Central Committee of Liberated Jews

The Central Committees in the British and U.S. zones of occupation held extensive responsibilities for the DPs. They organized tracing bureaus and legal offices as well as education, culture, and health departments. However, the committees’ origins and organizational structures were markedly different as were their relationships with the occupying forces in their respective zones.

British Zone

The Jewish DPs in the British zone were housed mainly in the Bergen-Belsen DP camp. A camp committee was organized there on April 18, 1945, just three days after the camp's liberation, and it became the representative voice for survivors in the British zone. Josef Rosensaft, a Bergen-Belsen survivor, was elected chairman of the camp committee and served as the spokesperson for Jews in the British zone. When the camp committee developed into the Central Committee of Liberated Jews in the British zone, Rosensaft designated several tasks for the committee including the search for family members, the physical and psychological rehabilitation of the survivors, and the struggle for their rights. The Central Committee also vigilantly opposed the British policy of refusing to acknowledge the Jews as a distinct nationality. In Bergen-Belsen on September 25-27, 1945, the liberated Jews of the British zone held their first congress, an event that was repeated in July 1947 in Bad Harzburg by the Second Congress of Liberated Jews. The British Central Committee of Liberated Jews differed from its counterpart in the U.S. zone in its rancorous relationship with its overseeing occupying forces and in its inclusion of the resurrected German-Jewish community, which was represented by Norbert Wollheim, a German Jew who served as Rosensaft’s deputy.

U.S. Zone

In the widely dispersed American zone, local camp and regional committees played a more significant role in everyday administration of the camps than the Central Committee. Nevertheless, the formation of the Central Committee of Liberated Jews in the U.S. zone (originally of Liberated Jews in Bavaria) marked an important event in the DP era. Delegates of Jewish DPs in the U.S. zone first met in Feldafing in June 1945 and chartered the Central Committee in St. Ottilien DP camp on July 1, 1945. Zalman Grinberg was elected president of the committee. In those first months after liberation, the organized survivor community formed the Achida, the United Zionist Front that attempted to present a united political front and avoid splinter groups such as factious political parties. The plan did not succeed for long, and by February 1946, when the Central Committee sponsored the first of its three Congresses of the Sh'erit ha-Pletah, Zionist political parties had already forged different groups within the Central Committee. Nevertheless, the Committee was usually united when confronting their American military guardians and when protesting the British policies on Palestine.

 

DPs working in the office of the Central Committee at Bergen Belsen.