romanian and Hungarian Jews in Austria found their way to regular DP assembly centers, sharing the extra rations of food with veteran inmates. The Brichah, the JDC, and the Central Committee for Liberated Jews in Germany prevented Clay's order of 21 April 1947 from causing serious harm to the newly arrived Jewish refugees.59
The illegal mass infiltration in 1946-1947 of approximately 100,000 Jews into the American zones of Austria and Germany60 would not have been successful without the tacit consent of Army authorities and UNRRA workers. Even General McNarney was aware of Brichah activities and took no drastic steps to prevent them. Bernstein's position was a delicate one. As an official U.S. representative, he was unable to act publicly, or even to admit his knowledge of such operations. Nevertheless, the Adviser met "Brichah boys," discussed their problems with them, and advised them as far as possible. His assistant, Major Hyman, escorted the infiltrees from Austria to Germany. Bernstein's help to the Brichah was the outcome not only of his Zionism but also of his wish to help his people escape from harassment and antisernitism.61
Bernstein was clearly aware of, and even worried about, the growing resentment in the Army due to the mass infiltration in the summer of 1946. The frustration of military circles intensified when McNarney was compelled to retreat from his order of 6 August to close the borders. To reduce tension between the Army and the DPs and to ameliorate the standard of living in the overcrowded camps, the Adviser initiated a series of diplomatic steps. In the course of this campaign he met with President Truman, Pope Pius XII, Czechoslovakian Premier Klement Gottwald, and British Foreign Minister Ernest Bevin. It was a somewhat unusual effort that exceeded the jurisdiction of the Adviser on Jewish Affairs. However, he enjoyed the active support of General McNarney, since his plan to transfer Jewish DPs from Germany to other countries served the Army's aim of ridding itself of the refugees as soon as possible. Characteristically for Bernstein, he boldly moved beyond his limited authority, in a way that no other Adviser did, out of the conviction that everything possible must be done to alleviate the DP problem. Certainly his interest in being in the public eye also played a role in these activities.62
Bernstein's first proposal was that Czechoslovakia provide a temporary haven for 10,000 Jewish refugees who were escaping from Poland and who were in transit through Czechoslovakia toward the U.S. zones of Austria and Germany. With McNarney's blessing, and accompanied by G. 1. Jacobson, JDC director in Prague, Bernstein went to the Czechoslovakian capital at the end of August 1946. They suggested to Jan Masaryk, the Czech Foreign Minister, that 10,000 Jewish refugees from Poland would settle in the vacated houses of the German expellees in the Sudetenland. The refugees would help compensate for the lack of manpower in the area. According to the plan, the JDC would assume responsibility for the DPs' food and clothing. Masaryk agreed to the project, providing it were temporary. On 3 September 1946, Bernstein and Jacobson further discussed the matter with Prime Minister Gottwald, who demanded that the proposal should be sent through regular diplomatic channels, and that American authorities provide official guarantees to accept the refugees into the American zones after an agreed period if they could not find another place to go. The Prime Minister also requested that the financial question be settled, i.e., that the JDC responsibility for caring for these people be definitely determined.63
Ephraim Dekel, the Brichah leader, stated that since Bernstein and Jacobson were unable to provide these guarantees, "negotiations bogged down."64 This was not the case. Bernstein, returning to Germany, immediately received McNarney's agreement to assume responsibility for the 10,000 refugees after 1 July 1947. After some hesitation, the JDC also consented to provide supplementary food. On 11 November 1946, Gottwald accepted the agreement, asking only for an official American commitment, which he received from Lawrence A. Steinhardt, the American Ambassador to Prague, on 2 December 1946.65 The movement of the Jews out of Poland had almost come to a halt in January 1947, and all those refugees who were designated to receive temporary haven in Czechoslovakia had already infiltrated to the U.S. zones of Austria and Germany. Thus it was the lack of refugees from Poland rather than the lack of guarantees that caused Bernstein's program never to materialize.66
When McNarney learned that there were no candidates for resettlement in the Sudetenland and the emergency situation was over, he refused to renew his commitment. In the light of serious cuts in the Army's appropriation, the Commander in Chief of the European Command thought that "it would probably not be wise to commit myself to the acceptance of those additional persons in our Zone at some future date." Therefore, he suggested to Ambassador Steinhardt that "further negotiation on a governmental level to effectuate the proposal ... not be undertaken."67
In mid-August Bernstein turned to Italy, asking her to absorb 25,000 Polish refugees from Austrian and German DP camps. The Italian Government, however, outrightly rejected the suggestion, on the grounds that Italy had already contributed its share to solving the DP problem by providing shelter to 25,000 refugees. Bernstein continued to push, reducing the number of refugees that Italy was asked to accept to 10,000. According to the plan, the JDC would assume financial responsibility. He appealed to the JDC, urging "very strongly . . . affirmative action." When the JDC refused to give definite guarantees, "because of constant unforeseen emergencies," Bernstein exploded. In a sharp letter to Moses Leavitt on 8 September 1946, he emphasized the importance of the program for reducing tension with the Army. Furthermore, he maintained that the JDC would feed these refugees in any case when they eventually infiltrated to DP camps, and so he argued, why not support them in Italy?68 But the JDC leaders, who were used to working under pressure, easily outmaneuvered the Adviser. Leavitt, the executive vice president in New York, turned to the Paris office of the JDC, inviting a detailed answer to Bernstein's proposal that could be shown to him. Dr. Joseph Schwartz readily complied, providing figures that clearly showed the plan's impracticality, particularly in the light of reduced immigration from Poland.69
The Adviser also turned to the Vatican at this time to exert pressure on the Italian Government. In a "very frank businesslike talk" with Pius XII, which took place on 11 September 1946 at Castel Gandolfo, the Pope promised to speak with the Italian Premier. Polish antisemitism was also brought up. Bernstein tried to induce the Pope to condemn the Kielce pogrom publicly. Although the Vatican regarded the pogrom as "dreadful," and although the Church opposed violence, he refused to issue a condemnation because of the problems of the Catholic Church with the Communist regime in Poland. However, Bernstein later recalled, Pius XII seemed to be "genuinely concerned and seriously committed to doing something about it." But the Italian Government did not relent and the Polish Church did not desist; thus if Pius XII did intervene, he accomplished nothing.70
