"An Exhibition by the American Jewish Historical Society"

"American Jewish Chaplains and the Survivors, 1945-1953"

.Former DPs arrive safely in Haifa, Palestine, aboard the S.S. Mataroa, 1945

American Jewish Army chaplains were among the first to encounter Jewish survivors of the Nazi’s extermination campaign.  One thousand American rabbis, half the rabbis in the United Staes, volunteered to serve in the war.  Three hundred and eleven Jewish chaplains served on active duty.  Of those, approximately 60 had the opportunity to help the survivors in Europe and elsewhere.

The survivors had endured the concentration camps, huddled in cellars and attics, scavenged in forests,even hid in plain sight impersonating Catholic priests or Aryan Germans.  The American Jewish chaplains were unprepared for the death, destruction and suffering they found among their fellow Jews.  Despite shortages, hardship and military regulations to the contrary, the chaplains determined that they would restore the bodies and souls of the She'erit Hapletah, or "Saving Remnant" that had survived.

Above all, the chaplains played a central part in preparing the survivors for a new and independent life in Palestine, in what would become in 1948 the new State of Israel.

 

Photograph: American Joint Distribution Committee

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