The Under Secretary of State ( Davis ) to the Chairman of the American Red Cross ( Farrand )

Sir: In pursuance of the many conferences between representatives of this Department and of the American Red Cross, in regard to relief for the refugees from Russia, I desire to submit the attached [Page 832] memorandum35 which, while it cannot pretend to be exhaustive, tabulates the information available in regard to this distressing problem. The reports indicate that more than two million Russian citizens are dispersed throughout the world and are largely dependent upon various relief organizations for their existence. In many cases the food reserves from which they have been supported are already, or soon will be, exhausted, and many thousands will be faced either by absolute starvation or by support from direct government grants in the countries to which they have fled. Only a small percentage of these refugees has been able to find means to support themselves in their present locality. It is very clearly an international problem, as almost every municipality from Tokyo to London is faced by it.

The matter is rendered the more acute as many of the large concentrations of refugees are in territories where the food supply is not adequate for the native population and where, because of rigorous climatic conditions, the expense of upkeep is exaggerated. So far the problem has been handled in an uncoordinated and inevitably haphazard way.

A very large part of the burden of caring for these unfortunate people has been borne by the American Red Cross Society. There is, of course, a limit to the funds which your Society can allocate to this work. This only emphasizes the desirability of working out a comprehensive and constructive program for meeting the problem.

The misery of these unfortunate people appeals alike to the public conscience of all nations, as there is hardly any country in the Eastern Hemisphere which is not itself faced with the concrete problem of dealing with these refugees. It seems clear to the Department that the only method of preventing a terrible and widespread tragedy, is the frank acceptance of this as an international problem and the organization of its treatment by international cooperation.

I therefore take the liberty to suggest that you should present this matter to the League of Red Cross Societies. It seems obvious that a comprehensive program should be worked out which would have in view:

The transportation of these refugees to territories where they would be most likely to find opportunities for self-supporting activities. In a large percentage of cases this would undoubtedly mean return to their own country. It would also require a comprehensive and detailed study of the immigration problem and the laws governing this matter in those under-populated countries where immigration is desired.
The equalization between the nations of the cost of caring for that minimum who cannot be placed in a self-supporting position and their concentration in places where their maintenance will be most economical, with due regard to the probability of their ultimate repatriation.

This Department cannot offer any financial support to such a proposal, as the granting of funds is entirely in the discretion of Congress. The problem offered to the world by the increasing misery of these two million Russian refugees may be so vast that it could not be met from funds raised by private donation, but this Department believes that it would be futile to ask appropriations from Congress or from the parliaments of any country at least unless the problem has received careful and comprehensive study and can be presented with a program for its constructive treatment as an international burden.

I am [etc.]

Norman H. Davis
  1. Not found in Department files.