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Records of the OZE-TOZ (Obshchestvo Zdravookhraneniia Evreev/ Society for the Protection of the Health of the Jews)

 Collection
Identifier: RG 53

Scope and Content Note

The collection includes materials pertaining to: OZE activities in Russia; institutions organized by OZE personnel and sponsored by the JDC (American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee) in Ukraine and Belorussia during the Soviet period; activities organized by the OZE-OSE main office in Berlin in the 1920s, directed mainly at Eastern European Jews; activities organized by the Vilna OZE Branch and the Vilna TOZ Committee in the city of Vilna and Vilna region in the interwar period; mission of the 1925 OSE delegation in New York, and its meetings with leaders of JDC and other Jewish relief organizations to gather support for OZE activities in Eastern Europe; OSE activities in Latvia (Riga, Rēzekne, Liepāja) in the late 1930s. The collection also includes miscellaneous records (related primarily to the OZE-TOZ branches in Vilna and the Vilna region).

The materials comprise reports, minutes of meetings, financial records, statistical surveys, posters, printed material, and medical records. A large proportion of the collection consists of correspondence between OZE-OSE and TOZ main offices and local branches throughout Eastern Europe, correspondence to and from official state agencies and the Jewish organizations, and correspondence to and from Jewish doctors and leading figures active in the two Jewish organizations. These include Dr. Nahum Gergel (one of the founders of OZE in Berlin, member of the Executive Committee of OZE Berlin, and prominent member of Yidgezkom, ORT and JDC), Dr. B. Dubinsky (prominent activist in the Riga OSE Committee from 1939-1940), and Dr. Tsemah Szabad (chairman of the Vilna Branch of TOZ).

The collection provides information about the relations of OZE and TOZ with other Jewish relief organizations, most importantly with the JDC. In the late 1930s, in particular, OSE activities in Eastern Europe depended more and more on the financial support of the JDC. The Vilna records, which represent a noteworthy section of the collection, provide valuable information about the collaboration between OZE and TOZ on the local level, the creation of a temporary OZE-TOZ Committee in the city and the final liquidation of OZE. The Latvia records, which also make up a considerable segment of the collection, provide information about OSE activities in the critical years 1938-1940, the attempt to coordinate Jewish relief from the Paris OSE Main Office, and the growing needs of the Jewish population of Latvia.

Overall, the material in this collection bears witness to the impressive number and variety of institutions and activities organized by OZE-OSE and TOZ to bring support to the Jewish population. These were all-embracing Jewish national organizations that strove to make available health care and social services to all Jews, without distinction of religious, cultural and political background. As the announcement for the “Week of TOZ” in Vilna read, “The Health Week must be our greatest propaganda effort because health is the most precious treasure for the individual and for the nation (folk).”

Dates

  • 1904-1940

Creator

Language of Materials

In Yiddish, Russian, Polish, and French, with some German, Latvian and English.

Conditions Governing Access

The collection has been digitized and is available online without restrictions. The physical collection is closed.

For more information, contact:

YIVO Archives

YIVO Institute for Jewish Research

Center for Jewish History, 15 West 16th Street

New York, NY 10011

email: archives@yivo.cjh.org

Historical Note

Established by a group of Jewish doctors, lawyers and prominent public figures in St. Petersburg, OZE (Obshchestvo Zdravookhraneniia Evreev) sought to create an all-Russian Jewish welfare system with the goal of promoting the study and knowledge of medical and sanitary practices, detecting and curing diseases among Jews, preventing epidemics, and creating living conditions conducive to the normal physical and mental development of Jewish children. It incorporated existing communal philanthropic organizations (such as “Bikkur holim,” “Linot ha-tsedek,” “Rofe holim,” etc.) and a few modern medical institutions (such as the Jewish Hospital in Kiev and the Jewish Children Hospital in Warsaw).

Beginning in 1913-1914, OZE organized summer camps for needy children, consultations for mother and infant health protection, clinics, and Drop of Milk stations to promote breast-feeding and educate women about modern methods of infant care. By August 1917, there were 45 OZE branches (with approximately 15,000 members) operating in 102 different cities in the territories of the former Russian Empire. They maintained 90 out-patient clinics, 19 hospitals, four clinics for children with tuberculosis, 19 feeding centers and nine dining-halls for children, 125 nurseries (with 12,000 children), two sanatoria for tuberculosis patients, 24 summer camps, and many other medical and child-care facilities.

At the time of World War I and the Russian Civil War, OZE focused most of its efforts on bringing special relief measures to the hundreds of thousands of Jewish war refugees, deportees, and pogrom victims, preventing the spread of mass epidemics and actively collaborating with YEKOPO (Jewish Relief Committee for War Victims) and Yidgezkom (in Yiddish, Yidisher gezelshatlekher komitet - in Russian, Evreiskii Obshchestvenniy Komitet) or the Jewish Social Committee for the Help of Pogrom Victims. While OZE was officially closed down in Soviet Russia by 1921, its leaders and activists continued to provide assistance to the Jewish population through different socio-medical activities and facilities, mainly with the support of the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee (JDC). Medical-sanitary institutions continued to operate in the cities and shtetlekh of Ukraine and Belorussia, providing assistance especially to the so-called “lishentsy,” who had been disenfranchised and were consequently not entitled to state medical services. A large percentage of lishentsy were Jewish.

