840.48 Refugees/2910

Memorandum of Conversation, by the Ambassador in Cuba (Braden), Temporarily in the United States

At the request of Mr. Joseph C. Hyman, Executive Vice-Chairman of the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee on the afternoon of April 24th, 1942, I met with Mr. Baerwald, Honorary Chairman, James N. Rosenberg, Honorary Chairman, Executive Committee, Mr. George Warren, Executive Secretary of the President’s Advisory Committee on Political Refugees, Mr. Charles J. Leibman, President of the Refugee Economic Corporation, Mr. Isaac Levy, Mr. Laurence Berenson, and some Others of the afore-mentioned organization at their offices at 100 East 42nd Street. The conference lasted approximately two hours.

The following summarizes the information given me:

They estimate between five and six thousand Jewish refugees as now being in Cuba. Sixty per cent of these are Germans and Austrians. They believe that there are only seventy-five to a hundred Christian refugees from Germany and Austria now in Cuba.

These refugees leave approximately $300,000 per month with the hotels and restaurants. It seems the Jewish refugees who recently have come to Cuba and who are now coming there either have money themselves or have relatives in the United States who have money.

Cuba, in effect, is merely a stopping-off point for these people en route to the United States, but under present regulations they are forced to remain in Cuba since they cannot get the visas with facilitv now to enter the United States.

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The former head of the organization in Habana—a woman—and her associates were most competent and sometime ago were transferred to Shanghai. Now the organization is headed by Chas. Jardon.

Cuban refugee restrictions previously were onerous, especially as renewals on tourist and transit visas had to be made every thirty days, but a recent decree put out by President Batista considers these people as residents for the duration of the war.

The refugees have formed an association (Dr. Torrientes is serving as attorney therefor). Regulation dues are 40 cents a month, but for impoverished people, only 20 cents.

It is estimated that somewhere between 15,000 and 25,000 Jews have passed through Habana en route to the United States. Eliminating the present and recent flow of Jewish refugees, it is estimated that about twenty years ago 10,000 Jews came into Cuba, mostly from the Near East. These people are now well-established in business and mostly have become Cuban citizens.

Estimating at the rate of $500 per refugee as a bond, there is about 3,000,000 dollars cash on deposit with the Cuban Government and with letters of credit required by the Cuban Government, there is outstanding a total of about 20,000,000 dollars.

The only objection raised to the presence of these people is by some of the textile interests in Cuba. However, as previously noted, they are defended by the hotels and restaurants.

The only pending problem is in the matter of the Jewish refugees on the steamship Tomé. The Catholics are helping in this situation.

The movement of refugees without visas to enter the United States began after the closing of our consulates in Germany and the occupied countries. Sixty per cent of these recent arrivals are people over 50 years of age. They are going to Cuba, seeking asylum from Europe, but not using Cuba as a stepping stone to enter the United States.

There is not a single case of one of these people becoming a public charge nor of violating the employment laws of Cuba.

In reply to my inquiry, I was told that they know of no case where Gestapo agents had been included amongst the refugees, nor did they know of a case where any of the refugees had been forced to act for the Nazis by reason of pressure on relatives in Europe. The refugees were under instructions to keep strictly out of all political activities of any kind whatsoever. I gave those present a brief description of the situation as I had seen it in Colombia and assured them that I would be glad to extend assistance to them in any way I appropriately could.

Spruille Braden