Agudat Israel

Agudat Israel is a political movement within orthodox Jewry, founded in Kattowitz (now Katowice), Poland, in May 1912. Branches in Western and Eastern Europe, the United Sates and Palestine gradually developed. Agudat Israel reached the peak of its political aspiratons and institutional development in interwar Eastern Europe, especially in Poland and Lithuania. While Agudat Israel opposed secular zionism and therefore the establishment of a Jewish state in the British Mandate of Palestine, it didn’t object to a Jewish settlement in Israel. Affiliated youth movements were very active in the preparation of young Orthodox Jews for the emigration to the land of Israel.

American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee

The American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee (known as JDC or Joint) is the largest, most important American Jewish nonpolitical help organization with its headquarters in New York City since 1914.



Der Algemeyner Yidisher Arbeter Bund in Lite, Poyln, un Rusland (The General Union of Jewish Workers in Lithuania, Poland, and Russia), known simply as Bund and its members as Bundists, was founded in Vilnius in October 1897 by a small group of Jewish intelligentsia influenced by Marxism. At the beginning of the 20th century, it had 34,000 members in 274 branches and was the largest and best-organized Jewish party in Eastern Europe with an inherently anti-Zionist agenda. Originally, its aim was to win over Eastern European Jews, especially the emerging, disenfranchised Eastern European Jewish working class, to the burgeoning Russian revolutionary movement and the struggle for economic, civil and political rights through politicisation. Later, it added the ideological goal of Jewish national-cultural autonomy and began to present itself as the guardian of secular Yiddish Jewish culture in the diaspora. The party was liquidated in the Soviet Union in the 1920s, but Poland had already become the main centre of the party during the First World War. Under German occupation during the Second World War, the Bund built up a complex underground network to both continue educational activities in the ghettos and disseminate information about the Holocaust in Poland to the Polish government in exile and political leaders in the West. In 1941 New York City became the main centre of the Federation. With the adoption of the Stalinist line in post-war socialist Poland, the party ceased to exist after 50 years of activity in Eastern Europe.


Dublin Regulation

The Dublin Regulation determines which European state (EU states, Norway, Switzerland, Liechtenstein, Iceland) is responsible for conducting an asylum procedure. The “Dublin Convention” adopted in 1990 was replaced by the Dublin II Regulation in 2003 and by the Dublin III Regulation in 2013. In principle, the European state is responsible for examining an asylum application in which an asylum seeker has first entered the territory of the EU. If a person lodges an asylum application in a state which, after examination of the application, is found not to be responsible under the Dublin Regulation, a request for taking charge is made to the State responsible and, if necessary, the person is returned there. However, a state also has the “right of self-defense” which allows it to assume responsibility for an asylum application, even if it is not responsible under the Dublin Regulation.


Geneva Refugee Convention

The Geneva Refugee Convention (actually “Convention relating to the Status of Refugees”) is the foundation of international refugee law. It was adopted in 1951 and was initially limited to protecting mainly European refugees directly after the Second World War. In order to do justice to the changed conditions of refugees worldwide, the scope of the Convention was extended both temporally and geographically by the 1967 Protocol. A total of 148 states have so far acceded to the Geneva Convention and/or the 1967 Protocol.

Today, it provides legal recognition worldwide for people who are forced to leave their country to seek refuge in another because of “race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion” (Article 1, Refugee Convention). This definition includes only those refugees who are outside their country of origin, thus excluding internally displaced persons.

It clearly defines who is a refugee, regulates who is recognised as a refugee and who is excluded from refugee protection (e.g. war criminals) and lays down minimum standards for the treatment of persons who fulfil the requirements for refugee status. At the heart of the agreement is the non-refoulment principle, which prohibits expulsion and refoulement to a country where the life or freedom of the refugee is threatened.

Calls for the inclusion of further provisions in the Geneva Convention on Refugees are becoming ever louder. It is a question of granting protection and support to all those people who are now increasingly threatened and leaving their country of origin for reasons such as extreme poverty, environmental changes or disasters or the consequences of large-scale development projects.



Komitet tsu zamlen materialn vegn yidishn khurbn in Poyln 1939 (Committee to Collect Material about the Destruction of Polish Jewry 1939) was founded in November 1939 in Vilnius by a Polish Jewish collective of refugees in order to document Nazi crimes against the Jewish population of German-occupied Poland on the basis of refugee testimonies. It is known as one of the earliest historical Jewish commissions that offered resistance in documentary form in the shadow of the incipient Holocaust.


Migration Regime

The term Migration Regime reflects the relationship between migration, its actors and migration policy, i.e. the regulation of migration relations, and includes questions of the agency of migration and migrants in the negotiation process. The term enjoys great popularity, although there is still no widely shared understanding of the use and interpretation of the term within migration research.

