Guide to the Records of the National Refugee Service, undated, 1935-1947, 1953


Processed by Marvin Rusinek and Leanora Lange

American Jewish Historical Society

Center for Jewish History

15 West 16th Street

New York, N.Y. 10011

Phone: (212) 294-6160

Fax: (212) 294-6161



© 2016, American Jewish Historical Society, Boston, MA and New York, NY. All Rights Reserved.
Machine-readable finding aid created by Marvin Rusinek as MS Word document, November 2007. Finding aid was encoded by Marvin Rusinek on July 2, 2009. Finding aid written in English.
July 2016 Container list updated and description expanded by Leanora Lange.

Descriptive Summary

Creator:National Refugee Service
Title:National Refugee Service Records
Dates:undated, 1935-1947, 1953
Abstract:This collection contains records of the National Refugee Service (NRS), including committee files, correspondence, publications, and project files organized by partner organization and location. A few case files and a small amount of materials on predecessor organizations, notably the National Coordinating Committee, are also included. The records cover the major functions of the NRS related to migration, resettlement, retraining, employment, and social adjustment of refugees. Other subjects of note include affidavits, deportations, internees and enemy aliens in the United States, the refugee ship SS St. Louis, and the Fort Ontario refugee shelter in Oswego, New York. A few pieces of correspondence with Secretary of State Dean Acheson and Attorney General Francis Biddle are included.
Languages:The collection is in English.
Quantity: 2.75 linear feet (5 manuscript boxes, 1 half manuscript box)
Repository: American Jewish Historical Society
Location: Located in AJHS New York, NY
Return to the Top of Page

Historical Note

The National Refugee Service (NRS) was formed in June 1939 to serve as a central agency to coordinate assistance and relief efforts across the United States for refugees fleeing Europe. It ran until 1946, when it merged with the National Council of Jewish Women’s Service to the Foreign Born Department to form the United Service for New Americans.

The NRS grew out of several predecessor organizations. Throughout the 1930s, several agencies handled the increasing influx of refugees from Europe, particularly those fleeing the Nazi regime. Of these agencies, the direct predecessor of the NRS was the National Coordinating Committee for Aid to Refugees and Emigrants Coming from Germany (NCC). The NCC was formed in 1934 by the American Joint Distribution Committee at the suggestion of the U.S. State Department and served as an umbrella organization for regional and local refugee relief organizations. Following the pogroms of November 1938, the urgency for expanded services to refugees and those wishing to emigrate from Europe increased, pushing the limits of what the NCC could provide. In early 1939, a study was conducted by Harry Greenstein of the Baltimore Jewish Community that called for a central service agency that could better coordinate services to refugees. The National Refugee Service (NRS) was formed in June 1939 to serve this role on a national level. Thanks to funding from the United Jewish Appeal (UJA), the NRS was able to take over the work conducted by the NCC at an increased capacity.

In any given week, thousands of individuals came to the NRS offices in person for assistance. The 1939 NRS Annual Report states that 6,000 people came to the offices per week and that over 25,000 applications for assistance came to the migration department in 1939 alone; in later years, the filing department reported that more than 1,000 requests came in per day.

The NRS developed quickly and adapted to needs as they arose. The names of its exact departments and divisions shifted over the organization’s existence, but the functions generally remained the same: migration, economic adjustment, social adjustment, and resettlement. The Migration department handled issues of deportation, affidavits, and visas. Under the umbrella of Economic Adjustment were employment, retraining, and work relief. At some point, Employment was its own division. The Social and Cultural Adjustment department offered language and citizenship classes and connected refugees to local organizations to better integrate new arrivals in the social, cultural, and religious life of their new communities. Resettlement of refugees to communities outside of New York was also a large focus of the NRS. New York was the main port of entry, and many refugees tended to wish to remain in the city. Efforts were made to connect refugees to communities around the country that could offer them better economic and social opportunities. In 1939, partnerships with some 700 local communities were established, and these local communities were given support through the NRS to welcome refugees. Resettlement activities expanded beyond this in following years.

The NRS offered further services as well. Although most refugees were supported by relatives, friends, or affiants, the NRS offered temporary financial assistance to refugees who did not have adequate support from other sources. The NRS also provided small loans from their Central Loan Trust to refugees wishing to start businesses, as reflected in reports on refugee enterprises. Committees and partnerships were formed to assist special groups including children, physicians, scientists, scholars, musicians, rabbis, and farmers.