Bernstein's audience with the Pope became a controversial issue. Jacob L. Trobe, head of JDC operations in Germany, condemned it. He regarded Bernstein as a Jew of ghetto-character, accusing him of servility in petitioning his people's historical arch-enemy. Others, like Rabbi Emanuel Rackman, thought that it was the Adviser's duty to try every avenue he could to alleviate Jewish suffering. Since some Catholic circles had a guilty conscience because of their apathy during the Holocaust, Bernstein thought that he would be able to enlist the Vatican's support on behalf of victims of antisernitic persecutions.71
But with the Italian opposition and the JDC's refusal, Bernstein's plan to transfer thousands of Polish refugees to Italy was quietly dropped. Although his diplomatic efforts in Italy, as well as in Czechoslovakia, had failed, Bernstein nevertheless tried another channel, namely, the White House. His appointment with President Truman, on 11 October 1946 was actually more a report or discussion on DP matters in Europe than an appeal for help. The Adviser on Jewish Affairs noted the Army's close cooperation with his office. In regard to his diplomatic schemes to settle Jewish DPs in European countries, Bernstein blamed the opposition and intervention of Great Britain for the failure. He forcefully recommended Palestine as the most natural haven for 100,000 refugees. Since Bernstein did not ask for anything definite from the President, one should not seek the importance of the meeting in its practical results, but rather in the fact that the President received a clear picture of the DP problem in Europe.72
In spite of Bernstein's unsuccessful diplomatic steps to find even a temporary haven for the DPs outside the American zones, he relentlessly pursued every possible direction. His mission to London was a case in point. He persuaded General McNarney to send him to England to discuss with the British Government "the possibility for the early, swift movement of these DP Jews to Palestine, regardless of the ultimate solution of the political problem of that country." In spite of the fact that McNarney, as a General, was not supposed to intervene in political matters such as immigration to Palestine, he considered Bernstein's mission "as germane and necessary to my function as Theater Commander." Therefore, he asked the help of Robert D. Murphy, political Adviser on German Affairs in London, to arrange Bernstein's appointments.73
In the course of Bernstein's visit to London, which began on 12 February 1947, he discussed the possibility of early settlement not only in Palestine, but also in other places such as England, Canada, and Australia. He met with Foreign Minister Bevin, Colonial Minister Arthur Creech-Jones, Labor Minister George Isaacs, Canadian High Commissioner Norman Robertson, and head of the Australian Immigration Program Lamidy. The Adviser on Jewish Affairs described in full detail the desperate situation of the Jewish DPs, most of whom had come from the East: the prolonged delay in their resettlement, the abnormal conditions of camp life, the growing antisernitism in Germany, the tension with American soldiers, the bitter winter, and the lack of minimally acceptable conditions for the decent rearing of children. These DPs "now face another major catastrophe" if they are not resettled soon, warned Bernstein. Therefore, he appealed to the British Government "to effect an interim immigration plan, which will enable a substantial number of these Jewish DPs to migrate to Palestine in the very near future."74
Bevin and Creech-Jones promised to transmit the proposal to the cabinet. While the former provided no encouraging signs, the latter said that he personally favored the idea but could not commit himself without a Cabinet decision. Bernstein met repeated polite rejections during these discussions. With regard to the settling of DP workers in England, the Minister of Labor preferred DPs from the British zones of Germany and Austria. In addition, the categories needed, such as miners, heavy laborers, and domestic servants, were scarce among Jews. Advancing numerous excuses, Australia and Canada also rejected Jewish DPs. Even leaders of the Jewish Agency, such as David Ben Gurion, Nahum Goldmann, and Moshe Shertok, as well as Joseph Schwartz of the JDC, believed that "the present time is not propitious for such an undertaking." Although Bernstein left England deeply disappointed, he continued to believe that for the bulk of the DPs, Palestine and America should be the principal absorbing countries. He thus recommended to General McNarney, as a part of his report on his mission to London, that the Army authorities "should exert their influence toward early action in these directions."75
One can wonder at Philip Bernstein's naivete, insofar as he though that he would succeed in a one-man mission where the President of the United States had failed, namely, in persuading the British Government to open the doors of Palestine to 100,000 DPs. While those who worked with the Adviser felt that he had to pursue every possible avenue, in retrospect it seems clear that the Adviser's mission to London in February 1947 was doomed to fail.76
Bernstein's failures were not the result of his lack of diplomatic skill but were due to circumstances over which the Adviser had no control. Throughout his entire period in office he constantly maintained that the DPs had no future in Germany and Austria. Only immigration to the U.S. and to Palestine could solve their problem. Since 90 percent of the DPs expressed their wish to settle in the Jewish homeland, he recommended to the Secretary of the Army that "the opening of Palestine to large-scale immigration is indispensable to the solution of the DP problem."77
Bernstein's Palestinian solution was certainly an outcome of his Zionist belief. As a forceful defender of the Zionist solution, he delayed his return to the United States after the termination of his post, in order to appear before the United Nations Special Commission on Palestine (UNSCOP) while it was touring the DP camps in Austria. Speaking warmly as a Jew, he fascinated the members of the Commission by depicting to them the plight of the DPs and their prospective future life in the Holy Land.78 As an official of the United States, he suggested Palestine not merely out of idealism but also as the most practical solution available, particularly when the alternative was immigration to the U.S., a prospect unattractive to many Americans. Thus in order to increase American pressure on Great Britain, he argued that settlement in Palestine would be the best, the cheapest, and the most convenient solution not only for the DPs but for the United States as well.79
