840.48 Refugees/4029

Memorandum by Mr. R. Borden Reams of the Division of European Affairs to the Secretary of State

Mr. Secretary: With reference to the Secretary’s memorandum of conversation with the British Ambassador, Lord Halifax, dated June 17, 1943 in regard to the establishment of a refugee camp in North Africa, there is attached a memorandum84 which the Secretary may wish to hand to Lord Halifax when he calls at the Department.

The following information in regard to this matter is submitted for the Secretary’s information.

The Bermuda Conference recognized that one of the most pressing problems in connection with refugees was concerned with the evacuation of the refugees now in Spain from that country. It was further agreed that the place to which they would be evacuated must necessarily be as close as possible to Spain since shipping facilities are limited by the demands of the war. The British delegation proposed formally that a camp should be established in North Africa for the reception of that part of the refugees having no government of their own. The total number of stateless and enemy refugees now in Spain is estimated to be between 5,000 and 6,000 persons. The American delegation opposed this suggestion on the grounds of military necessity. However the recommendations were transmitted to the Department of State and were supported by the American delegation so far as the Department is concerned. During the discussions which ensued at Bermuda it was made clear that approval of this plan, if possible, could only be made on the basis of a temporary refuge and that a place [Page 318] of permanent refuge must be found for these people by the Intergovernmental Committee.

The Department of State has worked earnestly in order to secure the assent of the interested authorities to the establishment of a temporary place of refuge in North Africa. It is contemplated that this camp should be located in a part of North Africa removed from the scene of active military operations. Some spot near Mogador was suggested as a possibility. The assent in principle of General Eisenhower and Giraud have been obtained. However, the Joint Chiefs of Staff have refused up to now to give their consent. The matter was presented by the Secretary to the President in a letter dated May 7, 1943.85 The President was informed that “temporary refuge in North Africa is not approved by the Joint Chiefs of Staff” and was asked “Do you agree that North Africa may be used as a depot for those refugees who can be evacuated from Spain without interference with military operations and with the full approval of the military commanders in that area? This would approve the recommendations of the Bermuda Conference to save as many as quickly as possible, providing them with temporary asylum in Africa and obtaining commitments for their post-war return to their home countries.” The President replied:86 “I agree that North Africa may be used as a depot for those refugees but not as a permanent residence without full approval of all authorities. I know, in fact, that there is plenty of room for them in North Africa but I raise the question of sending large numbers of Jews there. That would be extremely unwise.”

On June 5, 1943 Governor Lehman’s office was requested to ascertain whether it would be able to operate any place of refuge which might be established in North Africa for the care of these refugees. It is understood that investigations are now being carried out in regard to this matter.

While the President’s reply to the Secretary’s letter would appear to give authority for the establishment of a temporary place of refuge on a limited basis it might be well to further clarify this situation. It is not known whether a further approach on the basis of the President’s reply to the Joint Chiefs of Staff is necessary. It is assumed that the President’s point that large numbers of Jews should not be sent to North Africa is not applicable in this present case. The total number of stateless and enemy refugees in Spain does not exceed 6,000. Not all of these people will be able to leave Spain even though transportation can be arranged and not all of those who can go will be Jewish. It is not possible at the present time to state definitely [Page 319] the number of Jewish people who could be evacuated from Spain but several thousand such persons will hardly be considered as excessive in number.

  1. Copy not found in Department files.
  2. Ante, p. 176.
  3. Memorandum dated May 14, p. 179.