The NRS worked with and alongside several other organizations that offered relief to refugees coming to the United States. The other major players on the national level were the Hebrew Sheltering and Immigrant Aid Society (HIAS) and the National Council of Jewish Women. Many other organizations around the country had regular or loose ties to the NRS. According to an organizational chart from the Annual Report published in April 1941, independent organizations receiving subventions from NRS included German-Jewish Children’s Aid, Emergency Committee in Aid of Displaced Foreign Scholars, Emergency Committee in Aid of Displaced Foreign Medical Scientists, Committee for Displaced Foreign Social Workers, and both the New York and Brooklyn Sections of the National Council of Jewish Women.

The leadership of the NRS consisted of an Executive Committee that included an Executive Director and officers as well as a Board of Directors of around 75 individuals from across the country. William Haber served as the first Executive Director from 1939-1941. Arthur D. Greenleigh was the Acting Executive Director until Albert Abrahamson took over as Executive Director in July of 1941. His successor was Joseph E. Beck, who served as Executive Director from May 1943 until August 1946. Cecilia Razovsky, the former head of the NCC, served as Assistant to the Executive Director at the NRS. Joseph P. Chamberlain was Chairman of the Board, and William Rosenwald (formerly of the NCC as well) served as President.

In August 1946, the NRS merged with the National Council of Jewish Women’s Service to the Foreign Born to form the United Service for New Americans.

Return to the Top of Page

Scope and Content Note

The records in this collection are a small portion of what the National Refugee Service would have created during its seven-year existence. Included are files related to its predecessor organization the National Coordinating Committee (Series I), department and committee files (Series II), a small amount of case files (Series III), correspondence and related materials reflecting contact and partnerships with other organizations (Series IV), and publications (Series V).

Return to the Top of Page


The collection is arranged into five series as follows:

Return to the Top of Page

Access and Use

Access Restrictions

The collection is open to all researchers by permission of the Director of Library and Archives of the American Jewish Historical Society, except items that are restricted due to their fragility and box 2 folders 39-45, which are restricted due to privacy concerns.

Use Restrictions

Information concerning the literary rights may be obtained from the Director of Library and Archives of the American Jewish Historical Society. Users must apply in writing for permission to quote, reproduce or otherwise publish manuscript materials found in this collection. For more information contact:
American Jewish Historical Society, Center for Jewish History, 15 West 16th Street, New York, NY, 10011

Return to the Top of Page

Related Material

Due to the nature of the National Refugee Service as a central coordinating agency working with many others, there are many related materials and likely extensive correspondence that could be found in multiple collections held by partners at the Center for Jewish history as well as outside institutions.

The YIVO Archives hold a larger set of records of the National Refugee Service, RG 248, which is entirely on microfilm. YIVO Archives also holds a sizable set of records from the successor to the NRS, the United Service for New Americans (RG 246). AJHS also holds a set of records from United Service for New Americans (I-93).

Other related material includes the United Jewish Appeal-Federation of New York Collection (I-433) at the American Jewish Historical Society as well as the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society (HIAS) Records at the American Jewish Historical Society (I-363) and the YIVO Archives (RG 245).

Return to the Top of Page

Preferred Citation

Published citations should take the following form:
Identification of item, date (if known); National Refugee Service Records; I-92; box number; folder number; American Jewish Historical Society, New York, NY, and Boston, MA.

Return to the Top of Page

Processing Information

This collection was processed by Marvin Rusinek in November 2007. It was reprocessed in July 2016 by Leanora Lange to shift the description from one single-level container list into a more structured arrangement in series. During reprocessing, folder titles were changed as necessary to either more accurately reflect folders’ contents or to standardize description and ease discovery. The 2007 folders were retained, but materials were rehoused into new boxes in 2016. A concordance that lists the 2007 folder titles and numbers alongside the updated folder titles and numbers is available as an Excel file and can be downloaded here: Concordance for I-92.

Return to the Top of Page

Access Points

Click on a subject to search that term in the Center's catalog. Return to the Top of Page

Container List

The following section contains a detailed listing of the materials in the collection.

