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Central Committee of Jews in Poland

The Central Committee of Jews in Poland (CKZP)- The political representation of Jews in Poland, created in October 1944 as the Jews' representation to state authorities, and as coordinator of aid and social services for Holocaust survivors. The Central Committee of Jews in Poland existed from 1944 to 1950.

After Lublin was liberated, an independent Office for Assistance to the Jewish Population was formed under the aegis of the Polish National Liberation Committee. The Office was directed by a Bund activist, a physician holding the rank of major, S. Herszenhorn. Before the war, Herszenhorn had been a Lublin city council member and well-known community leader. He organized care for the Jews who began reappearing after the war, emerging from their hiding places in the liberated territories, or those who had snuck across the front. Among those under his care was a group of children who had survived the Majdanek death camp. At the Office's initiative, the Jewish Committee was founded in July 1944; its aim was to improve aid and organize self-help programs. Along with the emergence and legalization of parties like the Bund, Poale Syon and Ichud, the Lublin Committee was transformed into a Temporary Central Committee of Polish Jews (October 1944), and a month later, into the Central Committee of Jews in Poland. Its composition was defined according to party lines: six seats for Jewish communists (the Jewish Faction of the Polish Workers' Party, PPR), four seats went to the Bund, four went to Ichud, three for Poale Syon-Left and the same number for Poale Syon-Right, and one seat went to Ha-shomer Ha-tsair. E. Sommerstein of Ichud became its chairman; after he left for the United States in 1946, he was replaced by A. Berman of Poaley Syon-Left.
In 1949, Berman was replaced by H. Smolar, a member of the Jewish Faction of the PPR. These same party proportions were applied to regional structures--in 1946, there were nine voivodship committees and seven district ones. The activities of the Committee were subsidized by Joint, and encompassed all spheres of re-emergent Jewish life. The following specialized Departments were established: Documentary (registration of survivors, searches for families, re-issuance of personal documents); Legal (legal assistance for restitution of property, return of children who had been in hiding, documentation of cases of collaboration, collection of testimonies for war crimes trials, as well as legal assistance for those who were in trouble with the law and assistance for prisoners); Social Services (distribution of food and clothing packages, monetary assistance and stipends); Health (cooperation with the Society for the Healthcare for the Jewish Population); Child Care (primarily organizing orphanages, youth dormitories and sanatoria, as well as summer camps and sports clubs); Schools (setting up Jewish schools, curriculum and textbook development); Culture and Propaganda (assisting artistic associations, theaters, and amateur groups; the preparation of Yiddish radio programs; publishing and filmmaking, and the publishing of a daily informational bulletin by the Jewish Press Agency and other publications); "Productivization" (in conjunction with ORT, creating and equipping production cooperatives and private crafts workshops, assistance in finding a job); "Landsmannschaft" (coordinating aid from foreign Jewish organizations having ties to specific areas in Poland, and from private individuals); and Emigration (assistance in legal emigration to the West and to Palestine).
In 1945-1946, the Repatriation Department was also active, which ran the program to resettle Jews from the Soviet Union. Moreover, a Central Jewish Historical Commission was created, which strove to rescue what remained of Jewish culture and to document the Holocaust; in 1947, it was renamed the Jewish Historical Institute. The Society for Culture and Art, for artists and others active in the arts, was closely tied to the Committee. In addition, there was also the Union of Jewish Writers and Journalists and the Jewish Society for the Promotion of the Fine Arts. In 1948, the Commission for Aid to the Poles was founded. It assisted individuals who had helped Jews during the German occupation and had been cared for earlier by the Legal and Social Services departments. At the same time, and often in opposition to Committee, there were religious parties, such as the Mizrachi organization, which was legal; and the illegal Agudas Isroel party, whose members included a large number of Zionist revisionists. They organized religious life, but were engaged in social services and religious education.

In 1948-1949, Jewish communists dominated the Committee's structures. With the slogan "broadening the social base", they changed the principles according to which members were chosen for the presidium, eliminating political party influences. They attacked Zionists, accusing them of nationalism. Against the will of many its members, the Bund was taken over by the Polish United Workers' Party. In 1949, the authorities dissolved Zionist parties and nationalized or liquidated Jewish schools, sanatoria, healthcare facilities, theaters and cooperatives. Religious congregations were subordinated to the Committee, and party influences were eliminated; their activities were limited to the religious sphere. Joint activities, the Society for Health Services and ORP were accused of spying and expelled from the country. The process of liquidating Jewish organizational independence concluded on October 29, 1950, when CKZP united with the Jewish Cultural Society, creating the Social and Cultural Society of Jews in Poland. In place of the Jewish religious congregations, the Religious Union of the Jewish Faith (Zwiazek Religijny Wyznania Mojzeszowego) was founded, which had no independence, and played no role until 1956.
(A.C./CM)

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