Mixed Migration

The growing diversity of the reasons for migration as well as the increasing number of mixed forms of forced and voluntary migration make it increasingly difficult to clearly distinguish the motives and paths of refugees and migrants. This is all the more problematic because the causes of flight have changed since the adoption of the Geneva Convention on Refugees in 1951: From a primarily individual or group-specific persecution to a flight from general or gender-specific violence or a threat caused by the destruction of the economic and ecological foundations of life. In addition, refugees and migrants led by people smugglers increasingly use the same (irregular) migration routes. Many migrants try to settle in destination countries by applying for asylum, because most industrialized and emerging countries do not offer sufficient legal migration opportunities to refugees and migrants. Existing concepts and terminologies of migration research do not yet do justice to this complexity of forms of mobility.


New York Declaration for Refugees and Migrants

On September 19, 2016, the United Nations General Assembly unanimously adopted the New York Declaration for Refugees and Migrants. The New York Declaration reaffirms the importance of the international refugee regime and contains a wide range of commitments by member states to strengthen and enhance mechanisms to protect people on the move. It has paved the way for the adoption of two new global compacts in 2018: a global compact on refugees and a global compact for safe, orderly and regular migration.



Obshchestvo Remeslennago i Zemledelecheskago Truda Sredi Evreev v Rossii (The Society for Handicraft and Agricultural Work among the Jews of Russia). Since 1880 ORT funded craft education to encourage Jews to become artisans and agriculturalists. The organization was also active in refugee-related matters early on. Often in conjunction with other philanthropic organizations such as the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee, it remained active in the Soviet Union until 1938 and also moved to Poland and other newly independent Eastern European states as major locations for ORT programs. Even under Nazi occupation, it continued activities in the ghettos clandestinely. After the war, ORT resumed its activities in Poland (intermittently), in Romania, Bulgaria, and Hungary. After 1991, the organization returned to post-Socialist Russia and Ukraine and resumed setting up schools.


Obshchestvo okhraneniia zdorov’ia evreiskogo naseleniia, later Obschestvo zdravookhraneniia evreev (Society for the Protection of the Health of the Jewish Population): Founded in 1912 in Saint Petersburg, OZE was an organization devoted to the promotion of health, hygiene, and childcare among Russian Jews. During World War I, the organization had to divert attention away from its long-term mission and focused on providing large-scale emergency medical relief to Jewish refugees and displaced persons. OZE’s activities in Russia folded in 1921. In the same year, OZE was established in Lithuania with the financial help of the Joint. Also in 1921, the Polish branch of OZE became the national organization Towarzystwo Ochrony Zdrowia Ludności Źidowskiej (Society for Safeguarding the Health of the Jewish Populace). With the rise of Nazi power in 1933, the OZE-Union relocated to Paris (later, from 1940 to 1945, to New York City), where it is still based today under the heading OSE (Oeuvre de Secours aux Enfants) World Union.


Refugee – Forced Migrant

The term “refugee” has become increasingly controversial in recent years. Some refer to the legal definition established by the Geneva Refugee Convention and the associated protection status of a “refugee” in clear distinction from other migrants. Accordingly, the term “refugee” only covers persons who can prove that they are persecuted in their country of origin or are fleeing violent conflicts.

Others see this term primarily as a category of (national) state order, which thus excludes many persons seeking protection who cannot expect protection status within the meaning of the Geneva Convention on Refugees or national asylum law regulations. However, negative migration reasons such as environmental and climate change, as well as poverty, are not regarded as reasons for granting refugee status. In order to make it clear that flight is not always clearly separable from other forms of migration, the term “mixed migration” is also used today.

The term “forced/coerced migrant” became increasingly established as an alternative term in the 1980s and refers to all possible forms of forced migration, including deportation. Since there are hardly any legal channels of immigration to the countries of the Global North, both migrants and forced migrants often have to rely on smugglers, do not receive international protection and are therefore dependent on the decisions of the host country.

The We Refugees Archive collects stories of fugitives who see themselves as such, without giving a definition that fails due to the complexity of migration reasons.


The concept refugeedom was coined by Peter Gatrell and encompasses not only the legal realities behind the concept of flight, but also the experiences of refugees and how these are represented in the media and society. This emphasizes the interdependent relationship between refugees, society and the state. Refugeedom shows that categories around the term refugee are historically grown and changeable: The meanings of the category refugee are shaped by states as well as by international aid organisations and refugees themselves.


Reich Flight Tax, Jewish Property Tax, expatriation and expropriation

In 1931, the Weimar Republic introduced the “Reich Flight Tax” to prevent the outflow of capital. This law was used by the Reich Ministry of Finance of National Socialist Germany to fiscally exploit Jews living in the Reich.

When the National Socialists came to power, the Reich Flight Tax was also levied on people who fled the German Reich. If a person left Germany without paying this tax, his or her assets were confiscated and a so-called “Steuerersteckbrief” (tax warrant) was issued – a newly created instrument which the tax offices made extensive use of. Such a tax warrant was published in the Reichsanzeiger and in the Reich Tax Gazette and contained the request that if the taxpayer was found in Germany, he should be provisionally arrested and immediately brought before the magistrate.