Click the box in the request column to open the form that allows you to request a box for onsite viewing in the reading room at the Center for Jewish History, New York, NY.


Series I: National Coordinating Committee, 1938-1939, 1944

3 folders.


Scope and Content:

This series contains a small amount of materials related to the National Coordinating Committee for Aid to Refugees and Emigrants Coming from Germany (NCC), which was the direct predecessor of the National Refugee Service. Some material on the National Coordinating Committee Fund is also included.

1 1 National Coordinating Committee for Aid to Refugees and Emigrants coming from Germany, Proceedings of Conference September 17, 1938 request_box
1 2 National Coordinating Committee 1938-1939 request_box
1 3 National Coordinating Committee Fund 1938-1939, 1944 request_box
Return to the Top of Page

Series II: Departments and Committees, 1938-1953

73 folders.


Scope and Content:

This series contains materials that reflect many of the core functions of the National Refugee Service. Folders are labeled and organized by department, committee, or topic. The departmental structure of the NRS shifted several times, and some of the departments included several major functions. For example, at some point the migration department handled issues related to affidavits, visas, deportation, and internees, among many other issues. For ease of discovery, each of these topics is labeled on a more granular level. The materials in this series consist mostly of internal memos, correspondence, reports, statistics, a few clippings, and other related materials. Items in Series IV relate to those in this series. For example, the Children’s Division materials (box 1 folder 9) will relate to the materials from European Jewish Children’s Aid (box 4 folder 29) and German Jewish Children’s Aid (box 4 folder 30).

