840.48 Refugees/3633

The Secretary of State to the British Ambassador ( Halifax )

The Secretary of State presents his compliments to His Excellency the British Ambassador and has the honor to refer to the British Embassy’s aide-mémoire of January 20, 1943, relating to the situation of persons fleeing from persecution for religious, racial and political reasons and to the necessity for intergovernmental relief action in their behalf.

It is evident that the problem of the refugees in question cannot be solved in a satisfactory manner by any one of the Governments of the United Nations group nor of the neutral countries. It has been, and is, the traditional policy of this country to seek every available means by which to extend to oppressed and persecuted peoples such assistance as may be found to be feasible and possible under the laws of the United States. In pursuance of that policy, this Government has been and is taking steps to extend assistance in a large measure to those European people who have been subjected to oppression and persecution under the Hitler regime. The measures of assistance afforded have assumed several forms, as follows:

Joint and several declarations of official attitude of condemnation of the policies and acts of the Axis Governments and their satellites in oppression or persecution of religious, racial and political minorities;
The appropriation and expenditure of large amounts of public and private funds for the relief of persons in need as a result of oppression and persecution because of their racial origin or religious or political beliefs;
The application of the immigration laws of the United States in the utmost liberal and humane spirit of those laws;
The calling by the President of the United States of the first Intergovernmental Conference at Evian–London in 1938 for the purpose of seeking a solution of refugee problems.9 There may be repeated here the statement made in that Conference by the Honorable Myron Taylor10 on behalf of this Government, as follows:

“In conclusion, I need not emphasize that the discrimination and pressure against minority groups and the disregard of elementary human rights are contrary to the principles of what we have come to regard as the accepted standards of civilization. We have heard from time to time of the disruptive consequences of the dumping of merchandise upon the world’s economy. How much more disturbing is the forced and chaotic dumping of unfortunate peoples in large numbers. Racial and religious problems are, in consequence, rendered more acute in all parts of the world. Economic retaliation against the countries which are responsible for this condition is encouraged. The sentiment of international mistrust and suspicion is heightened and fear, which is an important obstacle to general appeasement between nations, is accentuated.

“The problem is no longer one of purely private concern. It is a problem for intergovernmental action. If the present currents of migration are permitted to continue to push anarchically upon the receiving States and if some Governments are to continue to toss large sections of their populations lightly upon a distressed and unprepared world, then there is catastrophic human suffering ahead which can only result in general unrest and in general international strain which will not be conducive to the permanent appeasement to which all peoples earnestly aspire.”

At the Evian–London Conference and through the Intergovernmental Committee which grew out of that Conference, this Government exerted its most earnest efforts to persuade the various countries represented to provide asylum for as many refugees from the Axis countries as the laws of the several countries would permit. This Government has also approached other countries for the purpose of finding places of settlement for refugees with funds of the United States origin being made available.
As shown by the records of the Department of State, from the advent of the Hitler regime in 1933 until June 30, 1942, 547,775 visas were issued by American diplomatic and consular officers to natives or nationals of the various countries now dominated by the Axis powers, the great majority of which persons were refugees from Nazi persecution. Of this number 228,964 were issued in the war years 1939–1942. Many more than that number of visas were authorized during this latter period, the aliens in whose behalf such authorizations were [Page 142] given having been unable to depart from their places of foreign residence to reach the United States. Yet, of the number actually issued, practically all of the aliens who received them during the war years 1939–1942 have actually arrived in the United States and have remained here, many of them having entered in a temporary status and not yet having departed.
Over 5,000 visas were authorized for the admission into the United States and permanent residence here of refugee children coming from France, Spain and Portugal under arrangements with certain private persons and organizations in the United States for their care. Visas were also authorized for the parents accompanying them, in certain cases. This Government has sought the friendly assistance of the Government of Switzerland to effect the release from France of such of these children who have not been permitted to leave France, for entry into Spain where visas may be issued to them by the American consular officers.
Since the entry of the United States into the war, there have been no new restrictions placed by the Government of the United States upon the number of aliens of any nationality permitted to proceed to this country under existing laws, except for the more intensive examination of aliens required for security reasons.
Considerable sums of money have been made available by the American Red Cross and from other American sources to the American Ambassador at Madrid for the care of refugees now in Spain pending their evacuation. A number of these refugees have already been removed to North Africa. The continuation of this movement and its extent are dependent upon military considerations.
The American Red Cross and other American organizations have provided assistance for refugees who have been able to reach other neutral countries, such as Iran, and have undertaken extended feeding among children, including refugee children, in France.
In evacuating refugees to neutral areas, the full influence of the United States diplomatic and consular representatives has been from time to time invoked, not only with the oppressor nations but with any Government concerned, on behalf of the refugees.

