Central Committee of Polish Jews

Central Committee of Polish Jews (CKŻP), the main and basic political and social organization of Jewish community.

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Even though the Central Committee of Polish Jews (CKŻP), the main and basic political and social organization of Jewish community, was active only for six years, it managed to significantly expand its structures, establish contacts with international Jewish organizations, successfully deal with thousands of urgent cases, develop plans for the future. Throughout its existence, through its activists and employees, it had an influence on all aspects of life of the Jewish community, perhaps the least on the aspect of religious life. The majority of the Jews remaining in Poland were in touch with the organizations of the Committee. It was usually through mail or while collecting the distributed benefits or gifts. CKŻP left a lot of records and files relating to all areas of everyday life.

The history of the Committee begins on the day of the establishment of the Jewish Committee in Lublin, in late July 1944, which on 12th November was transformed into the Provisional Central Committee of Polish Jews (CKŻwP). In a charter approved on 26th May, 1946, a slightly different, changed name of the organization was stated: Central Committee of Polish Jews. The Committee was to unite all reviving Jewish political groups and supervise care and social help given to the survivors of the Holocaust, as well as representing their interests to the Polish authorities. Their long-term goal was to rebuild Jewish life in Poland.

During the Lublin period, the Committee began its probably most important task — to register and make a record of the survivors of the Holocaust. First guidelines were issued. The registration of the survivors was to be conducted by local Jewish committees and then sent to the head office. Landsmanshaft organization played an important role in these activities. Since late 1944, registration works and search for families belonged to the duties of the Department of Registration and Statistics. The biggest achievement of the department was creation of the Central File of Polish Jews, consisting of about 280 thousand files, which are divided into older files mainly from 1946 and files from 1947–1950. Both of them are arranged alphabetically. Due to the fact that some of the people registered themselves twice, the actual number of survives is significantly lower.

In August 1944, the Provisional Central Committee of Polish Jews made an important decision to appoint the Jewish Historical Commission, which began its work under leadership of Marek Bitter. Its main goal was to collect interviews and testimonies of the Jews who survived the Holocaust. They were collected mainly by trained minutes secretaries in accordance with an approved model of a questionnaire. Within the first three years, almost four thousand of interviews and minutes were gathered. In late December, 1944 the organization changed its name into the Central Jewish Historical Commission and Filip Friedman, a famous historian before the war, supported by the Board of Trustees, was appointed its director. In March 1945, the Commission moved to Łódź and in the same year also its local branches were extended. The Commission began publishing its findings and cooperating with organs of state in documenting the Nazi crimes as part of investigations and court trials. They also began securing the preserved historical records relating to the Jewish population, especially from the war period. In September 1946, the first part of the conspiratorial Archive of the Warsaw Ghetto led by dr Emanuel Ringelblum was found and excavated. In May 1947, the Commission was transformed into the Jewish Historical Institute, with headquarters are located in Warsaw, in the rebuilt edifice of the pre-war Judaic Studies Institute and the Main Judaic Library. In 1949, collections of the Jewish Society for the Advancement of Fine Arts, dissolved by CKŻwP, and book collection of the Central Jewish Library were included into the collection of the JHI.

From the beginning, CKŻwP was managed by a presidium, which consisted of representatives of all Jewish parties legalised after the war: Polish Workers’ Party, Poalei Zion, The Zionist Democrat Party Ichud, Poale Zion Left, the Bund, and the biggest social organizations: Jewish Fighting Organization, Hechaluc Pionier, Haszomer Hacair and 

the Union of Jews-Partisans. The first chairperson of the Presidium was Emil Sommerstein. From the beginning, members of the Jewish faction of the Polish Workers’ Party outnumbered the others and during sittings they clashed with both the Bund and Zionist Parties representatives. Apart from CKŻwP, there were illegal Revisionist Zionists and orthodox Aguda. The activities of the Committee were funded by the government and, more generously, by foreign Jewish organizations such as American Joint Distribution Committee. The dominance of the members of Polish Workers’ Party and then Polish United Workers’ Party in CKŻwP intensified in 1948 and in 1950, under pressure of the state authorities, the Committee was dissolved and its archives were donated to the JHI.

Throughout its whole activity period, CKŻwP achieved its objectives through special departments and a network of local committees — in voivodeship and powiats. Due to increased emigration of Jewish population, the latter were gradually limiting their activities. In the first years after the war, of particular significance were departments of Social and Health Care, and Child Care managing a network of schools, boarding schools, orphanages and retirement homes. In 1948, more than 3 thousand children were learning in 20 institutions. In the sphere of culture, the role of the CKŻwP’s Department of Culture and Propaganda, existing since 1945, was only to stimulate and support autonomous organizations uniting artists: the Union of Jewish Writers, Journalists and Artists, the Union of Jewish Actors, the Jewish Society for the Advancement of Fine Arts, the Jewish Cultural Society, two National Jewish Theatres (one in Warsaw and one in Wrocław), and also the Jewish Press Agency and main publishing houses located in Wrocław: „Dos Naje Lebn” and „Jidysz Buch”.

In 1946, due to an influx of thousands of Jewish repatriates to Poland, mainly from the Soviet Union), new departments of CKŻwP were established: of Emigration, Buildings, Landsmanshaft, Human Resources, Economic and Revindication. At the beginning of 1946 the Health Department was transformed into the Health Care Organization. In the second half of the year, the Repatriates Department was dissolved. In July 1946 Central Special Commission was created. It was responsible for organizing protection of CKŻwP’s institutions. At the Department of Education operated Centralna Komisja Kolonijna [the Central Camp Commission], which organized holidays for children under care of CKŻwP. Since June 1947, operated Centralna Komisja Mieszana [the Central Mixed Commission] at CKŻwP and Jewish Congregation (the Organizing Committee of the Jewish Congregations in Poland) in Warsaw. Its employees took care of the monuments of the Jewish culture, cemeteries, exhumation, distribution of Matzo to the Jewish population in Poland.

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