840.48 Refugees/1290b: Telegram

The Secretary of State to the Ambassador in the United Kingdom (Kennedy)

40. Personal for Myron Taylor. The President has asked me to transmit the following message of guidance from him to you:

“You may recall that my letter to you of June 14, 1938,16 expressed the view that the continuing Intergovernmental Committee should consider, as part of its long-range program, the possibilities of providing for the settlement in suitable areas of persons forced to emigrate from countries other than Germany because of their religious beliefs or racial origins.

“I fully appreciate the reasons which led the British and French Governments to oppose any development of that idea at Evian.16a Any action which might encourage other nations of Eastern Europe to apply pressure upon minority groups would not only be most undesirable in itself but might also jeopardize the specific efforts of the Committee to solve the German refugee problem. No one could be more anxious than I to avoid such a development. Were a suitable area available for the settlement of great numbers of people, however, the situation would be entirely different.

“The fact must be faced that there exists in Central and Eastern Europe a racial and religious group of some seven million persons for whom the economic and social future is exceedingly dark. While the Intergovernmental Committee has wisely treated the German refugee problem as being one of involuntary emigration regardless of race, creed or political belief, it must be frankly recognized that the larger Eastern European problem is basically a Jewish problem. Acute as the German problem is, it is, I fear, only a precursor of what may be expected if the larger problem is not met before it reaches an acute stage, and indications are rapidly increasing that such a stage may [Page 67] be reached in the near future. The increasing seriousness of the problem may shortly make the political difficulties involved in finding a solution appear trivial in comparison.

“I do not believe that the migration of seven million persons from their present homes and their resettlement in other parts of the world is either possible or essential to a solution of the problem. I do believe that the organized emigration from Eastern Europe over a period of years of young persons at the age at which they enter actively into economic competition, and at which they may be expected to marry, is not beyond the bounds of possibility. The resultant decrease in economic pressure, the actual removal over a period of years of a very substantial number of persons, the decrease in the birthrate and the natural operation of the death rate among the remaining older portion of the population should reduce the problem to negligible proportions.

“It is estimated that such organized emigration would require the movement of perhaps 150,000 persons a year over a period of years. Such a movement of young persons of employable and marriageable age could not take place by means of infiltration, even if the legislation of the receiving countries permitted, without the danger of creating new anti-Semitism. The efforts of the Intergovernmental Committee to develop opportunities for mass settlement indicate the extreme difficulties of finding such opportunities of a nature remotely adequate to meet the need.

“I am convinced that the solution of the problem in Germany and throughout Eastern Europe requires the creation of a new Jewish homeland capable of absorbing substantially unlimited Jewish immigration. Even if the political difficulties could be overcome, it is doubtful whether Palestine could absorb and maintain the necessary influx of population, and consideration has accordingly been given to other possible parts of the world.

“It goes without saying that any part of the world in which the creation of such a homeland would be politically possible would be to a greater or lesser extent marginal in the economic sense. Many proposals have been made for large-scale colonization in areas such as Lower California, Madagascar, or the Guianas, but the possibilities of settlement in these areas do not appear sufficient to warrant the belief that the creation of a new Jewish homeland in any of them would be practicable.

“Of the less developed areas of the world, Africa appears to offer the greatest hope of future development and the satisfactory maintenance of a greatly increased population. Of the areas in Africa suitable for large-scale white colonization, Angola appears to offer by far the most favorable physical, climatic and economic opportunities.

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“You may recall that creation of a Jewish homeland in Angola was actively considered in 1912 and 1913 and that a Jewish Colonization Bill concerning Angola was passed unanimously by the Portuguese Chamber of Deputies in 1912. The fact that nothing further came of the project is attributable to various causes, including lack of sufficient organization and the outbreak of the World War, but it does not appear that any question as to the suitability of the area was involved.

“I believe that the actual problem of Jewish refugees from Germany and the threatened problem of involuntary Jewish emigration from other European countries requires an early and determined effort to create a supplemental homeland for that people. I should appreciate your opinion, after you have discussed the matter in the strictest confidence with Lord Winterton17 and the Prime Minister, as to the practicability of creating it in Angola along the following lines:

“Dr. Salazar18 has on various occasions stated that Portugal would never consider the transfer, by sale or otherwise, of any part of its colonial empire to any other Power. By the creation of a Jewish homeland in Angola, however, it would not become a part of any other colonial empire but rather an autonomous and perhaps eventually independent State. Portugal would not become the victim of the imperialism of any other Power but could, if it desired, make an immeasurable contribution to the cause of humanity and of European stability and peace.

“Portugal would naturally be entitled to just compensation for the area, which might take the form of a substantial initial payment by such Powers as might wish to contribute to this cause and additional annual payments over a period of years from the revenues of the new State. Portugal would retain sovereignty over the area until that period had elapsed. The revenue which Portugal would receive from such an undertaking would far exceed any revenue which it has yet received from Angola or which it might expect to receive at the present rate of development. The Portuguese Government could, in making a magnificent contribution to human welfare and world tranquillity, assure the increased revenue so sorely needed for the advancement of the people of Portugal and the development of their fatherland. Creation of a new Jewish homeland in Angola would undoubtedly increase both the prosperity of the present inhabitants of the colony and its trade with Portugal.

“The successful carrying out of such an undertaking would make Dr. Salazar one of the greatest figures in the history of his country and of our times.

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“Naturally such an undertaking would require the most careful preparation and detailed planning. I have merely outlined my ideas to you in order that you may discuss them with Prime Minister Chamberlain and, if you and he share my views, with Dr. Salazar. Should you deem it advisable to discuss the matter with Dr. Salazar at this time, it occurs to me that you might proceed from England to Italy by boat after the forthcoming meeting of the Intergovernmental Committee, stopping off in Lisbon for the purpose.

“I cannot emphasize too strongly the importance which I attach to the creation of a supplemental Jewish homeland as a step essential to the solution of the Jewish problem or my belief that Angola offers the most favorable facilities for its creation.”

  1. Not found in Department files.
  2. See Foreign Relations, 1938, vol. i, pp. 740 ff.
  3. The Earl of Winterton, Chairman of the Intergovernmental Committee.
  4. Antonio de Oliveira Salazar, Portuguese Prime Minister.