YIVO Grant Proposal addressed to the Joint, 20 November 1939

On 20 November 1939, the YIVO in Vilnius approached the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee with a funding request for the “Project of Investigations into the Destruction of the Jewish Population in Poland and their present conditions” based on the initiative of Polish-Jewish refugee intellectuals.

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Jewish Scientific Institute (IVO) Kaunas

November 20, 1939



The destruction of Polish Jewry has occurred so suddenly that no time was left to check the results of the wreck which has knocked down the Jewish community so deeply rooted in Polish social life, with its religious and cultural institutions, with its manifold press organs, at the enemy’s mercy who has declared in public that he wanted to exterminate the Jews of the whole world.

We, the Jews who for the time being are safe of war, should not limit our activities to bringing help there where it is needed. The 3 1/2 million Jews in Poland were a very important factor, representing the chief resources of Jewish energy in the entire world. Therefore we cannot eliminate the Polish Jewish population from our memory. However, this might unfortunately happen if steps will not be taken immediately to register the tragic events in Poland so that we may show to the wolrd what and how much has been lost.

One of the last works carried out by the economic-statistical section of the IVO, upon request and with the support of the JOINT, was a statistical survey on the Jewish population in Poland. This survey has become a historical document, in the meantime, of inestimable value, a historical monument of the Jewish people in Poland, during his flourishing time. The Jewish Scientific Institute which fortunately has got over the breakdown unhurt can now continue its activities under the protection of a neutral country. The IVO believes it their duty to start a new great work in fixing and gathering events of humane importance, in showing what the Jewish people has lost; dead and wounded, fortunes, organizations, etc. This statistical survey will be of tremendous practical value, namely:

  1. Guiding the future relief activities;
  2. Serving as justification to the claims of the Jewish people at the coming peace conference.

The IVO, therefore, appeals to the JOINT for support of this enterprise. There are now sufficient intellectuals in Wilna having come from Poland who will be the best qualified to carry out the collecting and listing of the material should the Joint assign the funds necessary for this purpose. We estimate the monthly expenses for this work at $1000 maximum and would request, for the time being, that the funds for the first six months be placed at our disposal.

Thanking you in advance,

Very truly yours,

in the name of the Executive Office

Signed: S. Kalmanovitch

Enclosed a draft of our program


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1. Localities

a. How many have been entirely wrecked?

b. How many have been partly wrecked?

c. Jewish social institutions which were destroyed (schools, hospitals, social and cultural institutions, public and private museums, art collections, etc.)

d. Jewish enterprises. (factories, estates – wrecked or confiscated)

2. Individuals

a. How many were killed? (through bomb attacks, firesquads – shot by the Nazis, pogroms and diseases.)

b. Information about compulsory labor.

c. How many left their homes (voluntary or deported)

d. Where are they now? (present conditions and future plans).

e. Prominent personalities; names and exact information concerning their life; rabbis, writers, social workers.

3. Wrecked institutions

a. Communities

b. Social organizations and parties

c. Editorial and press enterprises

d. Economic institutions; banks, cooperatives, professional unions)

4. The Enemy Forces

a. Documents of the Nazi legislation

b. Violences committed by German military forces and civil authorities

c. Polish antisemitism

d. Ghetto (Reservation)

5. Social Work in the Towns

a. Remaining communities

b. Sanitary care

c. Economical conditions

d. Religious activities

e. Cultural activities

6. Wilna

Exact details concerning all Jewish survivors in Wilna as well as present conditions of the Wilna residents and the newly arrived persons.

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II. Means and Prospects of the Investigations

  1. Investigation into the refugees in Lithuania. (Description of their living conditions, reports on their suffering) In view of the fact that the IVO has great difficulties to contact the leading personalities in Roumania for the time being, it will be worthwhile that the JOINT makes arrangements there with competent persons to investigate into the Polish Jewish refugees in Roumania.
  2. Establishment of records of the international press.
  3. Sending of special delegates into the occupied regions for the purpose of collecting material on the spot.
  4. Authorization should be obtained from the Soviet authorities to this effect, for the part of Poland annexed by Soviet Russia. In case of a negative answer, the work will have to be carried out as mentioned under 3).

III. Organization

  1. A Committee will be created with the Jewish Scientific Institute, comprising 15 persons belonging to all social classes and willing to participate in the work. The Committee will plan and direct the investigation.
  2. An Executive office will be appointed by the Committee entrusted with the direct control of the activities to be carried out. A representative of the IVO will be a member of the Executive office.
  3. The practical work will be carried out by an administrator and six collaborators, the administrator being member of the Executive office. The work will be divided as follows: a) Localities. Individuals b) Foundations and organizations c) Anti-Semitism

IV. Monthly Budget

The monthly budget will be established as follows:

Travel expenses and expenses of the delegates      2000 Lit

Salary of the administrator                                          500  ”

Salaries of six collaborators, at lit 250 each              1500  ”

Printing matter and other materials                            1000 ”

Total                                                                            5000 ” monthly


  1. The totality of the material is property of the IVO and remains in its archives.
  2. Publications of the material will only be permitted with the special authorization of the JOINT.
  3. Extracts and copies of the material will be placed at the disposal of the JOINT, upon his request.

On November 20, 1939 the Yidisher visnshaftlekher institut (Jewish Scientific Institute, short: YIVO) in Vilnius presents a project plan and budgetary breakdown for the “Project for Investigating the Destruction of Jewish Population in Poland and its Current Situation” to the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee (Joint). The Joint agreed to fund the project and facilitated the creation of the Komitet tsu zamlen materialn vegn yidishn khurbn in Poyln 1939 – the earliest known Jewish documentation effort of the Holocaust in Eastern Europe iniated from Polish-Jewish refugee intellectuals in Vilnius. Although it is not clear in what way the YIVO and the Komitet cooperated, it is for sure that there was a cooperation. 11On the history of the Committee, see Schulz, Miriam, 2016: Before the Bow That Was Drawn: The Vilnius Komitet and its documentation of the destruction of Polish Jewry, 1939-1940/41. http://metropol-verlag.de/produkt/miriam-schulz-der-beginn-des-untergangs/.


  • 1On the history of the Committee, see Schulz, Miriam, 2016: Before the Bow That Was Drawn: The Vilnius Komitet and its documentation of the destruction of Polish Jewry, 1939-1940/41. http://metropol-verlag.de/produkt/miriam-schulz-der-beginn-des-untergangs/.

JDC Archives, Records of the New York Office of the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee, 1945 – 1954, NY_AR45ß54_00195_1234, NY_AR45ß54_00195_1235-1236.