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Nicholas Rezak Papers

An inventory of his papers at Syracuse University

Finding aid created by: MRC
Date: 7 May 2013

Biographical History

Nicholas Rezak's family emigrated from Palestine in 1913. Rezak graduated from Syracuse University in 1933 with a degree in Sociology, following which he received a graduate degree from the Columbia School of Social Work in New York City (1936). He worked for the American Red Cross as a disaster relief worker and spent three years with the Syracuse Department of Public Welfare as a case worker and supervisor (1933-1936). He served as director of the New York City Works Progress Administration for three years (1936-1939) and regional secretary for the New York State Charities Aid Association (1940-1942), and as Regional Supervisor for the Office of Civilian Defense (1942-1943). Following World War II he was named Director of Field Operations and Distribution for the Jugoslav Missions division of the United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation Administration (UNRRA). A long-time resident of Syracuse, New York, he served on a number of boards and was active in charity and fund-raising work. He and his wife Polly had two sons, William and David.

The United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation Administration (UNRRA) was an international relief agency founded in 1943, in the midst of World War II. According to its founding articles, its purpose was to ensure that "immediately upon the liberation of any area by the armed forces of the United Nations or as a consequence of retreat of the enemy the population thereof shall receive aid and relief from their sufferings, food, clothing and shelter, aid in the prevention of pestilence and in the recovery of the health of the people, and that preparation and arrangements shall be made for the return of prisoners and exiles to their homes and for assistance in the resumption of urgently needed agricultural and industrial production and the restoration of essential services." [Agreement for United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation Administration, November 9, 1943]. UNRRA operated divisions in several countires, including occupied Germany, Taiwan, China, Poland, Italy, and Yugoslavia. It ceased operations in 1947.

Scope and Contents of the Collection

The Nicholas Rezak Papers consist of biographical material, correspondence, maps, memorabilia, photographs, published material and writings. The bulk of the collection relates to Rezak's work for the United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation Administration (UNRRA) and provides a unique and interesting portrait of post-war Yugoslavia.

Biographical material contains awards and certifications, clippings about Rezak dating from the years following his work with UNRRA, transcripts, work histories, resumes and other items.

Correspondence consists of personal correspondence between Rezak and his family (wife Polly and son Bill) and friends, as well as correspondence and documentation relating to Rezak's position as Director of UNRRA's Jugoslav Mission.

Maps contains British and American military-issue maps as well as more generic published maps. Of particular interest are those showing so-called "starvation zones" in war-time and post-war Yugoslavia and an aerial topographical map of Graz and Dubrovnik. There is also a map printed on cloth, issued for the U.S. military.

Memorabilia comprises a wide range of items accumulated during Rezak's travels and especially while in Yugoslavia. These include currency from various countries, legal documents such as military passes, postcards, programs from theatrical performances, travel and tourism items (brochures, booklets, guides, etc.), and assorted ephemera (mess passes, receipts, etc.)

Several hundred Photographs make up the largest portion of the collection. Subjects include UNRRA activities such as an anti-typhus program and a nutrition survey; Marshal Josip Tito, Fiorello La Guardia (Director-General of UNRRA), Herbert H. Lehman (former Director-General), and Mihail Sergeichic (Chief of the Yugoslav Mission) appear in numerous pictures. There are also photographs taken on holiday, candid shots of friends and a few of Rezak himself. Many, but not all, are captioned, and several different handwriting styles are represented. Some of the personal photographs appear to have been printed as postcards.

Published material contains clippings, two books on Yugoslavia, and a report on the damage suffered by Yugoslavia during the war.

A few Writings by Rezak complete the collection. These include reports done for two of his employers as well as typescripts of essays or articles about Yugoslavia.

Arrangement of the Collection

In most cases material is arranged alphabetically by topic or title.


Access Restrictions:

The majority of our archival and manuscript collections are housed offsite and require advanced notice for retrieval. Researchers are encouraged to contact us in advance concerning the collection material they wish to access for their research.

Use Restrictions:

Written permission must be obtained from SCRC and all relevant rights holders before publishing quotations, excerpts or images from any materials in this collection.

Subject Headings


La Guardia, Fiorello H. (Fiorello Henry), 1882-1947.
Lehman, Herbert H. (Herbert Henry), 1878-1963.
Rezak, Nicholas.
Sergeichic, Mihail.
Tito, Josip Broz, 1892-1980.

Corporate Bodies

United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation Administration. -- Jugoslav Mission.


Food relief -- Yugoslavia.
Humanitarian assistance -- Yugoslavia.
International relief -- Yugoslavia.
World War, 1939-1945 -- Cartography.
World War, 1939-1945 -- Civilian relief.


Yugoslavia -- History --1918-1945.
Yugoslavia -- History --1945-1980.

Genres and Forms

Clippings (information artifacts)

Administrative Information

Preferred Citation

Preferred citation for this material is as follows:

Nicholas Rezak Papers,
Special Collections Research Center,
Syracuse University Libraries

Acquisition Information

Gift of William (Bill) Rezak and David Rezak, 2013.

Table of Contents

Biographical material





Published material