Memorandum by the Acting Chief of the Division of European Affairs (Atherton) to the Assistant Secretary of State (Long)

Mr. Long: The first portion of General Sikorski’s note of April 14 to the Secretary71 apparently resolves itself into a request that this Government shall at once issue some type of visa to some 300 Polish citizens at present in Portugal and some 200 Polish citizens at present in Spain. The General apparently believes that the issuance of these visas might prevent a number of these Polish citizens from being arrested.

Although naturally we have the greatest sympathy for these Polish refugees, we do not see how exceptions should be made for them which are not made for refugees of other European countries which have fallen as victims to aggressive powers. In view of British guarantees to Poland it would seem that the British Government should be able to obtain for these unfortunate persons visas from one of the British Dominions, most appropriately South Africa in this situation. Apparently in Portugal, at least, the possession of such visas would prevent Polish citizens from being placed in detention camps or from [Page 235] being deported to other countries. It is our understanding that most of the able-bodied Polish males have already been issued visas by the British Government or one of the British Dominions and have departed for military training. The residue for the most part appears to be persons who are likely to become public charges or who are considered as undesirables.

In cases in which Polish citizens in Portugal and Spain are in possession of visas good for travel to countries in the Western Hemisphere if the appropriate American consular officers are convinced that they do not intend to remain in the United States, there would appear to be no reason why the consular officers should not issue transit visas to these persons. Furthermore, there would seem to be no reason why the consular officers could not proceed, within the framework of existing laws, to issue appropriate immigration visas to persons eligible therefor.72

The second portion of the memorandum contains a suggestion to the effect that American relief organizations might send funds to Polish refugees in the Soviet Union which would enable them to buy food and clothing.73 This suggestion if carried out would mean, in view of Soviet artificial rates of exchange, that approximately 75 cents out of every dollar sent to the Soviet Union would go into the coffers of the Soviet Government and the Polish refugees in question might possibly be able to buy 25 cents’ worth of merchandise. It is our understanding that schemes of a similar nature have at times been advocated by Dr. Rajchman, sent here as director of Polish relief work. We have just heard indirectly that the United Polish Relief Societies in this country have taken the position that they will not allow one cent of funds collected by them to be sent to the Soviet Union since they do not believe that contributions obtained from the American public should be used for the benefit of that country. In our opinion, the American Red Cross or other American relief societies might be subjected to severe criticism if they should send to the Soviet Union funds collected in the United States through public subscription.74

R[ay] A[therton]
  1. Not printed.
  2. Assistant Secretary of State Breckinridge Long checked this paragraph with his approval in the margin.
  3. Mr. Long wrote “no” in the margin to this sentence.
  4. Mr. Long wrote “agreed” upon this memorandum. The Polish Ambassador transmitted on June 5, 1941, a long note of May 3, from Foreign Minister Zaleski containing data on the harsh treatment of people in Poland under both the German and Soviet occupation. (860C.00/880)