Concealed in the Open: Recipients of International Clandestine Jewish Aid in Early 1950s Hungary

Zachary Paul Levine


This article discusses the emergence of the semi-clandestine efforts of a network of international Jewish philanthropies and the Israeli government to send material and financial aid to Jews in early-communist Hungary. Post Second World War Hungary was a special focus for Jewish aid organizations in the west and the Israeli government. They poured resources into Hungary, both to feed, cloth and provide medical care to hundreds of thousands of Jews, and to assist thousands of Jews migrating west through Hungary. The American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee, the dominant Jewish aid organization in the world at the time, ran its largest and most expensive program in Hungary. Working with Israeli and Hungarian authorities, it financed a network of welfare services, often through the importation of scarce consumer goods and raw materials. As the Communist Party reshaped the economy, and pushed out “undesirable elements” from Hungarian life, this aid program served a growing population of impoverished, sick, and religious Jews, some exiled in Hungary’s countryside. This program increasingly took advantage of black market networks to distribute aid. Yet, after conditions deteriorated so much that this program ceased officially, Jewish aid providers in the US and Israel adapted their earlier practices and networks to take advantage of the impoverished consumer economy in program to distribute aid clandestinely to Hungarian Jews, with the cooperation of Hungary’s communist authorities.


Jews, black market, humanitarian aid, Israel, Joint Distribution Committee

Full Text:



Copyright (c) 2014 Hungarian Cultural Studies

This journal is published by Pitt Open Library Publishing.
ISSN 2471-965X (online)