Since England adamantly refused to let DPs into Palestine, the United States was to provide shelter for a certain number of refugees. Therefore, Bernstein supported the effort to liberalize immigration laws. The Adviser and Governor Herbert H. Lehman were selected by the Citizens Committee for Displaced Persons, the Jewish lobby for the passage of the DP Acts in Congress, as the only Jews to testify in favor of the Stratton Bill before the hostile Immigration Subcommittee. Bernstein was praised for his dignified and forceful presentation.80
The Adviser on Jewish Affairs was more successful when dealing directly with the military authorities. The Central Committee of Liberated Jews in the U.S. Zone of Germany was a case in point. This organization was established in July 1945 in the camp of Feldafing by Abraham J. Klausner, the controversial chaplain whom the DPs admired and the Army hated. Soon the Central Committee became the primary representative of the DPs. Major Nadich had already recommended to General Eisenhower the recognition of the Central Committee, but no action had been taken. In fact, legal recognition of a committee that represented a certain religious DP group was in contradiction to Army policy in occupied Germany, to the Army concept of military responsibility, and to the agreement with UNRRA.81
The subject of recognition of the Central Committee was close to Bernstein's heart from the beginning. He sent Emanuel Rackman to prepare by- laws, which became the legal basis for this recognition. Later on, Bernstein was personally involved in the negotiations with General McNarney and his associates. Eventually, the Commanding General accepted the Adviser's suggestion, mainly out of practical considerations. The Army was suffering from the sharp reduction of the occupational forces in Germany. The manpower shortage was particularly serious among social workers and those who worked with the DPs. It was not clear whether UNRRA would continue to operate after December 1946, so McNarney decided to utilize the recognition of the Central Committee to achieve better cooperation with the Jewish DPs. Furthermore, the final rejection of the recommendation to let 100,000 DPs into Palestine had caused depression and low morale in the assembly centers. McNarney hoped to elevate the morale of camp inmates and utilize this strength for constructive matters.82
On 7 September 1946, in a ceremony organized by the Adviser, McNarney officially recognized the "free, democratic representation of liberated Jews ... for the purpose of helping the Army and making suggestions to improve conditions, and to elevate the moral and cultural status of the people."83 An enthusiastic broadcaster called the newly recognized Committee "a government without a flag." This was an exaggeration. The internal struggle among the leaders of the Committee, and their efforts to expand their authority, led to strong criticism from different circles. Their misunderstanding of the exact status of the Adviser and the limits of his authority "made my life miserable," as Bernstein later recalled. However, "on the whole, they rendered a very important service," he concluded.84 Bernstein's intervention on the Committee's behalf increased his influence with its leaders. Consequently, he succeeded in improving their relations with the Army and in controlling, at least partially, their impatient and sometimes irrational demands. It is not surprising, then, that the Central Committee requested from the Five Cooperating Organizations that Bernstein might continue his important job as Adviser.85
Giving a broad interpretation to his tasks as Adviser, Bernstein arranged the participation of a DP delegation in the first postwar Zionist Congress in Basel in December 1946. He was aware of the historical significance of the absorption of the Shearit Hapletah [Saved Remnants] into world Jewry.86
The publication of the Talmud, the basic multi-volume text of Jewish religious studies, in occupied Germany, was also a project with historical significance. Rabbis S.A. Snieg and S.J. Rose of the Rabbinical Committee of the Central Committee, persuaded Bernstein of the need to print the Talmud in order to fill the gap created by the serious shortage of religious textbooks. Bernstein enthusiastically plunged into action. He arranged a meeting between a rabbinical delegation and McNarney, composed a memorandum for the Commanding General, and overcame all technical obstacles. The publication of the Talmud became his "baby." If the Talmud had only been needed as text for rabbinical students, Bernstein as a Reform rabbi would probably not have been so deeply involved, since for that purpose there was no need to print the whole set of 16 volumes (which eventually became 19 volumes). It would have been sufficient to order separate volumes of the most needed tractates from the United States. Undoubtedly Bernstein perceived the symbolic meaning inherent in the project: a Gentile American general ordering the publication of the Talmud in occupied Germany. Why did McNarney agree to such an expensive undertaking? According to William Haber, the Adviser on Jewish Affairs in 1948, "sentiment and good public relations for an army under Jewish fire at home provided opportunities which McNarney and Bernstein each exploited to advantage."87
It was a long way from Bernstein's first appeal to McNarney on 29 August 1946 to the final publication of the whole set of 19 volumes on 16 November 1950. The Army financed the first 50 sets and the JDC paid for an additional several hundred sets. In an impressive ceremony the first volume was presented to General Lucius Clay, McNarney's successor. When the project was finally completed, at the end of 1950, almost no Jews remained in Germany, and the books were therefore distributed among Jewish centers all over the world.88
Bernstein, like other advisers, was aware of the low morale in DP camps. The recommendations of the Anglo-American Commission of Inquiry and their subsequent rejection, the debate in the United Nations on the Palestinian question, and the struggle in the United States to alter immigration laws, all greatly excited the refugees, who lived between hope and disappointment. The idleness of camp inmates was also regarded as a factor in their unhappiness, and Bernstein therefore encouraged the DPs to work. But most of them refused to work, particularly outside the camps, on the grounds that they refused to contribute to the reconstruction of the German economy. Altogether, no more than one-third of the refugees were employed either in the camp administration or in Army installations. Bernstein requested of McNarney that military authorities provide more openings for DPs and McNarney agreed. Among other suggestions, the Army offered to turn several farms over to the DPs for agricultural work, as Judge Rifkind had proposed. The Jewish Agency for Palestine successfully utilized these farms, organizing them as Kibbutzim. Agricultural experts brought from Palestine trained the youth for their future life in the Jewish homeland. Bernstein was eager to organize a deputation of American businessmen to Germany to conduct a general survey of job opportunities and submit recommendations. But during his visit to the U.S. in October 1946 he failed to stimulate the interest of American businessmen and had to drop the idea.89
