840.48 Refugees/2317

The Under Secretary of State (Welles) to President Roosevelt 83

My Dear Mr. President: I enclose the text of a note which has been received from the French Embassy84 asking the assistance of this Government in (1) removing the German Jewish refugees recently forced by the German authorities into French unoccupied territory from Baden and Wurttemberg and (2) enlisting the support of the other American Governments in the “more equitable distribution” of these people.

I attach also a text of a reply85 which, if it meets with your approval, I propose to send to the French Ambassador. This memorandum, in a brief word, stresses that this Government and the other American Governments are doing the maximum under their respective laws and practices to relieve the pressure of refugees in Europe, points out that the French Government has not always cooperated in the realization of this task and rejects, while leaving the door open for calm discussion of the problems of migration and resettlement when conditions warrant in the future, the French proposal for bilateral or multilateral discussions of these problems.

It is my view that the French in making this démarche are acting under German pressure. Reports have reached the Department for some time through the Coordinating Foundation and other channels that the Germans were preparing to force our hand on the refugee problem. The first step was the despatch to French unoccupied territory of more than ten thousand German Jews of all ages, from a baby of two days to a woman over one hundred years old, without any advance provision for their support or consideration of the hardship caused to them or to France. The second step is this note.

It seems clear to me that this is a repetition of the tactics followed by the Germans in 1937 and 1938 when they forced Jews in the dead [Page 246] of night across various points on the Netherlands, Belgian, Swiss and French frontiers. Wherever they found a weak point they would repeat the process in the following nights, but instead of forcing through groups of ten or twenty they would drive, at gun’s point, hundreds of people, then many hundreds, through the breach, increasing the number nightly as long as the breach remained. Now the process is being repeated on a larger scale and the attack is on the Western Hemisphere. Were we to yield to this pressure all the evidence indicates that in the wake of the ten thousand Jews recently forced into France the Germans would drive on the French the remaining Jews from Germany and the occupied territories, hundreds of thousands of persons, in the expectation that the French in turn would persuade this country and the other American countries to receive them.

I am sure that you will agree with me that we must think above all of the tragic victims of the German measures. Information reaching us is conclusive that if we or the other American Republics yield to these blackmailing totalitarian tactics the Germans will inaugurate something approaching a “reign of terror” against the Jewish people, not only those remaining in Germany but those as well in countries under occupation or which may be occupied in the future. Thus hundreds of thousands of unhappy people will be dispossessed of their homes and their goods to be used as pawns in a German maneuver calculated to embroil opinion in the democratic countries overseas.

For this reason I have stressed in the enclosed note to the French Ambassador that an approach on this question must ultimately be made through the Intergovernmental Committee in which both this and the French Governments participate.

Faithfully yours,

Sumner Welles
  1. Returned by the President with the notation: “OK.”
  2. Ante, p. 243.
  3. Infra.