Recha Freier and her daughter Maayan (Photo: @felix_bohr - Twitter)

On January 30th, 1933, the same day Adolf Hitler was appointed Chancellor of Germany by President Paul Von Hindenburg, Recha Freier established the Committee for the Assistance of Jewish Youth.  The committee, which would eventually be renamed Youth Aliyah, would rescue over 11,000 mostly German-Jewish children during World War II and would become a key component of the Hadassah organization that dealt with saving Jewish youth from all pockets of the globe.

The first attempts to launch the Youth Aliyah began already in 1932, when Recha Freier, a Zionistic Jew born in Germany sent the Hadassah organization founder Henrietta Szold, a letter detailing a  plan to bring Jewish youth from Germany to British Mandatory Palestine to escape growing antisemitism.  

Szold,  who at the time was the chairman of the National Council for the Jewish settlement in Palestine, was preoccupied with the large number of social and financial problems in the “Yishuv” and was reluctant to take on any new projects, thus rejecting the proposal.  According to Szold, at the time she was more worried about the inability of the Zionist movement in Israel to provide for the many impoverished youths already within the country.

Seemingly unbothered by Szold’s rejection, Freier moved on to appeal to other Zionist leaders as well as the “Histadrut” labor Union and was able to find support for relocation for a small number of German boys.  She would eventually raise funds and began sending the first groups of youth in October 1932.  With Szold still refusing to provide official immigration certificates, Freier set up her organization on January 30, 1933, so that she could directly lobby the British Mandatory government for the certificates, without having to go through Szold’s bureaucracy.

Eventually, with Hitler’s new violent policies towards Jews and the worsening conditions in Germany and all of Europe, Szold was forced to commit Hadassah’s vast resources to the project, although the relationship between the two women would remain extremely cold.  When Freier herself arrived on the shores of Israel in 1941, Szold informed her that she had no place in the Hadassah organization. Due to the closeness of Szold and Hadassah to the Israeli establishment, Freier’s Zionist and lifesaving actions would largely go unrecognized by the future state of Israel.

It was only in the last few years of her life, in 1981, that Freier would be officially recognized by the state of Israel under Menachem Begin’s leadership for saving over 11,000 Jewish children from the horrors of Nazism.

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