The Secretary General of the High Commission for Refugees (Jewish and Other) Coming From Germany (Wurfbain) to the Secretary of State

Sir: I am directed by the High Commissioner for Refugees (Jewish and Other) coming from Germany to submit for your sympathetic consideration a series of recommendations which were adopted at the meeting in London of the Permanent Committee of the Governing Body of the High Commission, which was held on January 30th.

It will be remembered that the resolution of the Assembly of the League of Nations which recommended the creation of the High Commissioner for the Refugees, stated that the presence of the refugees in the different countries created an economic, financial and social problem which could be solved only by international collaboration. It went on to express the hope that all the Governments would assist the High Commissioner to the best of their ability.3

Two of the recommendations concern the grant of facilities to refugees by the States represented on the Governing Body to obtain permits of work or to enter technical schools or to be apprentices in industrial undertakings.

The suggestions of helping a certain number of refugees to find work for which they are fitted and, in other cases, to be trained for practical vocations which will enable them to find work in countries overseas, concern matters in which the States represented on the Governing Body can substantially contribute to the solution of the problem. Already several States, in which numbers of refugees are living, have given a helpful lead in this direction.

The other recommendation concerns passports for the Refugees. That problem is of the greatest urgency, particularly as far as it affects stateless persons. Every State is reluctant, for obvious reasons, [Page 302] to allow a stateless refugee to remain in its territory; and therefore there is a tendency to try to make the holder of a pass for stateless persons move on to another country before his passport expires. That course of action leads to a waste of money and offers no solution of the human problem involved. It is hoped, therefore, that the Governments concerned will give careful and sympathetic consideration to the last paragraph of the suggestions of the Permanent Committee; and, further, that pending a final decision in this matter, no measures will be taken to expel stateless refugees.

With regard to the other suggestions concerning passports, the High Commissioner will be grateful for an early decision of your Government. The question of passports for refugees is involved at the moment in great uncertainty, and the High Commissioner is anxious to be in a position to give definite advice to the Organisations concerned.

Lastly, it may be mentioned in this connection, that the Swiss Authorities have expressed reluctance to grant to a German national who cannot obtain a renewal of his German passport, a fresh document of identity and travel. They would prefer in such a case to attach the Swiss visa to the expired German passport. The High Commissioner would be glad to know if the Passport Authorities in your country would be prepared to recognise an expired German passport bearing a Swiss visa as an adequate document of travel for a refugee.

I have [etc.]

Norman Bentwich

For Secretary-General

Suggestions of the Permanent Committee of the High Commission Concerning Passports for Refugees

It is recommended that:—

The Government of the countries represented on the Governing Body should issue to a German national who is unable to obtain a renewal of his German passport, or a fresh German passport, from the German Consular Authorities, the document of Identity and Travel recommended by the Conference of the League of Nations in 1927,4 or a similar document employed by them for persons who cannot obtain a national passport.
The Governments should issue a similar document to those refugees who hold passports issued in Germany to stateless persons or to persons who have not a national passport, when the document with which they left Germany expires.
The Document of Identity and Travel, or similar document issued to a refugee, should be valid for a period of one year and should bear the mention “Good for return” to the country issuing it.
All other States should give effect to the documents so issued to refugees, whether for purposes of definite entry into their country or for purposes of transit.
An arrangement should be made with the German Government by which, in any case where the German Consular Authority abroad is unwilling to renew a passport or issue a new passport to a German refugee, he should give a statement to that effect. Failing such an arrangement, it is suggested that the passport authorities of the State in which the refugee is living should accept written proof from an officer of an organisation, represented on the Advisory Council of the High Commission or delegated by the High Commissioner, that the applicant is unable to obtain a document from the German authorities: or they should satisfy themselves otherwise to that effect.
The Governments should allow stateless refugees to stay on the same conditions, and to have the same opportunities of obtaining employment in their country, as are accorded to refugees who are German nationals; and should not take steps to make such stateless refugees leave the country before the term of their passport expires.

  1. For text of resolution, see memorandum from the Secretary of State to President Roosevelt, October 19, 1933, ibid., p. 368.
  2. See League of Nations, Extracts From the Acts of the Third General Conference on Communications and Transit Held at Geneva, August 23rd-September 2nd, 1927 (Geneva, 1927), pp. 38 ff.