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American Relief Administration

The United States Congress established the American Relief Administration (ARA) in 1919 to provide relief to war-torn Europe and, later, to post-revolutionary Russia. The director of the ARA was Herbert Hoover.

Hoover's assistant was Lewis Strauss (pronounced straws). Strauss was an American businessman, philanthropist, public official, and naval officer. (Strauss was later a member of the Atomic Energy Commission and was primarily responsible for Robert Oppenheimer's loss of his security clearance.) Strauss became involved with the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee (JJDC) because Jewish refugees were often neglected – this poor treatment of Jews contributed to his becoming a staunch anti-communist.

In May 1922, an agent for the ARA, Boris D. Bogen, wrote a letter to Strauss describing a trip Bogen took to Nikolaev and Kherson. Bogen characterizes

Kherson as a "dead city" because a large portion of its population has been decimated by famine and disease. It appears from Bogen's letter that about half of Kherson's population (of which thirty percent are Jews) was lost. The Jewish population of Kherson was particularly hard hit; surprisingly, this was because many Kherson Jews were artisans. People in this class "...were not in position to get subsistence as other classes did..." Bogen does not make clear what the disability was, other than to state that the Jews were politically "...removed from the government centers..." Bogen goes on to state that the Jews buried their dead in mass graves because they could not afford to bury them individually.

The entire letter, which has more details than outlined here, can be read by clicking Bogen letter.

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