548.G1/44: Telegram

The Consul General at Hamilton (Beck) to the Secretary of State

127. For Long from Dodds. Following is the text of the British proposal. Would appreciate early instruction.

“The British delegation fully appreciate the very forcible objections which it is understood are felt by the United States military authorities to a proposal that several thousand refugees, mainly of German origin and Jewish race, should be transported to and set at liberty in North Africa, on the lines of communication of the Allied forces.

The British delegation are impressed with the fact, however, that Spain is the only effective channel of escape remaining in Western Europe for refugees of all nationalities. It is of supreme importance that this channel not be blocked as the consequences would be:

That the admission of further refugees would be prevented by the Spanish Government.
The Allies would be deprived of useful personnel.
Public opinion throughout the world would come to the conclusion that the Allies were not making any serious endeavor to deal with the refugee problem.

It is understood that the refugees in Spain amount to approximately 21,000, of whom 14,000 are French nationals mainly of military age, for whose removal administrative arrangements are already completed. As regards the remainder, a considerable number—approximately 3000—mainly Poles and Czechs of military age, can be removed under similar arrangements to join the Allied forces. The remaining 4–5 thousand consisting of men, women and children, are largely Jewish and of enemy nationality or stateless. If all or part of these could [Page 159] be removed to a temporary home, the Conference would have led to some definite practical result, and moreover, the clearing of the channel in Spain would enable the Spanish authorities to permit a further inflow of refugees and thereby give an opportunity of ascertaining whether the Axis Powers would permit any potential refugees in countries now under their control to escape. If they took steps to prevent further emigration, it would be clear to the advocates of relief measures, (such as a direct approach to Hitler to release refugees) that their proposals were useless.

The main difficulty in removing refugees from Spain and Portugal is one of transport. One of the United States proposals for the Conference was that destinations should be sought as near as possible to the present location of the refugees. Any shipping that may be available will be very limited in passenger capacity and if the refugees are to be removed from Spain within any measurable distance of time, the length of the voyage becomes a governing factor.

Whilst as already stated, the British delegation feel that there is great force in the objections both political and military, to liberating 4–5 thousand refugees in North Africa, they hope that more favorable considerations may be given to a new proposal which they now desire to formulate. In order to relieve the U. S. military authorities of administrative responsibility and the U. S. authorities of any repercussions in the political field they propose that a temporary rest camp under British administration should be formed at some point in North Africa to be selected by the American authorities as far as possible from the scene of military operations and removed from the lines of communication. Possibly the existing internment camps which have been, it is understood, used only for male internees, would be unsuitable for the purpose of a mixed body of men, women and children. The British authorities referred to in my note have had experience of conducting camps of a mixed character for male internees in the Isle of Man where a considerable area was isolated encompassing two villages, where accommodations for holiday makers and tourists was available and where male internees enjoyed a considerable measure of liberty and amenity. If a similarly suitable site could be found in North Africa the British authorities would be prepared to supply the necessary staff for the Administration. It is suggested that the cost might be equally shared for the time being between U. S. and British Governments. Such security arrangements as were satisfactory to the U. S. Military Administration would be complied with. Such a rest camp might accommodate—say 3,000 persons and could be made use of to house refugees pending arrangements which could be considered by the Intergovernmental Committee for their transfer when shipping is available to more distant places of refuge. It is understood that certificates of admission for Palestine for approximately 1500 families, or say 2500 persons, are available at the present time, but that existing transport arrangements do not permit of them proceeding beyond Portuguese Southwest Africa. As regards supplies of foodstuffs, et cetera, so far as the requirements could not be met by local purchase, the necessary arrangements would have to be worked out as part of the problem of supplying the Allied forces in North Africa.

The British delegation feel strongly that world opinion will be bitterly disappointed by the results of the Conference if all future [Page 160] action is relegated to the Intergovernmental Committee. They would therefore like to obtain the views of the U. S. Government upon this new proposal.”