JDC Status Report on the Situation of Jewish Refugees in Istanbul, October 1940

In August 1940, the local office of the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee summarized the situation of Jewish refugees in Istanbul and the state of aid work for them.

Translation from French

Istanbul, August 27th, 1940

Through contributions which were received by the Grand Rabbinate it was possible to help a total of 356 persons between April 1 and August 15 of this year. A small number of these people received assistance only once.

157 persons have emigrated, mostly to Palestine, and the number at present lodged and fed by us has been reduced to 149. Up to now we have expended 16,275 Turkish Pounds. Lodging and feeding a single refugee costs approximately 27 Pounds monthly. In addition, there are expenses for permits to remain in the country, sickness and various unanticipated occurrences. We must therefore figure on a budget of about 4,000 Pounds monthly, plus visa fees and traveling expenses.

These expenses come to some 46.80 Pounds for an emigrant to Palestine, as follows:

16.80 third class to the Turkish border

22.00 trip to Palestine, including food, etc.

8.00 embarkation and visas

46.80 Pounds

Most of these refugees are of Polish nationality, coming chiefly from Italy where they were already emigrants. Some came here via Russia.

Besides these impoverished emigrants there are a considerable number of Polish refugees in town who possess funds. It is to be feared, however, that of these people have to stay longer, their funds will be exhausted and the number of refugees at our charge increased. It is also to be remembered that individual Jews of various nationalities come here occasionally and appeal to us.

As to possibilities of departure, only a few of the refugees hope to receive certificates for Palestine. In view of present circumstances we do not even know how far their hopes are justified. Emigration from here to other countries is practically out of the question.

We have continuously looked into the possibility of finding work for some of the refugees. We regret to state that our efforts have been unsuccessful, mainly because of the laws regulating foreign labor and also the fact that the emigrants to not speak the language.

Our funds are very limited since the Grand Rabbinate has recently been unable to obtain important contributions. If we do not receive large grants from abroad in the immediate future, we shall be compelled to cease our welfare work.

Stamp: Oct 21, 1940

The American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee (JDC or Joint for short) in Istanbul worked primarily to support Jews who were stranded here from Romania, where many Polish Jews were also trying to continue their journey, Bulgaria, Hungary, the Balkans, Ukraine or Italy, and, if possible, to smuggle them on to Palestine. However, as the number of refugees increased and JDC’s budget decreased, the relief work increasingly reached its limits.

American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee Archives, Turkey: General, 1934 – 1943, Item ID: 530356, NY_AR3344_1047_2of2-1052_1of2_00684.pdf