1 4 Affidavits—Affiant study—Board participation October 14, 1940 request_box
1 5 Affidavits—National Refugee Service Affiants 1941 request_box
1 6 Affidavits—National Refugee Service Affidavit Policy 1939-1942 request_box
1 7 Affidavits—Statement of methods used by professional workers for the purpose of interpreting responsibility of affidavit makers July 11, 1939 request_box
1 8 Affidavits—Survey of case worker contacts with affiants and relatives of all cases in the relief and service department September 7, 1940 request_box
1 9 Children's Division 1940-1941 request_box
1 10 Community Relations Department 1944 request_box
1 11 Community Relations Department Reports 1941-1944 request_box
1 12 Department Head’s Meetings 1941-1942, 1944-1946 request_box
1 13 Deportation 1939-1943 request_box
1 14 Deportation 1944-1945 request_box
1 15 Deportation—Preparations of the exceptions to the findings of fact and conclusions of law in Deportation Cases 1944 request_box
1 16 Economic Adjustment 1942 request_box
1 17 Economic Adjustment—Employment of NRS clients after retraining March 16, 1942 request_box
1 18 Economic Adjustment—NRS Report of the Experiment in Protected Work December 18, 1942 request_box
1 19 Economic Adjustment—NRS Retraining Committee 1942-1943 request_box
1 20 Economic Adjustment—Results of NRS retraining study of 410 retrainees 9-12 months after completion of school May 27, 1943 request_box
1 21 Economic Adjustment—Retraining program of the NRS February 1942, October 1942 request_box
1 22 Economic Adjustment—Sheltered Workshop Activity 1943 request_box
1 23 Economic Adjustment—Sheltered workshop referrals, January 11, 1943; suspension of sheltered workshop activity July 8, 1943 request_box
1 24 Economic Adjustment—Work Relief Project 1940-1942 request_box
1 25 Executive—Board of Directors Annual Meeting correspondence 1939-1946 request_box
1 26 Executive—Board of Directors meetings, officers’ report and agenda, Cleveland, OH January 18-19, 1941 request_box
1 27 Executive—Message of the NRS President January 23, 1943 request_box
1 28 Executive—NRS Annual meeting of Members and Board of Directors, New York January 15-16, 1944 request_box
1 29 Executive—NRS Executive office memorandum no. 19 August 31, 1939 request_box
1 30 Executive—NRS Executive office memorandum no. 141 August 8, 1944 request_box
1 31 Executive—NRS Reports of Executive Director to Executive Committee 1943-1944 request_box
1 32 Executive—Report to the staff of National Refugee Service by Joseph Beck, Executive Director May 26, 1944 request_box
1 33 Executive—Statements on the Truman Directive 1945-1946 request_box
1 34 Fact Finding Committee 1943 request_box
1 35 Family Service Committee 1942-1947 request_box
1 36 Filing department—staff responsibilities and request for more staff 1939 request_box
1 37 Furniture Plan 1941 request_box
1 38 Housing Department 1941-1942 request_box
2 1 Internees 1942 request_box
2 2 Internees 1945-1946 request_box
2 3 Internees—Central and South American Internees 1944-1946 request_box
2 4 Internees—Correspondence with Dean Acheson re enemy aliens 1945 request_box
2 5 Internees—Internee Problem—Alien registration 1943 request_box
2 6 Internees—Letter from Internee Fred Kappel to Hon. Francis K. Biddle, U.S. Attorney General 1942 request_box
2 7 Internees—Regulations for outgoing international correspondence of Internees at large 1944 request_box
2 8 Joint Supervisory Group meeting January 5 and 7, 1943 request_box
2 9 Joint Supervisory Group report on collection of monies dispersed to clients by NRS September 1943 request_box
2 10 Migration 1941-1945 request_box
2 11 Migration—Annual Report 1940 request_box
2 12 Migration—Memos to Migration Department, Deportation 1945-1946 request_box
2 13 Migration—Seamen’s regulations 1944 request_box
2 14 Migration—Telegrams and cables 1940 request_box
2 15 Migration—Transportation cases 1941 request_box
2 16 National-Local Responsibility 1943 request_box
2 17 National-Local—Types of relationships between NRS and Federation Agencies April 23, 1943 request_box
2 18 Physicians and Medical Scientists Committees 1944 request_box
2 19 Placement Committee for German and Austrian musicians 1940 request_box
2 20 Publicity Department report December 17, 1945 request_box
2 21 Resettlement and Field Service Department Manual June 10, 1941 request_box
2 22 Resettlement—History of Services from 1934-1940 January 10, 1940 request_box
2 23 Resettlement meetings 1938, 1940-1942 request_box
2 24 Resettlement—Problems in the distribution of the Jewish refugee population in the U.S. 1941 request_box
2 25 Resettlement Project 1946 request_box
2 26 Resettlement proposed policies June 6, 1942 request_box
2 27 Resettlement—Trends in local community Refugee programs 1940 request_box
2 28 Social and Cultural Adjustment Committee 1939-1941 request_box
2 29 Social and Cultural Adjustment Committee 1942 request_box
2 30 Social and Cultural Adjustment Committee 1943 request_box
2 31 Social and Cultural Adjustment Committee 1944-1945 request_box
2 32 Subject files classification, NRS 1939-1946 1953 request_box
2 33 Technical Advisory Committee 1942 request_box
2 34 Technical Advisory Committee—NRS Field program, statement presented to Technical Advisory Committee by Ephraim Gomberg, Director of Community Relations June 15, 1944 request_box
2 35 Technical Advisory Committee—Promissory Notes 1946 request_box
2 36 Technical Advisory Committee—Recommendations regarding New York-National Responsibility May 14, 1943 request_box
2 37 Visa Division 1941-1945 request_box
2 38 Visa Regulations July 24, 1941 request_box
Return to the Top of Page

Series III: Case Files, 1940-1946

9 folders.


Scope and Content:

This series contains case files of individuals assisted by the National Refugee Service. Most of these files (box 2 folders 39-45) are restricted due to privacy issues because they contain legal and/or medical information. Box 2 folders 46 and 47 are open to researchers.

2 39 Herrero de Studebaker, Clara 1943 request_box

Restricted due to privacy.

2 40 Klarberg, Elfriede 1945 request_box

Restricted due to privacy.

2 41 Markfeld, Joseph 1944 request_box

Restricted due to privacy.

2 42 Merkin, Fanny August 4, 1944 request_box

Restricted due to privacy.

2 43 Pordes, Siegfried (Fred) 1944-1945 request_box

Restricted due to privacy.

2 44 Ross, Kitty 1945 request_box

Restricted due to privacy.

2 45 Schimko, Regina and Richard April 27, 1944 request_box

Restricted due to privacy.

2 46 SS Marine Perch and Marine Flasher, Miriam Semel case 1946 request_box
2 47 SS St. Louis cases, NRS 1940 request_box
Return to the Top of Page

Series IV: Partnerships, 1934-1947

82 folders.


