1933: Birth of the IRC [IRC at 75]
January 31, 2008 by George Rupp
|Photo: Library of Congress|
As the International Rescue Committee observes our 75th anniversary this year, IRC president George Rupp plans to blog about one moment from IRC's rich history each month. Read on to find out how Albert Einstein played a part in our founding:
In January 1933, Adolf Hitler, the head of the Nazi party, became chancellor of Germany. Within two months, the Nazis had gained virtually total control of the country and had begun what would be a 12-year nightmare eventually engulfing the entire world. For starters, Germany's labor unions and opposing political parties were banned. Civil liberties were suspended. And the purging of Jews from the German government and universities was launched.
Although much of the world greeted the Nazi takeover with indifference or apathy, some people were alert to what was happening and the threat it represented. In July 1933, a committee of 51 prominent Americans was established in New York at the request of German-born physicist Albert Einstein in his role as head of the International Relief Association. The Americans included intellectuals, artists, and members of the clergy. Among them were the philosopher John Dewey, the writer John Dos Passos, and the theologian Reinhold Niebuhr.
The committee established offices at 11 West 42nd St., opposite Bryant Park and not far from our current headquarters location. Its mission, as The New York Times reported on July 24, 1933, was to "assist Germans suffering from the policies of the Hitler regime." And so came into being the organization that would grow into today's International Rescue Committee. Although the IRC today is vastly larger and more complex than it was at the beginning, we are still motivated by the same concern that led to our founding: a commitment to fellow human beings who are suffering as the result of persecution, war, or civil conflict.
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