U.S. Committee for the Care of European Children: Operating in NAZI Occupied Europe (1940-42)

French Jewish refugee children
Figure 1.--The The American Friends Service Committee (AFSC) working with the American Emergency Rescue Committee (USCOM) managed to save a number of French Jewish children during the period between the fall of France and the Allied Torch landings (June 1940-November 1942). Many of the children reached America through Spain and Portugal. Here we see some of the children arriving in New York on a Portuguese merchant vessel during September 1941. Note the ID tags on some of the children. The wire service caption read, "Refugee children here on 'Serra. Pinto': New York. Sorrowful story was told of these children, some of the 56 who arrived September 21 on the Serra Pinto from Lisbon under the auspices of the U.S. Committee for the Care of European Children. Before their train left Marseilles for Lisbon, many of the parents, already imprissoned in concentration camps for two years, were allowed exactly six minutes to see their children. Though striving to see their children, the parents were starving physically and spent part of the six minutes eating food given to them by the children."

The American Friends Service Committee (AFSC) provided relief services in Germany during and after World War I. The AFSC was, as a result, respected or at least tolerated even by the NAZIs. America at the time was neurtral and both the NAZIs and Vichy wanted to maintain relations with the United States. Thus the AFSC was able to operate relief programs in unoccupied Vichy France. The AFSC worked with Jewish welfare agencies, including the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee, and provided assistance to Jewish refugees in France, Spain, and Portugal. Even after Hitler declared War on America (Decmber 1941), Vichy still maintained relations with the United states. AFSC's capabilities were limited. So they decided to save Jewish children from children's homes and refugee camps in southern France and get them to America. We are not sure how the children were selected. AFSC worked under the auspices of the U.S. Committee for the Care of European Children (USCOM) (1941-42). After the Allied Torch Landingds (November 1942), it became impossible to operate in Vichy, but they could work in Spain and Portugal. USCOM managed to bring several hundred Jewish refugee children safely to America.


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Created: 9:13 AM 8/27/2009
Last updated: 5:35 PM 8/29/2010