Laura Brade (Albion College)
For much of the 1920s and 1930s, American and British humanitarian organizations perceived their Czechoslovak counterparts as partners in distributing aid to the growing refugee population in Europe. With the Munich Agreement in 1938, Czechoslovakia was no longer a place of refuge; instead, Czechoslovak Jews and leftists sought to flee the Bohemian Lands. This paper shows that the refugee crisis in Czechoslovakia in 1938 and 1939 resulted in a shift in the relationship between international and Czechoslovak humanitarians. By analyzing the language used by American and British humanitarians to describe Czechoslovak organizations, this paper argues that as Czechoslovakia transitioned from an aid partner to an aid recipient, American and British humanitarians’ perceived Czech and Jewish refugee aid committees to be increasingly less organized and less reliable. Czechoslovak humanitarians navigated these perceptions of sliding into backwardness in their efforts to secure funding for refugees in the Bohemian Lands during this critical period. Using documents from the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee, the British Committee for Refugees from Czechoslovakia, HICEM, and the Czechoslovak government, this paper contributes to our understanding of local and international humanitarian interactions in the period just before the Second World War.