840.48 Refugees/2566

Memorandum by the Assistant Chief of the Division of European Affairs (Pell)

Subject: Intergovernmental Committee on Political Refugees


In a brief word:

The Intergovernmental Committee is a committee of the whole of the Evian Conference which was sponsored by this Government;16
It was continued in existence after the outbreak of war at the specific request of this Government;
It is responsible for the program of resettling refugees notably in the Western Hemisphere, which in turn stimulates the sale of American goods;
It is a tangible manifestation of this Governments’ humanitarian interest in the fate of people who are the victims of oppression;
It requires a small sum annually to maintain the Director’s office in London and the Secretary’s office in Washington.


On March 23, 1938, President Roosevelt invited thirty-three governments to confer with the Government of the United States of America for the purpose of ascertaining what steps governments might take in common to cope with the chaotic flight of refugees from central Europe. All those governments invited—with the exception of the Italian—accepted the President’s invitation. The meeting took place at Evian, France from July 5 to July 15 when it was decided—since the solution of the refugee problem could not be found in a week, or weeks, or months, or possibly years—to constitute the meeting into a continuing committee of the whole to be known as the Intergovernmental Committee on Political Refugees.

The continuing committee, it was agreed, should have a Chairman and five Vice-Chairmen (the Vice-Chairmen should represent the United States of America, the Argentine Republic, Brazil, France and the Netherlands). The British Government agreed to assume the Chairmanship on condition that the United States Government would designate a negotiating agent with the two-fold mandate of (1) negotiating with the Germans in an effort to persuade them to introduce order into the forced migration of persons in regions of Europe under their control; and (2) negotiating with the governments of countries of settlement for the reception of refugees over a period of years according to an established plan.

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This Government designated Mr. George Rublee, of Washington, D. C, to serve as the negotiating agent (with the title of Director) and assigned Mr. Robert Pell, of the Department of State, to serve with Mr. Rublee as Vice-Director. Throughout 1938 and the early winter of 1939 Mr. Rublee negotiated with the Germans the terms of a plan of migration which he presented to a full meeting of the Intergovernmental Committee on February 14, 1939.17

At this point Mr. Rublee resigned and Sir Herbert Emerson, the League of Nations High Commissioner of Refugees, was, on the proposal of this Government, and on the understanding that Sir Herbert would maintain a separate office for the Intergovernmental Committee, nominated as Mr. Rublee’s successor. The British Government accepted this charge on condition that Mr. Pell should remain as Vice-Director in charge of the Intergovernmental Committee office. This the American delegation accepted.

Through the winter of 1939 and the spring Sir Herbert and Mr. Pell continued the negotiations with the German Government and negotiated for places of resettlement under a three to five year program with various governments including those of the Dominican Republic, the Philippine Commonwealth, Ecuador, British Guiana, Australia and France for Madagascar. Progress was reported on various of these negotiations, notably those with the Dominican Republic, British Guiana and the Philippine Commonwealth at a meeting of the Intergovernmental Committee held at London in July, 1939.

At this time Mr. Pell was instructed to return to the Department of State and Sir Herbert Emerson was left in sole charge of the negotiations.

Sir Herbert and the British Government agreed to accept this responsibility on condition that this Government should maintain at Washington the office of the Secretary of the Committee and name an American official to this position.

On the outbreak of war there were feelers from various governments regarding the practical value of continuing the Intergovernmental Committee. This Government insisted on the continuation and in October 1939 a meeting was held at the Department of State of the officers who were invited by the President, through the Honorable Myron C. Taylor, Chairman of the American Delegation, to come to Washington for this purpose. On this occasion the President stated in an address to the officers that he hoped that the work of the Committee would be “carried on with redoubled vigor and with more positive results.”

In January 1940 an agreement was negotiated and signed for the settlement of refugees in the Dominican Republic under the aegis of the Intergovernmental Committee. Throughout the remainder of [Page 442] 1940 into 1941 the Secretary’s office in Washington was occupied by a myriad of details in connection with the implementation of this agreement. In January 1941 the Government of the Dominican Republic called a meeting of the Intergovernmental Committee at Ciudad Trujillo at which fifteen governments were represented and the work of resettlement in the Western Hemisphere was reviewed.

One of the most significant facts brought out on this occasion was that in the first ten months of its existence the settlement at Sosua had bought more than $160,000 worth of American goods and machinery. This was on a basis of three hundred settlers. It is planned to bring another 1,000 settlers to Sosua in the current year and all purchases of basic materials for the settlement will be made in the United States.


The continuation of the Committee is contingent upon the maintenance of a negotiating office in London and the Secretary’s office in Washington. The British and the other Governments have made it clear that they will contribute to the financial support of the Committee as long as this Government pays its share.

From the appropriations made by the Congress for the Intergovernmental (International) Committee on Political Refugees, it is estimated that there will be an unexpended balance at the end of the current fiscal year of approximately $18,500.

The attached memorandum18 shows appropriations and expenditures (actual and anticipated) during each of the fiscal years 1939, 1940 and 1941.

If the unexpended balance of approximately $18,500 is made available for the fiscal year ending June 30, 1942 no additional appropriation would be required since this amount should suffice for the participation by the United States in the Intergovernmental Committee during that period.

The estimated expenditures for the fiscal year ending June 30, 1942 are as follows:

01 Personal Services $1,620.
02 Stationery and Supplies 100.
05 Communication Services 2,200.
06 Travel Expenses 2,580.
13 Special and Miscellaneous 1,500.
22 Contributions (Calendar year 1941 and Jan.–June, 1942) 10,500.