Often the tax could not be paid for reasons beyond the control of the person concerned: for example, because bank transfers could no longer be made (usually the Gestapo blocked the account in the event of illegal departure), or because it was not possible to sell real property at short notice.

As early as 1934, a law amending the Reich Flight Tax gave the tax authorities the additional option of issuing a security notice in the exact amount of the Reich Flight Tax (25 per cent of the total assets) if they suspected emigration intentions were suspected – this meant that this special tax could practically be levied as an advance payment. Initially, criteria such as the application for a passport were used as a basis, but since 1938/39 the Berlin tax offices have issued a security notice to most Jewish people who are subject to property tax. The reason for this is regularly found in the tax files handed down, with reference to the taxpayer’s Jewish origin.

The expropriation was the material plundering of Jews who had been expatriated by the German Reich since 1933.

Following the November pogrom of 1938, a special payment of 1 billion Reichsmark was imposed on German Jews in their entirety on November 12, 1938, and Hermann Göring’s tax administration was commissioned to carry out the practical implementation. The so-called “Judenvermögensabgabe” (Jewish property tax) amounted to 20 percent of the total assets of each German Jew and was payable in four installments to the responsible tax offices. The tax was payable on assets of at least 5,000 Reichsmark. When it was foreseeable that the prescribed billion would not be achieved in this way, a further instalment of 5 per cent was agreed upon, so that in the end the “Judenvermögensabgabe” amounted to 25 per cent.

Thus the flight tax is an example of the crimes of the “perfectly normal” tax offices, which were considered apolitical and which, in addition to special departments set up specifically for the expropriation of German Jews, were involved in the economic destruction of the Jewish population.

Residence Permit on Humanitarian Grounds (Italy)

The Humanitarian Protection (Permesso di soggiorno per motivi umanitari) is a residence permit for two years. It does not equal internation protection, but is solely a form of national (Italian) protection for serious humanitarian reasons. Persons protected by this status do not have the same rights as e.g. persons who are recognized as refugees or persons under subsidiary protection.As a result of the so-called “Security Decree” from 4 October 2018, the Residence Permit on Humanitarian Grounds was not issued any longer. In the years preceding the “Security Decree”, ca. 20-25% of asylum requests have been transformed into such a protection status.



Security Decree (Italy)

The so-called “Security Decree” or, officially, Legislative Decree No. 113 of October 4, 2018, passed on December 1, 2018, as Law No. 132, has introduced many changes in the regulation of international protection and immigration, leading to drastic cuts in the Italian asylum legislation and protection system and thus to radical restrictions on the (legal) possibilities of people to build a life in Italy.

For example, humanitarian residency permits are no longer issued, bearing in mind that around 20-25% of asylum applications have been converted into such a permit in recent years. Thanks to humanitarian permissions, many migrants received papers, giving them the opportunity to integrate into Italian society. The abolition of residence permits for humanitarian reasons is illegalizing thousands of migrants on Italian territory.

The reception system in Italy was also drastically limited. The well-functioning Italian protection system for asylum seekers and refugees (SPRAR) only provides for the admission of migrants granted recognized refugee status or subsidiary protection (except for unaccompanied minors).

Stateless persons

According to Article 1 of the Convention relating to the Status of Stateless Persons from 1954 “a ‘stateless person’ means a person who is not considered as a national by any State under the operation of its law.” Nationality/Citizenship settles the legal relationship between a state (and its laws) and its citizens.

Hannah Arendt, when writing about stateless persons, did not only refer to those who lost their legal citizenship, but also to those whose citizenship did not guarantee them any rights. This includes most of the refugees who still belong to a state on paper.




Towarzystwo Ochrony Zdrowia Ludności Żydowskiej (Society for Safeguarding the Health of the Jewish Population): Initially the Polish branch of the Saint Petersburg–based Obshchestvo Zdravookhraneniia Evreev (Society for the Protection of Jewish Health), TOZ was established in Warsaw in 1921 when this branch united in a national organization. TOZ’s objective was to care for the welfare and well-being of Jewish citizens in independent Poland and to safeguarding their health through the promotion of hygiene and the provision of adequate nutrition. Following the outbreak of the Second World War, TOZ kept operating for a while in conjunction with the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee. At first, Nazi authorities did not prevent or interfere with this activity so that the organization was active in several ghettos probably until 1942.



The YIVO – Institute for Jewish Research (Yidisher visnshaftlekher institut) was founded in 1925 by Eastern European Jewish scholars in Berlin but moved its headquarters to Wilno (Vilnius), then Poland, in order to document and study Eastern European Jewish life in all its aspects. It had additional branches in Warsaw, Berlin, and Paris but moved its headquarters to New York in 1940 in the wake of the Second World War. The Vilnius branch was operative until the German occupation in the summer of 1941.