The Central Committee of Polish Jews and Registration Cards for Jewish Survivors in Poland after the Holocaust
The Central Committee of Polish Jews (Centralny Komitet Żydów w Polsce, CKŻP) was the predominant organization assisting and representing Polish Jews from 1944 onward. The CKŻP presented itself as “the highest administration for Jewish survivors in Poland,” and operated under government supervision from 1944 to 1950. Its archives, which are conserved at the Jewish Historical Institute in Warsaw, offer a glimpse into the lives of those who survived the war and the Holocaust, and can prove invaluable in retracing their journeys.David Engel, “The Reconstruction of Jewish Communal Institutions in Postwar Poland: The Origins … Continue reading
Central Committee of Polish Jews poster advocating a proper welcome for Jews repatriated from the Soviet Union © all rights reserved
The Genesis of the Central Committee of Polish Jews
In the aftermath of the Red Army’s liberation of Polish territory, local committees formed with the assent of occupying military authorities, in an effort to help the rare Jews still present in ruined Poland. The first one was formed in September 1944 in Lublin, which was the location for the Polish Committee of National Liberation, a temporary governmental body supported by Moscow.
Local committees had multiple functions. They welcomed the nearly 200,000 Jews who spent the war in the Soviet Union, and were repatriated in convoys separately from non-Jewish Poles. They provided material assistance upon arrival, and assisted survivors transiting throughout Poland. The question of how to coordinate these local committees quickly emerged, an effort that was at first de facto performed by the Lublin committee, before the emergence in October 1944 of a temporary Central Committee of Polish Jews, which was soon made permanent.
The CKŻP was first financed by the Polish Ministry of Labor and Social Welfare, before the material and financial donations from the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee (JDC, or commonly referred to simply as Joint) took the reins. The Central Committee was thus at the intersection of governmental action and the self-administration of Jewish survivors in Poland, and served as a relay for international humanitarian activity. It was also meant to serve as a foundation for the hypothetical reconstruction of Jewish life in Poland. This project generated conflict with a fraction of those working within postwar Jewish institutions themselves, who were trying in partial secrecy to facilitate Jewish emigration outside of Poland, especially toward Palestine, and sought to promote this by gathering and organizing survivors.Yosef Litvak, “The American Joint Distribution Committee and Polish Jewry 1944-49,” in Selwyn … Continue reading
In order to best apply assistance within a country in ruins, the CKŻP accompanied its activity with a systematic census taken of survivors at each stage of their journey: emerging from secrecy, return, repatriation, movement on Polish territory, etc. Some survivors registered with different local committees a few months apart, with most repatriates not being directed to their initial city of residence. This effort to count in the field was accompanied by a central file for Polish Jews in the form of a card library.
This card library, which continued to grow until the Central Committee was closed down in 1950, is accessible today at the Jewish Historical Institute in Warsaw, and conserves 228,900 individual registration cards. In May 1945, the CKŻP’s census of survivors identified 42,662 Jews in Poland, of whom approximately 30,000 were freed from Nazi camps, 9,000 survived thanks to false “Aryan” papers, and 3,000 were among the ranks of the partisans.
The CKŻP counted the survivors, but also provides details regarding their experience during the war. The registration card systematically included the individual’s first and last name, as well as their age (and more rarely date of birth). In these declarations the committee also mentioned the parents of survivors. The goal of this registration by the CKŻP was to count the number of Jews present on Polish territory, notify close relatives of their survival, and assist with reunions.
An important section of the card provides information regarding key moments from the journey: before the war, in 1939, during the war, upon liberation, and at the time of registration, generally specifying the city concerned, and sometimes the occupation. A line from the card details the war experience declared by the registered person, which break out into four categories: Nazi camp survivors, those hiding in the “Aryan side” under false papers, members of a partisan movement, and those who left for the Soviet Union. This information sought to document, from the very aftermath of the catastrophe, how a minority of Jews was able to survive the extermination.Laura Jokusch, Collect and Record! Jewish Holocaust Documentation in Early Postwar Europe, Oxford, … Continue reading
Sample from the Central Committee of Polish Jews card library (front and back). Card for Szloma Cyngiel, born in Lubartów © Jewish Historical Institute Archives
Accessing CKZP Archives
Screenshot of results from the Jewish Historical Institute Archives database, showing the information on the card for Maria Plech, who survived the war in Lubartów © all rights reserved
The CKŻP archives are conserved at the Jewish Historical Institute in Warsaw. In addition to the collections of the Central Committee of Polish Jews, the Institute conserves multiple collections on Polish Jews during and after the Second World War, including the archives for numerous ghettoes and an important collection of testimonies. These archives are freely accessible, but only on site. Searching by name is greatly facilitated by a database that can find the individuals mentioned in different collections, especially the registration cards created by local committees and the card library created by the Central Committee of Polish Jews.
All of these collections are only accessible in Warsaw. However, the Central Committee of Polish Jews compiled all of its data in August 1945 for publication by the Jewish Agency for Palestine, in an effort to facilitate the identification of some 58,000 survivors by their close relatives. This publication largely omits the Polish Jews who survived the war in the Soviet Union, most of whom were repatriated afterward. The Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington digitized this list of names and made it available online. It can be queried by name. Before beginning in-depth research at the Jewish Historical Institute in Warsaw, it would be useful to conduct initial research using this online database. In a book published in English in 1994, Lucjan Dobroszycki also reproduced all of the lists from the Central Committee of Polish Jews that identify the children who survived the war and were placed under its care.
Lucjan Dobroszycki, Survivors of the Holocaust in Poland: A Portrait Based on Jewish Community Records, 1944-47, New York, M.E. Sharpe, 1994
David Engel, “The Reconstruction of Jewish Communal Institutions in Postwar Poland: The Origins of the Central Committee of Polish Jews, 1944-1945,” East European Politics and Societies, 10/1, Winter 1996, p. 85-107
Laura Jokusch, Collect and Record! Jewish Holocaust Documentation in Early Postwar Europe, Oxford, Oxford University Press, 2012
Audrey Kichelewski, Les survivants. Les Juifs de Pologne depuis la Shoah, Paris, Belin, 2018
Yosef Litvak, ‘The American Joint Distribution Committee and Polish Jewry 1944-49,’ in Selwyn Ilan Troen, Benjamin Pinkus, eds., Organizing Rescue: National Jewish Solidarity in the Modern Period, London, Frank Cass, 1992, p. 269-315
Ionas Turkov, En Pologne après la Libération. L’impossible survie des rescapés juifs, Paris, Calmann-Lévy/Mémorial de la Shoah, 2008 
|↾1||David Engel, “The Reconstruction of Jewish Communal Institutions in Postwar Poland: The Origins of the Central Committee of Polish Jews, 1944-1945,” East European Politics and Societies, 10/1, Winter 1996, p. 85-107; Audrey Kichelewski, Les survivants. Les Juifs de Pologne depuis la Shoah, Paris, Belin, 2018. For an account of the CKŻP’s work by one of its members, see Ionas Turkov, En Pologne après la Libération. L’impossible survie des rescapés juifs, Paris, Calmann-Lévy/Mémorial de la Shoah, 2008 .|
|↾2||Yosef Litvak, “The American Joint Distribution Committee and Polish Jewry 1944-49,” in Selwyn Ilan Troen, Benjamin Pinkus, eds., Organizing Rescue: National Jewish Solidarity in the Modern Period, London, Frank Cass, 1992, p. 269-315.|
|↾3||Laura Jokusch, Collect and Record! Jewish Holocaust Documentation in Early Postwar Europe, Oxford, Oxford University Press, 2012.|