WWII Refugees

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This database of Jewish Refugees arriving in Australia via Melbourne between 1946-1954 was created as a project of Jewish Care (Melbourne Australia) and the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in 2004

At the end of World War II hundreds of thousands of Jewish refugees were living in Displaced Persons camps in Europe while others had survived the war having escaped to England, Shanghai and elsewhere. Most migrated to Palestine under the British Mandate and, after 1948, to the newly established State of Israel.

For some, Australia was seen as a preferred destination, either to be re-united with families who had migrated before 1939 or to join landsmen from the same town or village of birth. It is estimated that 16,300 Jewish refugees entered Australia between 1946 and 1954. (It should be noted that 7000 also arrived between 1933-1939 having escaped Germany, Austria and Poland before hostilities broke out. Many of these are listed on a separate database.)

Restrictions were placed on the number of Jews entering Australia after the war. Jewish Welfare Societies were established in capital cities, namely Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Perth and Adelaide to facilitate migration and settlement and, in 1947, a Federation of welfare societies was formed. The Federation aimed to co-ordinate activities, i.e. to negotiate with the Government, arrange funding for fares, communicate with sponsors, meet boats, arrange interstate transportation, establish hostels and to negotiate with the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society (HIAS) and the American Joint Distribution Committee (AJDC or JOINT) the major funding bodies.

This database provides an index of names and available personal data from passenger lists sent to the Australian Jewish Welfare and Relief Society in Melbourne 1946-1954. Before the departure of ships (mostly leaving from Genoa in Italy or Marseilles in France), HIAS and the AJDC mailed a list of Jewish passengers under their sponsorship to the Federation of Jewish Welfare Societies. This enabled family sponsors to be contacted and arrangements to be made for accommodation for those not being met by family. In addition to these shipping lists there are a few lists of refugees who arrived by plane whose fares were paid for by family or friends.

These lists, along with thousands of personal files relating to requests for landing permits and search requests for missing relatives are stored in archives of the Jewish Care, the major Jewish social service organisation in Melbourne. In 2003 an agreement was drawn up to permit the USHMM to have access to refugee files dating from 1938 for microfilming. This index will serve as a database for researchers wishing to match the refugee and sponsorship files to actual arrivals.

Lionel Sharpe
Melbourne, Australia
June 2004