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OSE Photograph Collection

Identifier: RG 494

Scope and Content Note

The OSE Photograph Collection is part of a larger archival collection, the Records of the American OSE Committee. The photograph collection consists of photographs of OSE medical and nutrition programs, children’s homes, summer camps, public lectures on health topics, clinics, educational programs, and official visits of OSE staff. There are also numerous pictures of leisure activities, care homes, vocational training, and education. These photos portray OSE activities in Argentina, Australia, Canada, Czechoslovakia, France, Hungary, Iran, Israel, Italy, Mexico, Morocco, Netherlands, Rumania, Switzerland, Tunisia, United States, and Uruguay, and various individuals and conference of the World OSE Union. The majority of these photos date from World War II and the years just following, although there is also a series of photos of German Refugees in the OSE Children's Home in Montmorency, France, circa 1937.


  • Creation: 1937-1962


Language of Materials

Captions on the backs of photos and signs within the photos appear in English, Yiddish, French, Spanish, Romanian, and Hebrew.

Access Restrictions

Permission to use the collection must be obtained from the YIVO Archivist.

Use Restrictions

Permission to publish part or parts of the collection must be obtained from the YIVO Archives. For more information, contact:

YIVO Institute for Jewish Research, Center for Jewish History, 15 West 16th Street, New York, NY 10011


Historical Note

OSE was founded on August 7, 1912 in St. Petersburg, Russia as Obschestvo zdravookhraneniia evreev, OZE (Society for the Protection of the Health of the Jews) and was a worldwide organization dedicated to promoting health and hygiene among Jews, particularly children. OSE maintained branches in Russia, Rumania, central and western Europe, and Poland. OSE aimed to provide accessible, free health care for all Jews through its network of medical, sanitary and preventative services. The OSE branches also sought to address any health conditions and hereditary illnesses that specifically affected Jews, giving proper consideration to religious and ethnic traditions.

OSE maintained hundreds of institutions, which included hospitals, nurseries, centers providing food and milk for children, summer camps for children from low-income families, kindergartens, outpatient clinics and observation centers, and sanatoriums. OSE also provided maternity and early childhood consultations to mothers and distributed free medication and vaccinations to the needy at medical dispensaries. A special committee supervised physical education at Jewish schools and set up outdoor playgrounds. OSE staff delivered lectures and printed brochures in Yiddish on hygiene and sanitation, as well as advice on preventing and treating childhood illnesses, skin ailments, and infectious diseases, including trachoma, favus, cholera, and tuberculosis.

During World War I, OSE shifted its work toward providing emergency medical and nutritional care to Jewish refugees and displaced persons, particularly in areas near to the front lines. OSE ceased operations in the Soviet Union in 1921 and many of its programs were taken over by the state government. Also in 1921, OSE was established in Lithuania and became a national organization in Poland, where it was known as TOZ (Towarzystwo Ochrony Zdrowia Ludności Źidowskiej (Society for Safeguarding the Health of the Jewish Populace), both funded in large part by the Joint Distribution Committee. TOZ continued its work in several Polish ghettos until around 1942. In 1922, OSE established branches in Rumania and Latvia and formed a medical committee in London to support OSE activities in Eastern Europe. The Berlin OSE Committee was also formed in 1922 by immigrants from Russia, largely in response to famines in the lower Volga regions and southern Ukraine. Berlin OSE, with help from major international Jewish organizations and the Red Cross, was able to send food, medical equipment and medication, and later medical personnel to Soviet Russia, activities which lasted until the late 1930s. At a December 1922 conference in Berlin, representatives from Poland, Lithuania, Berlin, and London elected a central bureau composed of the Berlin OSE Committee members plus one representative from each local OSE organization. At the OSE Congress in August 1923, the World Union of OSE Societies (World OSE) was established, with Albert Einstein as the honorary president.

