“Remember, there are not many Eisses now in the Swiss market”: Assistance and Rescue Endeavors of Chaim Yisrael Eiss in Switzerland
Haim Yisrael Eiss was one of the most productive rescue activists during the Holocaust. He was originally from Galicia and lived for most of his life in Zurich. Eiss left the Mizrachi religious Zionist movement and was among the founders of Agudath Israel in 1912. He began assisting Jews to leave Germany and Austria in the 1930s, and after the war broke out he devoted most of his time, gratis, to rescuing Jews from the Nazis. Eiss was appointed by the Executive Committee of Agudath Israel World Organization to work together with the Geneva delegation of the Jewish Agency for Palestine toward rescue. However, friction among rescue workers led Eiss to operate independently. His main rescue activity revolved around procuring passports for Jews in ghettos. After acquiring the passports from South American consuls in Bern (usually for a fee), he sent copies to their destinations via couriers or the post. The author estimates that Eiss sent hundreds of passports, although most of the people for whom they were destined did not survive, as happened with other rescue efforts as well. Eiss passed away in November 1943, at the peak of his work, and having won widespread admiration during his life from various rescue activists from other movements.