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Recha Freier

Recha Schweitzer Freier founded Youth Aliyah in Berlin in 1932, saving thousands of Jews from the Holocaust. As a young woman, she became an ardent Zionist after many childhood encounters with anti-Semitism. In 1912 she began studying at universities in Munich and Breslau, where she met Rabbi Dr. Moritz Freier, whom she married in 1919. In 1932 Moritz asked Recha to help five teenagers unable to find jobs open to Jews. After trying employment agencies with no luck, she sent them to Palestine to pioneer settlements. The following year she formally established Youth Aliyah and tried to raise funds, securing help from Henrietta Szold, who established a Youth Aliyah office in Jerusalem. Because Freier used any means necessary to rescue Jews, including stealing travel papers, the Nazis forced the Reich Association of Jews in Germany and Youth Aliyah to repudiate her in 1940. Undeterred, she continued her rescue work independently in Yugoslavia and Austria. Upon her arrival in Palestine in 1941, she clashed with Szold and withdrew from Youth Aliyah to create the Agricultural Training Center, which trained disadvantaged Israeli children to work on kibbutzim. Although many believed Henrietta Szold had created Youth Aliyah single-handedly, Freier fought to have her contributions acknowledged, and in 1981 was awarded the Israel Prize for her role in helping Youth Aliyah save more than seven thousand Jews from the Nazis.


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Recha Freier established Youth Aliya, the movement to bring Jewish children from Germany to Palestine, enabling thousands to escape Nazi persecution and build new lives in pre-State Israel. It was not until the end of her life that she received formal recognition for the visionary initiative that saved so many Jewish children.

Institution: Serem Freier.

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How to cite this page

Jewish Women's Archive. "Recha Freier." (Viewed on December 2, 2020) <https://jwa.org/people/freier-recha>.


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