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Recha Freier

Youth Aliyah (originally called the “Committee for the Assistance of Jewish Youth”) opened its office in Berlin on this date in 1933 — the same day that Adolf Hitler took power as chancellor of Germany. “The utter senselessness of Jewish life in the Diaspora stood palpably before my eyes,” wrote Recha Freier, a poet, musician, and teacher who founded the organization. Freier ran Youth Aliyah in Germany while Henrietta Szold of Hadassah did so in Jerusalem after the project was quickly adopted by the World Zionist OrganizationBefore the war broke out in 1939, Freier was responsible for saving at least 7,000 Jewish and Austrian children by arranging their transport, both legal and illegal, to European countries not occupied by the Nazis or to youth villages in Palestine. She did not leave Germany until 1940; en route to Palestine, she arranged transit for eighty young people in Yugoslavia. Youth Aliyah received the Israel Prize in 1958, and Freier received it in 1981, three years before her death. The organization has been involved in bringing some 300,000 young people to Israel from North Africa, Central and Eastern Europe, Latin America, the USSR, and Ethiopia.

“I had no experience [in] social work but in 1932 and 1933 several of the young boys I knew lost their employment and all possibility of any future in Germany on account of their being Jews. So I had the idea of taking them to Israel and training them there to have a future on the land.” —Recha Freier, 1952