A destroyed Jewish store in Berlin on November 11, 1935 in the aftermath of Kristallnacht.

Ohel Jakob Synagogue in Munich after Kristallnacht.jpeg

Ohel Jakob Synagogue in Munich, in ruins after Kristallnacht.

Immediately after the emergency meeting between the AAJR Executive Committee and New York rabbis, violence broke out in Germany and Austria. Kristallnacht, which took place on November 9 and 10, 1938, accelerated AAJR aims as members hoped to ramp up their financial and geographical reach.

When the Executive Committee met on December 4, 1938, the only topic discussed was the need to assist German Jewish scholars in emigrating. The committee decided to reach out to the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee again and to individual members of the Joint, including Joseph Hyman, James Rosenberg, and Frieda Schiff Warburg, to ask for financial support. According to the AAJR Executive Committee, it was imperative that AAJR “impress upon [Joint members that] the Academy might become an important agency in bringing over a score of approximately fifty Jewish scholars now in need, provided that the Academy is given adequate financial support by the J.D.C. and similar organizations.”

The aim to sponsor fifty scholars, rather than the five that had been proposed in the previous year, marked a major escalation for AAJR—one that came as a direct response to Kristallnacht. From that point on, AAJR’s immediate goal and main institutional focus was to rescue as many European Jewish scholars as possible as the Nazi party expanded its occupation across Europe.