Like everyone interested in the fate of the DPs, Bernstein was a close observer of the political situation. In the summer of 1947 there was no hope in sight that Congress would adopt the Stratton Bill, which proposed allowing a certain number of DPs to enter the United States. On the other hand, the British transfer of the Palestinian question to the U.N., and the publication of the UNSCOP's recommendations, on 31 August 1947, in favor of the establishment of two independent states, clearly indicated that the solution for the DPs would be immigration to Palestine rather than to the U.S. Accordingly, Bernstein suggested increasing the youth training program. He even withdrew his earlier objection to DPs' working in the German economy, as long as it were "on a voluntary basis," if this would provide the best training for skills later required in Palestine.90
These recommendations were only partially adopted. The JDC and ORT had expanded their vocational program even before Bernstein's report. Neither the JDC nor the Five Cooperating Organizations supported the suggestion that the DPs should work in the German economy. JDC efforts to provide more employment by establishing new workshops in the camps led to a discussion about how to compensate the workers. The JDC had a low budget and maintained that it could not afford to pay in money; it therefore proposed to pay in coupons, in exchange for which the workers would be able to buy food and other supplies. The American Jewish Committee, on the other hand, insisted on cash payment, afraid that the food and supplies would find their way to the black market. After several sessions the JDC won the battle. However, it was decided that "administrative responsibility and alertness will be required to prevent the degeneration of the JDC plan into institutionalized black market."91
In fact, no administrative measures, not even military raids, could stop black market operations. Although black marketeering was a universal phenomenon in postwar Europe, and in spite of the fact that not a few American GIs participated in it, not to speak of German civilians, Jewish DPs were regarded as the most conspicuous profiteers.92 The involvement of Jewish DPs in these activities gravely concerned the Adviser and his office, because they irritated military authorities, who considered black marketeering harmful to their aim of reconstructing the German economy. The Army reacted with search and seizure raids on the camps. Such large operations, consisting of thousands of soldiers, inevitably led to violent clashes, sometimes with fatal injuries, which caused further deterioration in the relationship between the DPs and the GIs. The unlawful activities of certain Jewish DPs also led to the intervention of the German police, which caused widespread anger and anti-German demonstrations. German antisemitism, which was increasing, was also influenced by alleged Jewish black marketeering. But the accusations that Jews were engaging in such unlawful activities were the symptom, rather than the cause, of the growing hostility against Jews.
Of course, Jews did participate in the black markets but they did not have a guilty conscience about this. They did not care about breaking laws that were intended to rebuild Germany. They were more than ready to make a profit from the Germans, who had stolen their property and murdered their families. The survivors of the Holocaust did not view their black marketeering as unethical behavior.93
Coming from an entirely different cultural climate, Bernstein, the other advisers, and the JDC workers, criticized these activities. However, Bernstein's main concern was not the black market as such, but its role in the escalation of clashes with the Army. He preached to the leaders of the Central Committee that they should make efforts to curb black marketeering but, according to Abraham Hyman, this was only lip service. He argued that the search and seizure operations did not accomplish anything. The big dealers were operating freely outside the camps, and the big raids yielded little. Therefore, Bernstein strongly recommended stopping the raids and suggested that courts be established in the camps so that offenders could be punished by their fellow Jews. If camp leaders failed to fulfill their duty, the responsibility would be transferred to the UNRRA director of the camp. The Army should introduce an indoctrination program for the soldiers in order to establish "cordial relations" toward the DPs.94
Although Bernstein's recommendations were received "sympathetically" by Army authorities, during his term as Adviser none of them were adopted. The Army continued its raids without any significant success in curbing black marketeering. This caused further deterioration in Army relations with Jewish DPs, and violent clashes were not infrequent. If we compare Bernstein's final report with his first one, it seems clear that his efforts to reduce this tension did not produce meaningful results.95 To be sure, comparing Jewish DP activities with other DP groups, the record of the former in preserving law and order "is to my mind one of the remarkable achievements,"as General Clay observed.96
Jewish black marketeering certainly fed German antisemitism. But its overt expression was made possible mainly by the reduction of American troops in Germany in 1947, which was accompanied by the gradual transfer of responsibilities to the Germans. With their growing self-confidence, Germans openly displayed their anti-Jewish feelings. Jews were insulted in the streets, their homes were stoned, and antisernitic songs were heard in public places. Germans blamed the Jewish DPs for the shortage of food, fuel, clothing, and housing.97 The alarmed Adviser discussed the matter with General Clay, who issued instructions for the immediate severe punishment of overt offenders. Clay asked Bernstein to prepare a detailed plan to counter German antisemitism. Bernstein turned for advice and guidance to the Five Cooperating Organizations, who dispatched two AJC representatives to Germany, David Bernstein (not related to the Adviser) and Zachariah Shuster, to investigate the situation and to submit recommendations. After a three weeks' tour in Germany, they reported to Bernstein, suggesting specific measures. Bernstein eventually submitted this plan to Clay in July 1947.98 While the mission of David Bernstein and Zachariah Shuster was to examine antisemitism, they also investigated the situation in DP camps, which they found close to explosion. The DPs were desperate, the Central Committee helpless and, above all, the Adviser had underestimated the seriousness of the situation. David Bernstein reported these findings to John Slawson, executive vice president of the American Jewish Committee. He suggested dispatching an AJC delegation to tour Germany for three to four months "to observe conditions in DP camps." At least one member of the commission must be a man "with the presence and prestige to deal with American military authorities on the highest levels." The report also included the recommendation that the AJC establish its own office in Frankfurt. This office would be useful in coping with the difficult problems in Germany. "The frightening fact is that right now there is no such machinery," continued the report, depicting the Office of the Adviser as a total failure. David Bernstein attached to this report the other, on German antisemitism, which he had sent to the Adviser.99