Scope and Content:

This series contains materials related to partnerships with other organizations. These are organized into two subseries, Subseries 1: By location, and Subseries 2: By organization. Across both subseries, these files consist mainly of correspondence primarily with Jewish institutions in cities throughout many states in the U.S. Included in this series is a letter sent to President Truman as well as correspondence with Secretary of State Dean Acheson and Attorney General Francis B. Biddle. This latter correspondence deals with Ellis Island, the plan to resettle immigrants in Oswego, New York, and concerning the refugee ship, the St. Louis.

Subseries 1: By location, 1938-1947

44 folders.


3 1 New York—Ellis Island 1939 request_box
3 2 New York—Ellis Island, General 1938-1939 request_box
3 3 New York—Ellis Island, U.S. Dept. of Labor, Dept. of Immigration and Natural Service 1938-1939 request_box
3 4 New York—Oswego 1945 request_box
3 5 New York—Oswego 1945-1946 request_box
3 6 New York—Oswego—Coordinating Committee for Fort Ontario Oswego 1945-1946 request_box
3 7 New York—Oswego—Emergency Refugee Shelters 1944 request_box
3 8 New York—Oswego—Letter to the President of the U.S. re: Oswego, October 22, 1945; correspondence with Secretary Interior and Attorney General Biddle 1945 request_box
3 9 New York—Oswego—Report on the Emergency Refugee Shelter by Louise Brandeis August 30, 1944 request_box
3 10 New York—Oswego—Report on the settlement of NRS of Oswego refugees 1946 request_box
3 11 Ohio—Physicians’ problems in Ohio September-October 1942 request_box
3 12 Pennsylvania—Dr. Maurice Taylor, Pittsburgh 1941 request_box
3 13 Pennsylvania—Pittsburgh Dental School 1941 request_box
3 14 Pennsylvania—Pittsburgh Meeting Tri State Coordinating Bureau 1940 request_box
3 15 Pennsylvania—Pittsburgh National Conference of Jewish Social Welfare 1940 request_box
3 16 Pennsylvania—Pittsburgh 1945 request_box
3 17 Pennsylvania—Pittsburgh 1945-1947 request_box
3 18 Pennsylvania—Pittsburgh Tri-State area 1944-1945, 1947 request_box
3 19 Pennsylvania—Reading 1945 request_box
3 20 Pennsylvania—Scranton 1945 request_box
3 21 Pennsylvania—York, UJA 1945 request_box
3 22 Rhode Island 1940-1941 request_box
3 23 Rhode Island 1944 request_box
3 24 Rhode Island 1945-1946 request_box
3 25 South Carolina 1940-1942 request_box
3 26 South Carolina 1945-1946 request_box
3 27 South Carolina—Columbia 1945 request_box
3 28 South Carolina—Florence 1945 request_box
3 29 South Carolina—Greenwood 1945-1946 request_box
3 30 South Carolina—Spartanburg 1945 request_box
3 31 South Carolina—Sumter 1945 request_box
3 32 South Dakota 1945-1946 request_box
3 33 Tennessee 1941 request_box
4 1 Tennessee 1942-1943 request_box
4 2 Tennessee 1945-1947 request_box
4 3 Tennessee—Chattanooga and other cities 1945 request_box
4 4 Tennessee—Memphis 1945-1946 request_box
4 5 Tennessee—Memphis—Abe Waldauer 1940 request_box
4 6 Tennessee—Nashville 1945-1946 request_box
4 7 Tennessee—Nashville—The Observer 1941 request_box
4 8 Texas undated, 1940 request_box
4 9 Texas 1941 request_box
4 10 Texas 1942 request_box
4 11 Texas 1943 request_box

Subseries 2: By organization, 1934-1946

38 folders.


