[Russia's entry into the American Relief
Administration - demolished Russia with 2,750,000 Russian
Operations of JDC in Soviet Russia began with the entry into
Russia of the American Relief Administration (ARA) in 1920/1.
After war, revolution, and bloody civil strife, Russia had
emerged as a starving country, battered into economic
destitution, her trained labor force scattered, her railways
torn up, and her bridges demolished. In the Ukraine, where a
sizable proportion of the 2,750,000 Russian Jews lived, the
terrible pogroms already mentioned caused a wave of horror to
spread among American Jews and a corresponding desire to help.
JDC, as an American philanthropic organization, rushed to the
aid of Russian Jewry.
[1920-1922: JDC spends 4 mio.
$ for relief for Jews]
By an agreement with ARA, $ 4 million was spent on Jewish
relief up to 1922. This entailed soup kitchens, care for
orphans, and other palliative measures taken under the
direction of Boris D. Bogen, the JDC representative in Eastern
[Since 1921: JDC
representative Dr. Joseph A. Rosen working in Russia]
After intervention by James N. Rosenberg in August 1921, Col.
William N. Haskell, who cooperated with Herbert Hoover on the
ARA program, invited Dr. Joseph A. Rosen to join ARA as JDC
representative in Russia.
Rosen had a checkered history: He had fled from Siberia, where
he had been exiled as a revolutionary with Menshevik leanings,
and had come to the United States in 1903. By profession he
was an agronomist, and he completed his training in the U.S.
He developed a new variety of winter rye and had become an
expert of international renown by the time he went to Russia.
Rosen was a man of tremendous willpower and seems to have had
a very impressive personality. While personally very modest,
he possessed at the same time an overriding ambition to do
whatever he could to save the Jews in Russia from starvation
and degradation. In Russia he met Dr. Lubarsky, an agronomist
friend with whom he had worked prior to the war, and engaged
his services for JDC.
[1917: The Russian peasants
get the soil - the Russian peasants don't produce enough -
hunger and depth]
The problem facing the Soviet regime in Russia after the
confiscation of the nobility's lands immediately following the
Bolshevik Revolution was both grim and simple. Russia's main
export prior to the war had been grain. This export surplus
had come from large farms owned by the landowners or the
state. After the revolution these lands had been divided up
into small parcels and given to the vast masses of Russian
peasants, to buy their support for the Bolshevik regime. These
peasants, who previously had gone hungry within sight of the
aristocratic palaces, produced very little more now than they
had before. The grain surpluses now went to increase slightly
the food rations of the Russian peasantry. Who would now
provide food for the Russian cities and grain for export to
pay for essential industrial goods?
The result of the agrarian revolution was that the Soviet
regime was faced with the necessity of either forgoing any
industrial expansion, which would run counter to the very base
of its ideology, or else create large agricultural holdings to
produce the necessary surpluses.
[Since 1919: Transportation
system defect - no grain transports - famines - starvation
for Jews especially]
In the early 1920s this situation caused a serious imbalance
in the food production of the country; drought in certain
areas could create a serious shortage of bread for the whole
country. This was exacerbated by the destruction of the
country's transportation system. In 1921 and 1922 situations
such as these had created food shortages and mass starvation.
This affected everyone, but the situation of the Jewish
population, concentrated in the Ukraine with White Russia in
small townships and large villages, was especially precarious.
[Rosen imports seed corn from
the "USA" - respect at the Soviet leadership]
Rosen thought of a way to increase food production without
actually increasing the acreage sown. This could not be
by the traditional methods of sowing wheat or barley,
especially since the seed was lacking owing to the droughts.
With full Soviet support, therefore, Rosen began the
importation of seed corn from the United States, and 2.7
million acres in the Ukraine were sown with that crop. It is
hard to gauge the importance of this intervention, but it is a
fact that after that, Rosen enjoyed the confidence and respect
of the Soviet leadership.
[1923/4: Rosen imports 86
tractors - more respect at the Soviet leadership]
His second very significant action was taken in 1923/4, when
JDC started its reconstruction activities in Russia. In order
to help the Jewish colonies then existing and the new colonies
he was about to establish, Rosen imported 86 tractors,
complete with spare parts and mechanics to work them. These
were the first modern tractors that Russia had seen since the
war, and Rosen's stock with the Soviet leadership rose
[Dec 1922: ARA stops
operations in Russia]
In the meantime ARA had ceased its operations, and since
December 1922 JDC had been working in the Soviet Union by
special agreement with the government.