This memorandum, which suggested the dispatch of a prestigious investigatory commission that would discuss DP problems with top level generals, and which proposed the establishment of an independent AJC office in Germany, thus openly circumventing the Adviser, was most disturbing. The American Jewish Committee, which sponsored the Adviser and considered itself the founder and the major supporter of his post, nonetheless seemed ready and willing to undermine the Adviser when it was dissatisfied with Rabbi Bernstein's handling of his job. When Bernstein learned of this criticism, he was deeply upset and angry. The AJC agents Bernstein and Shuster, who heard about the Adviser's anger, hurriedly cabled to Slawson: "Important you see and soothe him;" otherwise, future AJC activities in Germany would be in danger.100
The Adviser complained bitterly to Jacob Blaustein, the president of the AJC, about the unauthorized publication of the AJC's confidential report on German antisernitism before the matter was discussed with him. Moreover, since General Clay had requested the memorandum be kept secret until its implementation, its premature publication represented "a serious breach of faith" and would embarrass both the general and also the rabbi, who went on to criticize the report. While it contained some accurate information, there was also "a hodgepodge of untruths and half-truths. It seemed to be designed to prove that all responsible organizations and persons are neglecting the Jewish DPs in Germany and that only the entrance of the AJC ... can save the situation." Bernstein went on to complain of the "dishonest device" by which the AJC report had circumvented his Office, as well as that of the Five Cooperating Organizations, and been sent directly to Slawson of the AJC. "I will resent and resist any attempt to undermine the work and usefulness of the existing responsible organizations through a subterfuge to advance the interests of any of them."101
Philip Bernstein clearly understood the danger in the AJC's intention to operate independently in Germany, circumventing the Office of the Adviser. This would mean that the competition and rivalry that already existed among American Jewish organizations would be imposed on the delicate DP situation in Germany. His determined opposition to such an attempt led to the retreat of the AJC. Blaustein apologized for "this extremely unfortunate incident." He promised to postpone the report and the dispatch of the survey team. The president of the American Jewish Committee expressed his "keen appreciation of your outstanding work in Germany," and pledged the AJC's "maximum cooperation" with the Adviser.102 Bernstein's resolute position that the Office of the Adviser should be the only address in Germany for DP matters, quashing any attempt at independent activities by Jewish organizations, became the standard policy of later Advisers as well. Judge Louis E. Levinthal, Bernstein's successor, continued to oppose the AJC's suggestion to send a delegation to survey the DP situation in Germany. Even William Haber, Levinthal's successor as Adviser, who was an AJC man and a personal friend of John Slawson, turned down a similar AJC proposal.103
The mounting problems of the DPs so occupied Philip Bernstein that even after he had left his post as Adviser in August 1947, he continued to intervene on their behalf, a step that annoyed several Jewish groups in America.104 And what were Philip Bernstein's actual achievements while in office? As Adviser on Jewish Affairs he was an able mediator between the Army and the DPs. He established good relationships with top-level military authorities. As a result of his easy access to the commanding generals, McNarney and later Clay, the Jewish refugees knew that their problems would be brought promptly and effectively before the highest authorities in Germany.105
In this respect, however, Rabbi Bernstein must share the credit with other Advisers who were on equally good terms with the Theater Commander and who also represented the interests of the DPs adequately and competently. What was Bernstein's peculiar contribution? Quite naturally, every Adviser not only had a different style but faced different situations. Bernstein faced the difficult situation of mass infiltration of more than 100,000 East European Jews during a relatively short period. He was instrumental in preventing the Army from closing the borders and helped the refugees to be absorbed into United Nations DP camps. However, to ease tensions with the Army, Bernstein initiated a series of diplomatic efforts to transfer thousands of Polish refugees to other countries. Although all these steps failed, they proved to General McNarney his Adviser's genuine intention to try to solve the DP problem and thus contributed to remaining on good terms with Army officials.
However, Bernstein himself admitted that during his service "the problem had more than doubled." Ugly incidents between the DPs and GIs became more frequent, the black market flourished, German antisernitism was increasingly evident, the standard of living in the camps declined, and the morale of the DPs, because of their unclear future, was at a low ebb. Nevertheless, the Adviser's frequent intervention helped to prevent clashes or explosions on many occasions.106
To suggest that the Adviser should be blamed for the total situation is hardly fair, since he neither created it, nor were the historic forces behind the events within his control. His successful efforts to gain the Army's recognition of the Central Committee contributed to smoother cooperation between the DPs, the Army, and UNRRA. His determination to prevent independent action on the part of Jewish groups helped to keep the Office of the Adviser as the single address for DP problems. Upon leaving office, he outlined a four-year plan for the DPs, appealing for the support of American Jews: "We are confronted with a historic test of the greatest magnitude and complexity. I trust that American Jewry will measure up to it," he concluded in his final report as Adviser.107
1. New York, joint Distribution Committee Archives [hereafter cited as joint Archives], files Germany, DP, General, Jan.-June 1945: "International Red Cross Special Report About the Situation of Jewish Refugees in 'DP Centers' in Austria and Germany," 20 June 1945, Report by Sgt. M. Hauser; Abraham J. Klausner, "Detailed Report on the Liberated Jew as He Now Suffers," 24 June 1945. Also Leonard Dinnerstein, America and the Survivors of the Holocaust (New York, 1982), pp. 47, 58-61; Judah Nadich, Eisenhower and the Jews (New York, 1953), pp. 68-70, 120-21, 125,153.