Following the end of the war, branches of OZE spread to the newly established states of Poland, Lithuania, Latvia, and Romania, as well as to other countries in Central and Western Europe, thus becoming a global Jewish organization for health care and children’s welfare. In December 1922, after the Soviets dissolved the organization, a small group of OZE activists (led by Dr. M. Gran) fled Soviet Russia and established in Berlin the OZE World Union (OZE Weltfarband). In the mid-1920s, the old acronym with a slight change was fitted with the new name “Oeuvre De Secour Aux Enfants” (OSE), or Society for the Aid of Children. The general meaning of the acronym remained the same in its French incarnation, as did OSE's main purpose of Jewish social welfare organization. In 1933, after Hitler’s rise to power, OSE transferred its headquarters from Berlin to Paris (and from 1940-1945 to New York City).

Established in Poland in 1921, TOZ (Towarzystwo Ochrony Zdrowia Ludności Żydowskiej) was closely associated with OZE, sharing the same program of activities. Because of World War I and its disarraying consequences, especially in the eastern regions, TOZ concentrated its relief efforts primarily on battling contagious diseases and epidemics caused by poverty, malnourishment and the deplorable sanitary conditions of the Jewish population. In collaboration with OZE, TOZ carried out a broad educational campaign to promote general hygiene and teach methods of preventing the spread of skin and eye diseases (ringworm and trachoma), typhus, and tuberculosis. Lectures were delivered in community centers and schools, articles were published in medical periodicals, and propaganda posters and flyers (mostly produced by the Berlin OSE Committee) were distributed throughout the towns of Eastern Europe.

In Poland, TOZ published three periodicals related to social, medical and sanitary issues. Published in Vilna from 1923 to 1937, the monthly and later by-weekly Folks-gezunt was a popular-scientific journal for the broad Jewish public. Its editor, Dr. Tsemah Szabad, was chairman of the Vilna TOZ Committee. Gezunt was a youth magazine for Jewish school-children. TOZ Yedies (in Polish Wiadomości Toz’u) was a bilingual Polish-Yiddish scientific journal issued in Warsaw, from 1927; in January 1931, its name changed to Sotsyale meditsin in Yiddish, and Medycyna Społeczna in Polish.

In the interwar period, TOZ and OSE established an impressive network of health clinics, Drop of Milk stations, Mother and Infant clinics, x-ray departments, sanatoria and convalescent homes; supported orphanages and hospitals; and organized sport activities, supplemental nourishment programs for poor children, and summer and day camps. In Poland, TOZ and OSE collaborated as separate organizations until 1926. After a short period of operating as a single organization (under the name OSE-TOZ), in 1927 TOZ took over the OSE institutions in Poland and Lithuania. TOZ remained closely associated with OSE headquarters in Western Europe. The JDC in New York also provided financial support for projects to improve the living conditions of the impoverished Jewish masses, distributed food, helped to set up public health care institutions, and aided schools and vocational programs.

By 1939, TOZ was responsible for 368 medical and public health institutions located in 72 different cities and towns in Poland, and employed approximately 1,000 doctors, nurses, dentists, medical assistants, instructors and teachers. Annual membership fees were paid by 15,443 supporters.

The outbreak of World War II and the Nazi invasion of Europe put an end to the flourishing activities and growth of TOZ; its institutions were closed down in 1942, its property confiscated and looted, and most of its patients and personnel killed.

Extent

0.85 Linear Feet

Abstract

Established in 1912 in St. Petersburg by a group of Jewish doctors, lawyers and prominent public figures, OZE sought to create an all-Russian Jewish welfare system with the goal of promoting the study and knowledge of medical and sanitary practices, detecting and curing diseases among Jews, preventing epidemics, and creating living conditions conducive to the normal physical and mental development of Jewish children. TOZ, established in Poland in 1921, remained closely associated with OZE and shared the same program of activities. Because of World War I and its disarraying consequences, especially in the eastern regions of the Polish state, TOZ concentrated its relief efforts primarily on battling contagious diseases and epidemics caused by poverty, malnourishment and the deplorable sanitary conditions of the Jewish population. The collection is of mixed provenance and fragmentary nature, and consists of miscellaneous materials that relate to the activities of OZE and TOZ in Eastern Europe, and to some extent, in Western Europe.

Arrangement

The collection is arranged as one series. Folders are arranged by region.

Custodial History

The records pertaining to Vilna, the Vilna region and Lithuania were part of the YIVO Archives in Vilna before World War II. During the Nazi occupation of Vilna, in 1942, the records were looted by the Einsatzstab Rosenberg and sent to the NSDAP Institute Zur Erforschung der Judenfrage in Frankfurt-am-Main. In 1945 they were recovered by the U.S. army and returned to the YIVO in New York, via the U.S. army archival depot in Offenbach. The records arrived in New York in 1947.

Related Materials

Material related to OZE-TOZ activity in Poland can be found in RG 28 Poland (Vilna Archives) Collection, and RG 116-Poland Territorial Collection. Material for OZE in Lithuania, including many photographs, is contained in RG 2 Lithuanian Jewish Communities Collection.

Creator

Title
Guide to the Records of OZE-TOZ (Obshchestvo Zdravookhraneniia Evreev/Society for the Protection of the Health of the Jews), 1904-1940 RG 53
Status
Completed
Author
Processed by Elissa Bemporad
Date
© 2006
Language of description
English
Script of description
Latin
Language of description note
Description is in English.
Sponsor
with the assistance of a grant from the Gruss Lipper Family Foundation. Further processed, conserved and digitized in 2019 as part of the Edward Blank YIVO Vilna Online Collections project (2015-2022).

Repository Details

Part of the YIVO Institute for Jewish Research Repository

Contact:
15 West 16th Street
New York NY 10011 United States