ORT in Germany

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ORT began its activities in Germany in early 1921. Later that year the World ORT Union was founded at the organisation’s first conference, held in Berlin in July 1921. ORT’s headquarters – from which fundraising and administration were coordinated – remained in Berlin until the political situation forced their relocation to Paris in 1933. Berlin branches of ORT’s Jewish Reconstruction Fund and Tool Supply Corporation operated during the 1920s and 30s. They provided funding and supplied Jewish farmers and artisans in Eastern Europe with tools, machinery and equipment.

In the 1930s ORT provided vocational courses for newly unemployed German Jews. In 1937 The Berlin ORT school opened, providing vocational training for Jewish youth who could not gain admission to state or municipal trade schools. The school operated under the auspices of British ORT, which afforded it added protection. In August 1939 around 104 students and 7 teachers and their spouses were granted visas to England and managed to escape to Leeds, where the school was re-established. In April 1941 ORT was forced to integrate with the Association of Jews in Germany, but the school maintained its activities until 10 June 1943, when the SS entered the school and most staff and students were deported to Auschwitz.

After the war ORT became the recognised agency in Europe providing Jewish displaced persons (DPs) with education and vocational skills to help them rebuild their lives. ORT established a network of schools in both US and British zones of Germany. By the end of 1945, there were 1,895 persons enrolled in ORT in Germany; two years later, the number had risen to 10,624. It is estimated that ORT had helped around 80,000 DPs following the war.

ORT's work in Germany came to an end after the establishment of the State of Israel, as the DP camps started closing. In March 1956, Fohrenwald, the last Jewish DP camp in Germany, with 75 ORT students, was officially closed. The ORT mission in the DP camps officially ended with the closing of the office in Munich in 1957.