2. joint Archives, files DP 1945-1946: Earl Harrison's Report, 24 Aug. 1945; and Joseph Schwartz's Report, 19 Aug. 1945. For a detailed discussion of Harrison's mission, his report, and its repercussions, see Dinnerstein, America and the Survivors, pp. 35-71.
3. Washington, D.C., National Archives, Suitland, Maryland, Record Group 332 [hereafter cited as NARA, Suitland, RG 3321, box 52: AGWAR (from Stimson) to USFET Main (for Personal Attention of Eisenhower), confidential cable, 10 Aug. 1945.
4. NARA, Suitland, RG 332, box 52, file 1: USFET Main (signed Eisenhower) to AGWAR, restricted cable, 10 Aug. 1945; the quotation was taken from ibid: Lowett to Commanding Generals of 3rd and 7th Army, 10 Aug. 1945.
6. joint Archives, files Germany, DP, Aug.-Dec. 1945: Philip Stuchon to Moses Leavitt, 4, 11 Oct. 1945; cable, JDC Paris to JDC New York, 20 Sept. 1945. Also Nadich, Eisenhower and the Jews, pp. 120-22.
7. New York, American Jewish Committee Archives [hereafter cited as AJC Archives], files Germany, Emigration-Immigration, Jewish Agencies: A.G. Brotman to John Slawson, 7 July 1945; ibid., files DPs, Germany West, 1945- 54: Simon Segal to John Slawson, 17 July 1945; ibid., files Germany, Emigration- Immigration, Adviser: Jacob Blaustein to Joseph C. Grew, 23 July 1945; Grew to Blaustein, 26 July 1945; NARA, Suitland, RG 332, box 52, file 7: U.S. Embassy (signed Tindall) to USFET Main, 7 Aug. 1945.
8. NARA, Suitland, RG 332, box 52: General G.L. Adcock to Chief of Staff, 11 Aug. 1945; USFET Main (signed Eisenhower) to U.S. Embassy London, 14 Aug. 1945; USFET Main (personal from Eisenhower) to AGWAR (for Secretary of War), 10 Aug. 1945.
14. AJC Archives, files Emigration-Immigration, DPs, Germany West, 1945-54: Segal to Slawson, 17 July 1945; NARA, Suitland, RG 332, box 52: AGWAR (from McCloy) to USFET (for Eisenhower), 14 Sept. 1945.
15. Nadich, Eisenhower and the Jews, pp. 235-36; NARA, Suitland, RG 332, box 52: AGWAR (from McCloy) to USFET (for Eisenhower), 14 Sept. 1945; Leo W. Schwarz, The Redeemers: The Saga of Years 1945-52 (New York, 1953), p. 44.
22. Jerusalem, Hebrew University, Institute of Contemporary Jewry, Oral History Division, Project no. 4 [hereafter cited as ICJ, Oral Hist. Div., no. 4]: Joseph Schwartz Interview, 14 Aug. 1962; Joint Archives, files Germany, DP, General, Aug.-Dec. 1945: cable, Trobe to Schwartz, 24 Dec. 1945; ibid., files Germany, DP, Jan.-June 1946: Edward Warburg to Simon Rifkind, 2 Jan. 1946.
24. ICJ, Oral Hist. Div., no. 4: Louis Levinthal Interview, 29 June 1962; Author's interview with Emanuel Rackman, 16 May 1984; Philip S. Bernstein, "Jewish Chaplains in World War ll," American Jewish Year Book 47 (1945-1946): 173.
29. Ibid., Levinthal Interview, 29 June 1962; Bernstein's statement was taken from Joint Archives, files Germany, DP, Jan.-June 1946: Bernstein to L. Kenen, 29 June 1946; author's interview with Rackman, 16 May 1984; author's interview with Abraham Hyman, 23 May 1984; AJC Archives, files Emigration- Immigration, DP, Germany West 1945-54: Bernstein's "Report on the Situation of Jewish DPs in U.S. Zones," 6 Dec. 1946.
31. joint Archives, files DP, 1945-46: "Address by Rabbi Bernstein at Biltmore Hotel," 1 Oct. 1946; AJC Archives, files EmigrationImmigration, DP, Germany West, 1945-54: Bernstein, "Report on the Situation," 6 Dec. 1946; joint Archives, files DP, Jan. 1947-May 1948: Bernstein, Report to the Secretary of the Army, 26 Oct. 1947. In all these sources Bernstein clearly complained of the negative approach of the Army's lower echelon to the DPs. Therefore, Hyman's statement to the contrary does not seem to be accurate. Author's interview with Hyman, 23 May 1984.
33. ICJ, Oral Hist. Div. no. 4: Berstein Interview, Sept. 1962; joint Archives, files DP, Jan. 1947-May 1948: Bernstein, Report to the Secretary of the Army, 26 Oct. 1947; AJC Archives, files Emigration-Immigration, Adviser: Levinthal's Report, 19 Aug. 1947.
36. Bernstein, "Displaced Persons," American Jewish Year Book 49 (1947-1948), 520; Dinnerstein, America and the Survivors, p. 109; joint Archives, files Germany, DP, Aug.-Dec. 1945: esp. detailed report of Joseph Levine to Moses Leavitt, 24 Oct. 1945.