This Government understands that, in addition to the refugee classes under immediate consideration, the British Government has certain undertakings for the care of British evacuees and of prisoners of war. Likewise, the Government of the United States has certain similar undertakings, as follows:

For the successful prosecution of the war and for Hemispheric safety, the Government of the United States has offered to receive dangerous Axis nationals from a number of the American Republics where facilities for the internment or close safeguarding of such Axis nationals do not exist. A considerable number of such Axis nationals have thus been brought to the United States and arrangements are being made for the receipt of more of them.
This Government has a number of camps in the United States and more camps are under construction or planned for the internment or detention of civilian enemy aliens. There are being maintained in these camps thousands of such aliens.
This Government has also established other camps for prisoners of war which are now in use and in which, by arrangement, there will also be placed large numbers of United Nations prisoners. The accommodation of these prisoners in the United States will leave available abroad considerable quantities of food, clothing, etc., for refugees there which would otherwise be used by those prisoners abroad, while on the other hand, the maintenance of the prisoners in the United States will result in a considerable reduction of supplies available here.
There have been set up in the United States a number of relocation centers where approximately 110,000 persons of the Japanese race are being housed and maintained at public expense after removal from vital military areas.

The Government of the United States fully shares the concern expressed by the British Government for the situation of the refugees. It feels, in view of the facts set forth above, that it has been and is making every endeavor to relieve the oppressed and persecuted peoples. In affording asylum to refugees, however, it is and must be bound by legislation enacted by Congress determining the immigration policy of the United States.

The United States is of the opinion that further efforts to solve the problem may best be undertaken through the instrumentality already existing, the Executive Committee of the Intergovernmental Committee on Refugees. To this end it may be considered advisable in order to facilitate action by the Committee that a preliminary exploration of ways and means be undertaken informally by representatives designated by the Government of the United States and the British Government. Such exploration might be undertaken along the following lines:

The refugee problem should not be considered as being confined to persons of any particular race or faith. Nazi measures against minorities have caused the flight of persons of various races and faiths, as well as of other persons because of their political beliefs.
Wheresoever practicable, intergovernmental collaboration should be sought in these times of transportation difficulty, shipping shortage, and submarine menace, to the end that arrangements may be determined for temporary asylum for refugees as near as possible to the areas in which those people find themselves at the present time and from which they may be returned to their homelands with the greatest expediency on the termination of hostilities.
There should accordingly be considered plans for the maintenance in neutral countries in Europe of those refugees for whose removal provision may not be made. Their maintenance in neutral countries may involve the giving of assurances for their support until they can be repatriated, which support will necessarily come from the United Nations augmented by funds from private sources. It may also involve the giving of assurances in all possible cases by their [Page 144] Governments in exile for their prompt return to their native countries upon the termination of hostilities.
The possibilities for the temporary asylum of the refugees, with a view to their repatriation upon the termination of hostilities, in countries other than neutral, and their dependencies, should be explored, together with the question of the availability of shipping to effect their movement from Europe.

It is suggested that the British and United States representatives might meet at Ottawa for this preliminary exploration.

  1. See Foreign Relations, 1938, vol. i, pp. 740 ff.
  2. Chairman of the American delegation.