Comité des Delegations Juives

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COMITÉ DES DELEGATIONS JUIVES (Committee of Jewish Delegations) , body established at the end of World War i, at the initiative of the Zionist Organization, to alert the Paris peace conference to the grave situation of the Jews in various European countries and to obtain international guarantees for safeguarding their rights (see *Versailles, Treaty of). Apart from the French and British delegations – who refused to join the Committee on account of its "nationalist" demands – the Committee included all the Jewish delegations sent to Paris to bring the Jewish demands before the peace conference. Among them were the representatives of the Jewish National Assemblies, Councils, and Committees formed in most East and Southeast European Jewish communities after the war – the Jewish minorities whose fate was at stake. Other delegations represented the American and Canadian Jewish Congresses, the Constituent Assembly of Ereẓ Israel Jews, the World Zionist Organization, the American Jewish Committee, and B'nai B'rith, among others. Since most of these delegations had been elected on a democratic basis, the Committee could describe itself as representing 12 million Jews.

The memorandum of the Committee, dated May 10, 1919, but officially submitted on June 10, 1919, called upon the peace conference to include in the treaties with the new states, and those whose territory was to be considerably enlarged, specific provisions guaranteeing individual rights to the members of the minorities living in these countries, and collective national rights to each minority as a group (see *minority rights). The memorandum called, among other things, for the right of all inhabitants to protection of life, liberty, and property and of freedom of religion; the right of all citizens to enjoy equal civil, religious, national, and political rights; the right of the national minorities to use their own language in their public activities and to be recognized as distinct and autonomous organizations having the right to establish, manage, and control schools and religious, educational, charitable, and social institutions; to receive a proportionate part of the state and municipal budgets for these institutions; to tax their members; and have proportional representation in state, municipal, and elective bodies. These provisions were to be embodied in the fundamental laws of the country and recognized as obligations of international concern, subject to the supervision of the *League of Nations; furthermore, every state which was a party to the treaties, and every minority affected by their violation, was to have the right of appeal to the League or to any Tribunal that might be established by the League. The memorandum was drafted in general terms, referring to all minorities in the newly created or enlarged states, and was not restricted to Jewish minorities only. It had a profound effect upon the minority treaties as they were eventually adopted. Not all of the Committee demands were accepted; thus, the term "national minority" was replaced by the more cautious phrase "ethnic, linguistic, and religious minority"; nor were the minorities recognized as autonomous bodies, as the Committee had proposed, though they did grant them certain rights relating to language and culture, which – by their very nature – were group and not individual rights.

In another memorandum, the Committee demanded of the peace conference to hold the countries concerned responsible for the pogroms that might have taken place within their boundaries since the outbreak of the war, or might take place subsequently, and to pay compensation to the victims. A third memorandum supported the historic rights of the Jewish people to Ereẓ Israel and called for the creation of political, administrative, and economic conditions that would ensure the establishment of the Jewish National Home.

The Committee was not disbanded after the Peace Conference, and it remained in existence up to 1936, when the *World Jewish Congress succeeded it. Throughout this period the Committee was active in safeguarding the rights granted to Jews in the minority treaties, in combating antisemitism, and in promoting the participation of Jews as Jews in the work of international nongovernmental organizations. In the early postwar years the Committee concentrated on the struggle against the wave of anti-Jewish pogroms in Eastern Europe, especially the Ukraine. It also intervened to protect the right to nationality or to reasonable conditions for its acquisition by naturalization in several East and Central European countries, against the expulsion of Jewish war refugees, and against the *numerus clausus at the universities in such countries as Poland and Romania. The Committee was instrumental in the establishment of the World Jewish Aid Conference (1920), which was concerned with the economic rehabilitation of Jews in different countries. The Committee was also very active in assisting the defense of Shalom Schwarzbard, who in 1927 shot and killed *Petlyura to avenge the murder of Ukrainian Jews.

In 1933 the Committee took energetic steps following the rise of Hitler when the first Nazi anti-Jewish discriminatory legislation was introduced. Since Germany was not among the states on which the peace conference had imposed the system of international protection of minorities, there was no legal basis for bringing up before the League of Nations the question of the position of the Jews in the whole of Germany. The Committee therefore had to rely on the limited framework of the German-Polish Convention of 1922, under which Germany undertook, for a transitional period of 15 years, to guarantee the rights of all the minorities in Upper Silesia in line with the provisions of the minority treaties. On May 17, 1933, two petitions were submitted to the League of Nations: one signed by the Committee and other Jewish institutions and organizations, and the second by Franz Bernheim, a store clerk in Upper Silesia who had been dismissed under the new anti-Jewish legislation (see *Bernheim Petition). Despite all the efforts made by the Nazi representatives to prevent discussion of the affair, and even have it removed from the agenda, the Committee succeeded in having the petition publicly debated at the League. All the speakers denounced the persecution of the Jews in Germany and energetically condemned curtailment of Jewish rights.

This was the first time after Hitler's accession to power that his regime was censured from the platform of the League of Nations. Nazi Germany was forced to honor the rights of the Jews in Upper Silesia until 1937, the expiration date of the German-Polish agreement. In October 1933, as a result of the Committee's efforts, the League of Nations Assembly held a searching debate on the oppression of the Jews in Nazi Germany and decided on the appointment of a High Commissioner for Refugees (Jewish and others) from Germany; the Committee took an active part in the work of the Commissioner through its membership on the Advisory Council set up to assist him. Owing to the efforts of the Committee and other Jewish organizations, the Jews of the Saar Territory were allowed to leave the territory and take their belongings with them within one year from its return to Germany resulting from the plebiscite held in 1935.

The Committee was headed, successively, by Julian *Mack, Louis *Marshall, and Nahum *Sokolow. Its secretary-general was Leo *Motzkin, from 1924 also acting president; upon the latter's death, in 1933, Nahum *Goldmann was elected president and, in 1935, Stephen S. *Wise. During its period of existence, the Committee published a wide range of books, pamphlets, and bulletins on the Jewish problem in various languages.


Proceedings of Adjourned Session of American Jewish Congress Including Report of Commission to Peace Conference and of Provisional Organization for Formation of American Jewish Congress (1920); D.H. Miller, My Diary at the Peace Conference, with Documents (1928); N. Feinberg, La Question des Minorités à la Conférence de la Paix de 1919–1920 et l'Action Juive en Faveur de la Protection Internationale des Minorités (1929); O.I. Janowsky, Jews and Minority Rights, 1898–1919 (1933), 253–383; Unity in Dispersion. A History of the World Jewish Congress (1948), 9–41; Y. Tennenbaum, Bein Milḥamah ve-Shalom (1960); N. Feinberg, Ha-Ma'arakhah ha-Yehudit Neged Hitler (1957); idem, in: ilr, 3 (1968).

[Nathan Feinberg]

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Comité des Delegations Juives

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