50. ICJ, Oral Hist. Div., no. 4: Bernstein Interview; joint Archives, files DP, 1945- 46: Wahl to Grossman, 23 July 1946; NARA, Suitland, RG 338, box 69, file 1: EUCOM (personal from Huebner) to OMGUS (personal for Keating), 22 Mar. 1947; HQ, EUCOM (signed Huebner) to OMGUS, 21 Apr. 1947.
52. joint Archives, files Germany, DP, Jan.-June 1947: "Meeting with Rabbi Philip Bernstein," 22 Apr. 1947; NARA, Suitland, RG 338, box 69, file 1: EUCOM (personal from Huebner) to OMGUS (personal for Keating), 22 Mar. 1947.
54. Ibid., RG 338.7, box 69, file 1: Bernstein to Huebner, 25 Mar. 1947; ibid., box 70, file 1: Bernstein to Chief of Staff, 3 Apr. 1947. 1 did not find any indication that Bernstein actually discouraged infiltration.
55. AJC Archives, files Emigration-Immigration, Germany West, Adviser: Minutes, Meeting of the Five Cooperating Organizations with Rabbi Bernstein, 19 June 1947; NARA, Suitland, RG 383.7, box 70, file 1: USFA (Keyes) to WAR (for Civil Affairs Division), 27 June 1947. It is beyond the scope of this paper to challenge such statements of General Keyes's as that the order of 21 Apr. stopped the influx of Polish Jews. In fact, the great Polish exodus was over before this order was issued. It is also inaccurate to argue that Romanian Jews left their country only because of economic difficulties. See NARA, Suitland, RG 383.7, box 70, file 2: Levinthal to Commander in Chief, 13 Aug. 1947.
58. By this agreement the JDC's burden was significantly reduced to supplementing the food provided by the Austrians. See the official announcement of the Austrian Chancellor in AJC Archives, files Germany, Emigration-Immigration, Adviser: FigI to the HQ, USFA (attention J.D. Balmer), 29 July 1947.
59. joint Archives, files DP, Jan. 1947-May 1948: B. M. Joffe and Eli Rock to M. Leavitt, 18 Sept. 1947. On the interim hardships of the Romanian refugees, as well as on the difficulties of the JDC in providing a full ration of food and clothing, see AJC Archives, files Germany, Emigration-Immigration, Adviser: Bernstein, Final Report to the Cooperating Organizations, n.d.; joint Archives, files Germany, DP, Jan.-June 1948: Confidential Report of the JDC Executive Vice Chairman and Secretary, 26 Mar. 1948.
60. The sources, and consequently also the historians, differ on the exact number of infiltrees from the East during the years 1945-1947. According to a JDC annual report, in 1946 there were 90,000 infiltrees in Germany, Austria, and Italy. Joint Archives, files Germany, DP, July-Dec. 1948: AJJDC, "Operations in U.S. Zone in Germany, 1948," p. 2. Yehuda Bauer also accepted this number: Bauer, Flight and Rescue, p. 261. According to UNRRA sources, in Oct. 1946 there were 175,000 DPs in the American zones. (Subtracting from this figure the 30,000-50,000 Jews who had been liberated from concentrations camps, the number of infiltrees was 125,000-145,000). And a Brichah source spoke in Nov. 1946 of 153,000 Jews, i.e., 103,000-123,000 infiltrees. Ibid., p. 352, n. 19. General Joseph McNarney boasted to General Koening, French Supreme Commander in Germany, that the American zones had accepted 125,000 Polish refugees during the first nine months of 1946. NARA, Suitland, RG 383.7, box 70, file 1: McNarney to Koening, 26 Nov. 1946. The historian Leonard Dinnerstein showed that the Jewish population in the American zone in Germany increased from 46,000 in Feb. 1946 to 157,000 in the summer of 1947. Altogether, in the three Western Zones of Germany, Austria, and Italy, the Jewish population increased from 130,000 in July 1946 to 245,000 in the summer of 1947. Dinnerstein, America and the Survivors, p. 278, Table A2.
66. Probably the Bricha's negative attitude to the proposal contributed to the lack of candidates for settlement, even temporarily, in the comfortable houses in Sudetenland. This plan contradicted the Zionist idea of reaching the shores of Palestine in the shortest way. See Dekel, B'riha, p. 206.
68. joint Archives, files DP, 1945-46: Cable, JDC Paris to JDC New York, 20 Aug. 1946; Cable, JDC New York to JDC Paris, 21 Aug. 1946; ibid., Italy file, DP, Sept.-Dec. 1946: Bernstein to Leavitt, 8 Sept. 1946; "1 became very indignant. I think I even threatened them at the time," Bernstein later recalled. ICJ, Oral Hist. Div., no. 4: Bernstein Interview.
75. Ibid., file 4: Bernstein's memorandum to McNarney, "Visit to England Concerning Immigration Possibilities for Jewish DPs," 24 Feb. 1947. Abraham Hyman, who accompanied Bernstein on his London trip, recalled the Adviser's deep disappointment and depression when he left Bevin's office. Author's interview with Hyman, 23 May 1984.
77. joint Archives, files DP, Jan. 1947-May 1948: Bernstein's Final Report to Kenneth C. Royall, Secretary of the Army, 26 Oct. 1947. Bernstein decreased this figure to 70 percent if the U.S. would open its gates. Schwarz, Redeemers, p. 234. Probably more accurate was the opinion that if the DPs had free choice, approximately 50 percent would prefer America and other Western countries over Palestine. Author's interview with Hyman, 23 May 1984.
78. Schwarz, Redeemers, p. 254; author's interview with Rackman, 16 May 1984. See also Bernstein, "Displaced Persons," American Jewish Year Book, 49 (1947- 1948): 532-33; NARA, Suitland, RG 383.7, box 70, file 2: Cable, WAR (from Public Information Division, SGD Parks) to EUCOM (for C/PID), 12 Aug. 1947.