4 12 American Committee for Christian Refugees 1941, 1943 request_box
4 13 American Friends Service Committee 1940 request_box
4 14 American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee 1945 request_box
4 15 Boston Committee on Medical Emigres 1940 request_box
4 16 Central Location Index 1943 request_box
4 17 Central Location Index 1944-1946 request_box
4 18 Committee for the Study of Recent Immigration from Europe—activity report July 1945 request_box
4 19 Committee on Resettlement of Japanese Americans 1944 request_box
4 20 Emergency Committee in Aid of Displaced Foreign Scholars and Medical Scientists January 6, 1941 request_box
4 21 Emergency Committee in Aid of Displaced Foreign Scholars and Medical Scientists 1942-1943 request_box
4 22 Emergency Committee in Aid of Displaced Foreign Scholars 1945 request_box
4 23 Émigré Group October-November 1940 request_box
4 24 Ethical Culture Society 1938-1939 request_box
4 25 European Jewish Children’s Aid 1944, 1946 request_box
4 26 Family Welfare Association of America—Report on Service to Refugees in Local Family Agencies December 1942 request_box
4 27 Federation for the Support of Jewish Philanthropic Societies of NYC 1940-1945 request_box
4 28 Federation of Jews from Central Europe—Meeting of Refugee Physicians July 6, 1942 request_box
4 29 German Jewish Children’s Aid 1934, 1939, 1941-1943 request_box
4 30 Good Neighbor Committee 1939 request_box
5 1 HIAS—NRS association with HIAS Dock Services, procedure for reception of new immigrants initial disposition 1944, 1946 request_box
5 2 HIAS—proposed merger 1945 request_box
5 3 Jewish Family Welfare Society 1944 request_box
5 4 Jewish Social Service Association Agreement March 21, 1938 request_box
5 5 Jewish Social Service Association—German Department 1935-1938 request_box
5 6 Multiple organizations—Relationship to organizations for the foreign born 1943 request_box
5 7 Multiple organizations—Summer placement for refugee children 1940-1942 request_box
5 8 National Committee for Resettlement of Foreign Physicians August 28, 1942 request_box
5 9 National Committee for Resettlement of Foreign Physicians—Report of Field Work 1939-1941 request_box
5 10 National Conference of Jewish Social Work—memo on transportation problems 1940 request_box
5 11 National Council of Jewish Women—Analysis of relationship to NRS 1939-1941, 1943-1944 request_box
5 12 New York City Committee on Mental Hygiene, Selective Service 1942 request_box
5 13 Refugee Consultative Council 1939-1941 request_box
5 14 Selfhelp 1941, 1944-1945 request_box
5 15 Shomre Hadath—Employment service for religious immigrants 1939 request_box
5 16 U.S. Committee for the Care of European Children 1941 request_box
5 17 United Jewish Appeal of Greater New York 1943 request_box
5 18 War Refugee Board 1944 request_box
5 19 Westchester Coordinating Committee for Emigres—Survey summary December 17, 1943 request_box
Return to the Top of Page

Series V: Publications, 1938-1946

22 folders.


Scope and Content:

This series contains publications by the NRS as well as other related publications. Included are newsletters, annual reports, articles, promotional literature, and published reports.

5 20 "A Day in Migration" stories by Clara Friedman 1942 request_box
5 21 Annual Reports 1939-1941, 1945 request_box
5 22 Community Bulletin 1940-1945 request_box
5 23 Community Service Release—Employment and Retraining, Activities of Special Committees, Migration 1940 request_box
5 24 Emigre Service Release—Employment and Retraining, Activities of Special Committees, Migration 1941 request_box
5 25 Handbooks and Manuals 1940, 1942 request_box
5 26 Information Bulletin 1939-1940 request_box
5 27 "Local Organization for Resettlement" January 11, 1939 request_box
5 28 Migration Newsletter 1942 request_box
5 29 NCC Bulletin 1938 request_box
5 30 NRS Needs in 1945 1945 request_box
5 31 NRS News 1942-1943 request_box
5 32 Pilgrims in Our Time 1946 request_box
5 33 Promotional and miscellaneous materials undated, 1939, 1941 request_box
6 1 "Refugee enterprises" November 12, 1940 request_box
6 2 Reports of the Executive Director 1939-1942 request_box
6 3 "Resettling New Americans" by William Haber August 1940 request_box
6 4 Special Information Bulletin 1941-1945 request_box
6 5 The American Hebrew, The Refugee Farmer September 30, 1940 request_box
6 6 "The New Homeland" by Frederica Rubin 1940 request_box
6 7 They Can Aid America: A Survey of Alien Specialized Personnel 1943 request_box
6 8 Third country booklets and immigration manual additions 1940 request_box
Return to the Top of Page