Memorandum by the Assistant Chief of the Division of European Affairs (Henderson)50

You will recall that the Polish Government through various channels has been endeavoring to prevail upon us to take some measures for the purpose of ameliorating the lot of Poles who have been sent to Siberia and Central Asia. Their suggestions seem to be that either we endeavor to send them aid through the Red Cross or to influence the Soviet Government to treat them less harshly.

According to Mr. Steinhardt51 some one million persons have been deported into Soviet Asia from Poland and are suffering severe hardship. [Page 226] We have given the matter careful thought and have reluctantly come to the conclusion that there is nothing that we can do to aid these people. Don’t you agree that when the new Ambassador52 comes he should be informed that although we sympathize with the movement to aid the Poles in Siberia and would like to be of assistance, we are convinced from our experiences with the Soviet Union that the Soviet Government under no circumstances would permit foreign relief workers to enter Siberia and that any official move on our part to prevail upon the Soviet Government to improve the condition of the Poles would have no beneficial result.53

L[oy] W. H[enderson]
  1. Addressed to the Acting Chief of the Division of European Affairs, Ray Atherton, and to the Adviser on Political Relations, James C. Dunn.
  2. Laurence A. Steinhardt, Ambassador in the Soviet Union.
  3. Jan Ciechanowski entered upon his duties on March 6, 1941.
  4. Mr. Dunn noted in margin: “I entirely agree.” In a later memorandum of November 13, 1941, Mr. Henderson noted the readiness of the Government, on some appropriate occasion, to attempt to bring about better conditions. “Thus far, however, an occasion has not yet presented itself which would cause the American Government to believe that any intervention on its part with the Soviet Government on behalf of these unfortunate persons would serve to alleviate their condition.” (840.48 Refugees/2798)