80. Philip Bernstein, "Status of Jewish Displaced Persons: Statement Made Before the House of Representatives Subcommittee on Immigration and Naturalization, on 20 June 1947," Department of State Bulletin, 16 (29 June 1947): 1308-11; joint Archives, files DP, Jan. 1947-May 1948: Bernstein to 1. L. Kenen, 20 Jan. 1947; Bernstein, "Displaced Persons," p. 532; Dinnerstein, America and the Survivors, p. 143.
84. Ibid., p. 170; ICJ, Oral Hist. Div., no. 4: Bernstein Interview, Sept. 1962; AJC Archives, files Emigration-Immigration, Germany West, 1945-54: Bernstein, "Report on the Situation of DPs in U.S. Zones in Germany and Austria," 6 Dec. 1946.
87. NARA, Suitland, RG 383.7, box 70, file 1: Bernstein, "Memorandum on Publication of the Talmud," 29 Aug. 1946; Colonel George F. Herbert to Office of Military Government, "Publication of the Talmud," 16 Jan. 1947. Haber's comments are quoted in Gerd Korman, "Survivors' Talmud and the U.S. Army," American Jewish History 73 (1984): 266.
89. NARA, Suitland, RG 332, box 52: Simon H. Rifkind to Central Committee of Liberated Jews, 21 Nov. 1945; joint Archives, files DP, 1945-46: Bernstein's Address at Biltmore Hotel, 1 Oct. 1946; AJC Archives, files Emigration- Immigration, Germany West, DP, 1945-54: Bernstein, "Confidential Report on the Situation of Jewish DPs 6 Dec. 1946.
92. Dinnerstein, America and the Survivors, p. 50; author's interview with Hyman, 23 May 1984. General Clay, Commander in Chief of European Theater, stated that "even in this field the Jewish DPs have not been conspicuous in their activities as compared to other DP groups, or in fact compared to the German population itself." Quoted in Bernstein, "Displaced Persons," p. 530.
95. AJC Archives, files Emigration-Immigration, DP, Germany West, 1945-54: Bernstein, "Confidential Report on the Situation of Jewish DPs,- 6 Dec. 1946; ibid., RG 7, Germany, Emigration-Immigration, Adviser: Bernstein's Final Report to the Cooperating Organizations, n. d.; Abraham Hyman's Final Report to Cooperating Organizations, 30 Jan. 1950.
98. AJC Archives, files Emigration-Immigration, Germany West, 1947, Adviser: "Memorandum, Philip S. Bernstein to the Interorganizational Sub-Committee on Combating Anti-Sernitism in Germany," 14 Mar. 1947; Bernstein to Meir Grossman, 17 July 1947; Bernstein to Jacob Blaustein, 15 June 1947.
101. Ibid., 1947, Adviser: Philip Bernstein to Blaustein, 15 June 1947. The Adviser intended to settle the matter with AJC alone, and in the meeting with the Five Cooperating Organizations, which took place only four days after he had mailed this sharp letter to Blaustein, he therefore did not mention the subject at all. Ibid.: Minutes, Meeting of the Five Organizations with Rabbi Bernstein, 19 June 1947.
102. Ibid.: Blaustein to Philip Bernstein, 20 June 1947. David Bernstein also apologized "for any discourtesy, however unintentional, which may have been implied." Ibid.: David Bernstein to Philip S. Bernstein, 21 July 1947; ibid., Emigration-Immigration, Adviser: M. Himmelfarb to AJC Paris Office, 24 June 1947.
106. joint Archives, files DP, Jan. 1947-May 1948: Bernstein, Report to Royall, 26 Oct. 1947; AJC Archives, files Germany, EmigrationImmigration, Adviser: Bernstein, Final Report to the Five Cooperating Organizations, n.d. See, for example, his intervention to help the Army transfer DPs from Zeilsheim to new installations. Ibid., EmigrationImmigration, Germany West, 1947: Minutes, Meeting of the Five Organizations with Rabbi Bernstein, 29 June 1947.
107. Ibid., RG 7, Germany, Emigration-Immigration, Adviser: Bernstein, Final Report to the Five Cooperating Organizations, n.d. As far as the history of the Advisers after Bernstein is concerned, it is worthwhile to discuss briefly the major problems that characterized the period of each Adviser. Louis Levinthal, who succeeded Bernstein (10 June-end of Dec. 1947), operated in a relatively calm period. He did not have to face mass infiltration, as Bernstein had, and the difficult problems with the movement of immigration and the closing of the camps had not yet arisen. It was the privilege of Prof. William Haber, who followed Levinthal (15 Jan. 1948-15 Jan. 1949), to serve in a year when the State of Israel was established and the American Congress adopted the DP Act. Following these events, the great exodus to Israel and the United States began. As a consequence of mass emigration, the consolidation and the final liquidation of the DP camps were the major problems faced by Harry Greenstein, who served as Adviser after Haber, from 15 Feb. to 31 Oct. 1949. In spite of the opposition of the camps' population, Greenstein successfully and with dignity handled the consolidation process. The honor of supervising the final phase of liquidation was granted to Major Abraham Hyman, who served as the last Adviser from 15 Oct. to 31 Dec. 1949. With the successful solution of the Jewish Displaced Persons problem in Germany and Austria, through immigration and resettlement, the basic aims for which the post of the Adviser was established were accomplished. Therefore, the Office of the Adviser on Jewish Affairs was closed at the end of 1949.
PLEASE NOTE: The Museum of Tolerance will close early (3:30 PM) on September 29, 2019 and remain closed through October 1, 2019, for Rosh Hashanah.
The Museum is Closed Saturdays and Jewish Holidays. During the months of November - March, the MOT will close at 3:30pm on Fridays. Last entrance is 1:00pm.