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AJDC deportation index card

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The Berlin tracing office of the American Joint Distribution Committee (AJDC) created a card index after the war which was referred to by the AJDC Berlin as the deportation index. AJDC employees used this index to record information about Jews deported from Berlin. Since the cards were created in a very short period of time, they all look very similar. However, there are some differences in whether the lower section is lined or not and in the typeface used to print the cards.

The Berlin tracing office of the American Joint Distribution Committee (AJDC) created a card index after the war which was referred to by the AJDC Berlin as the deportation index. AJDC employees used this index to record information about Jews deported from Berlin. Since the cards were created in a very short period of time, they all look very similar. However, there are some differences in whether the lower section is lined or not and in the typeface used to print the cards.

Background information on DP documents

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Questions and answers

  • Where was the document used and who created it?

    The American Joint Distribution Committee (known as the AJDC, JDC or Joint) was an aid organization which set up tracing offices worldwide to clarify the fate of missing Jews after the war. In addition to offices in Munich, Stuttgart and the Bergen-Belsen DP camp, there was a Location Service in Berlin. The AJDC employees there created a card index based on Gestapo transport lists and files from the Nazis’ Asset Utilization Office (Vermögensverwertungsstelle) that had been discovered after the war. This deportation index, as it was known, was used specifically to search for Jews from Berlin.

  • When was the document used?

    The AJDC Tracing Office was set up in September 1945 in Berlin and received official status in November of the same year. Information about the fate of Berlin’s Jews first had to be gathered by examining lists of the Jewish communities in Berlin and beyond, for example, which named all of the congregation members who had reported in after the war. Survivors were also asked whether they knew anything about the location of other Berlin Jews. A big change came in May 1946 with the discovery of Gestapo transport lists and files from the Nazis’ Asset Utilization Office (Vermögensverwertungsstelle). The documents in these files made it possible to immediately create a deportation index. This was used by the employees until the Berlin AJDC office was dissolved in 1949.

  • What was the document used for?

    After the end of the war, Jewish Holocaust survivors required food, clothing and medications – and many of them were additionally concerned with searching for family members and acquaintances. Official institutions and governments also tried to clarify the fate of persecuted individuals. Many organizations set up tracing offices for this purpose. The Berlin Tracing Office of the American Joint Distribution Committee (AJDC) was a point of contact for everyone seeking Jewish relatives or friends who had lived in Berlin prior to being deported. From May 1946, the employees could consult a special source of information when inquiries were received: the deportation index.

    The AJDC Tracing Office in Berlin had repeatedly heard rumors of the existence of lists and files created by the Nazis for all Jews deported from Berlin. In May 1946, employees of the AJDC Tracing Office finally found the documents in the cellar of the Berlin tax authority. They consisted of Gestapo transport lists and files from the Asset Utilization Office of the Chief Finance Authority of Berlin-Brandenburg. The task of the Asset Utilization Office (Vermögensverwertungsstelle) had been to seize the valuables and savings left behind by the Jews deported from Berlin. This operation was based on lists drawn up by the Gestapo, which were sent to the finance authority together with the order to confiscate the assets. The lists specifically noted who had been deported where and when.

    From May 1946, more than 11 people working on behalf of the AJDC wrote the information from these lists on index cards. In addition to personal details such as the person’s name, birthdate, birthplace and last known address, the lists noted the transport on which the person had been deported. With the deportation index, employees of the AJDC could respond to numerous inquiries about individuals: “The deportation index became the only source of important information on deportees from Berlin whose fate was heretofore unknown. During the last months of 1946 and at the beginning of 1947 many cases which had been considered as closed were re-opened and compared with the information contained in the new index. […] During 1947 we noticed that the deportation index acquired more importance each day. 2776 new cases were opened in the fall of 1946 alone” (Larry Lubetsky, Berlin AJDC Tracing Office 1945–1947, Berlin 1948, pp. 32f.).

    With the deportation index, AJDC employees could respond to search inquiries all over the world and reunite families. But the index served another purpose as well. Larry Lubetsky remembers that, among other things, the AJDC was able to use the index to confirm deportation data that was presented as evidence to German courts so that death certificates could be issued. These certificates were important for clarifying inheritance issues and applying for financial support.

    The deportation index itself holds two different types of cards. The main card can be identified by the lines in the bottom section. This is the most common type of card. If the deportee was a married woman, however, a reference card was usually created for her.

  • How common is the document?

    A total of around 50,000 Jews were deported from Berlin to ghettos as well as extermination and concentration camps. The deportation index holds around 44,600 cards, so there is a card for almost every deportee.

  • What should be considered when working with the document?

    Employees of the AJDC created the deportation index for the Jews of Berlin, but it also includes people who actually came from elsewhere in Germany. This is because, from 1933, more and more Jewish families moved to big cities to escape antisemitic attacks in the smaller villages and towns. In cities like Berlin, they could initially still live without their neighbors knowing that they were Jewish or that they were considered Jews according to the Nuremberg Laws. Their children, who had been excluded from state schools by the Nazis, could also attend Jewish schools in the larger cities. Berlin in particular was a center of Jewish life which attracted many Jews. This is why it makes sense to search the deportation index even for people who only lived in Berlin for a short time.

    The deportation index is now preserved in the Arolsen Archives on microfilm, but parts of it are not very legible. In case of doubt, it is worth looking at the original cards that are stored at Yad Vashem. The transport lists with additional information about the deportees can be viewed in the online archive of the Arolsen Archives.

    If you have any additional information about these cards, we would appreciate it very much if you could send your feedback to eguide(at)arolsen-archives.org. New findings can always be incorporated into the e-Guide and shared with everyone.

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