In 1933, with the rise of the Nazis, the World OSE Union relocated from Berlin to Paris where the acronym came to stand for Oeuvre de Secours aux Enfants (Society for the Aid of Children). World OSE headquarters moved to New York City from 1940-1945. In early 1934, OSE France was formed and immediately was faced with the question of the substantial stream of refugees who had escaped from Germany and Eastern Europe. A network of orphanages was set up all throughout France. During the wartime occupation of France, OSE had to officially liquidate their orphanages, although in reality they merely went underground. OSE members placed Jewish children with foster families, hid them in chateaus and smuggled hundreds out of France to neutral Switzerland. OSE’s central committee was also able to help Jews in occupied countries through a small branch in Geneva and via the International Red Cross, setting up orphanages to provide food and medical care.

After the end of World War II, during which the institutions of OSE in Europe were mainly destroyed, representatives of the World OSE Union traveled to Eastern Europe to help Holocaust survivors, setting up branches in Bulgaria, Hungary, Czechoslovakia, and Yugoslavia. The World OSE Union shifted its postwar activities to North America, Latin America, North Africa, and Israel. It is currently based in Paris and continues its goals of providing medical care, safeguarding the health of mothers, infants and children, fighting disease, and promoting hygiene, sanitation and health education.


1.5 Linear Feet


This collection consists of photographs of OSE programs, OSE conferences and congresses and various individuals connected with OSE and its programs, mainly dating from World War II and the years just following. Many of these photographs are related to the work OSE does with children’s health and nutrition but there are also numerous pictures of leisure activities, care homes, vocational training, and education.


The photographs were originally in envelopes that were labeled by country, with the exception of the photographs of German Refugees in the OSE Children's Home in Montmorency, France, which were in their own envelope. They have been arranged in folders by subject or location based upon captions on the backs of the photographs and by the subject of the photographs, such as gardening, official visits, medical care, and meetings. The children’s homes in various French chateaux have been arranged by the name of the chateau or villa. Thus, Villa Champfleur is arranged under “C,” Chateau de Mehoncourt under “M” and Villa Les Roches under “R.” The photographs have been arranged alphabetically by country and then by subject or location. They have then been arranged chronologically within each country. Photos with the same date or date range have been arranged alphabetically.

Acquisition Information

The photographs, as part of the larger Records of the American OSE Committee, were received from Leon Wulman, executive secretary of American OSE, in 1964 and 1970.

Digitization Note

This collection was digitized and made accessible in its entirety with the exception of the following folders, which are restricted to onsite use only due to copyright: folders 1, 2, 3, 4, 6, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 14, 36, 39, 40, 48, 50, 51, 56, 61, 65, 66, 67, 68, 69, 70, 71, 73, 75, 78, 85, 86, 88, 89, 90, 96, 97, 99, and 101. Most photographs have captions or other information on the verso, so most versos were digitized. Blank versos were not digitized. In the case of duplicate photographs, the highest quality photograph was digitized.

Related Material

The Records of the American OSE Committee, RG 494, are stored separately in the YIVO Archives. The YIVO Archives also has the Records of Union Generale Des Israelites De France (UGIF), RG 210, the Records of the World ORT Union, RG 252, Records of the Kehillat Haharedim (France), RG 340, the Records of the American ORT Federation, RG 380, and the records of several other aid organizations.

Separated Material

There is no information about materials that are associated by provenance to the described materials that have been physically separated or removed.

Processing information

The Records of the American OSE Committee were arranged by Susanna Fogel in 1970. The photographs were processed by Rachel S. Harrison in May 2014, made possible by the Leon Levy Foundation and the Conference on Jewish Material Claims against Germany. Photographs were taken out of envelopes and put into folders.


Guide to the OSE Photograph Collection 1937-1962 RG 494
Processed by Rachel S. Harrison
Language of description
Script of description
Language of description note
Description is in English.
made possible by the Leon Levy Foundation and the Conference on Jewish Material Claims against Germany. Digitization made possible by the Conference on Jewish Material Claims against Germany.

Revision Statements

  • August 2015: Added dao links by Eric Fritzler.
  • November 2015: Digitization note updated by Leanora Lange.

Repository Details

Part of the YIVO Institute for Jewish Research Repository

15 West 16th Street
New York NY 10011 United States