840.48 Refugees/5260: Telegram

The Secretary of State to the Ambassador in the United Kingdom (Winant)

1812. Following our cable no. 1503 of February 29 you may wish to make clear to the British Government that the steps which the War Refugee Board is taking and is prepared to take are in accordance with the following general patterns:

(1) The Board realizes that its chances of saving most of the Jews and other victims of enemy oppression from death lies in the possibility of changing the actions and attitude of the enemy, particularly his satellites, subordinates and functionaries. The Board is convinced that it is of utmost importance to undertake at once an organized and concentrated effort to make clear, by all appropriate means, to all Axis satellites that the Allied Governments view in a most serious light their assistance in any form to Hitler’s program to exterminate the Jews, and other similar groups, regarding all such action as criminal participation in organized murder. The Board also believes it necessary to make clear to the satellites by all possible means, its intention to do everything in its power to rescue such unfortunates who are in danger of death, in order not only to give the satellites a clear view of the attitude of this country in the matter, but also of the opportunities which exist for assisting in the execution of our policy. The Board feels very strongly that a campaign of this kind must be made through all possible channels and be constantly repeated at every available opportunity. The Board believes that parallel action on the part of other Allied Governments would do a great deal to assure the success of this endeavor. At the moment it is important that pressure be brought to bear particularly on Rumania and Bulgaria, because in those areas there are many refugees in imminent danger of death who can be evacuated to Turkey and other places if those Governments permit it.

In addition to bringing pressure thru various channels on the governments of the satellite countries, the Board feels that there should be employed in this campaign all available means for effecting the widest dissemination of our attitude not only to the governments themselves but to the largest number possible of the people of satellite countries. In this connection the Office of War Information is cooperating with the War Refugee Board in bringing home to the people in Germany and the satellite countries the fact that we consider this matter to be of paramount importance and intend vigorously to pursue all possible means of accomplishing our objective.

(2) In addition to this program designed to bring about a change in the actions and attitude of our enemies, the Board is convinced [Page 1004] that there is a real opportunity for actually bringing many of these people out of German controlled territory. The Board is determined to do what it can to bring these people out, in as large numbers as possible. The Board is certain that this Government and its Allies can find for these persons temporary havens of refuge. The Board feels very strongly that some solution of any problems which may arise in finding a temporary refuge for these people once they have escaped from Hitler can and must be found by the British and American Governments and that in any event such problems must be subordinated to the program of rescue.

The following examples of measures which have already been taken by the Board will illustrate the extent to which this Government is prepared to go in actually bringing people out of Hitler’s control.

This Government has requested the cooperation of the neutral European countries in this endeavor. Thus, in order to increase the flow of refugees through Turkey from occupied areas this Government is being requested to relax border and other controls, etc. The Board is offering to arrange for financing the setting up of reception camps which would receive refugees entering those countries and would make it possible to take them on to other places as rapidly as possible.
This Government is actively engaged in trying to solve the problem of getting ships to transport refugees. Thus, one of the greatest opportunities for actually rescuing such people exists in the areas adjacent to Turkey and the Black Sea. It is known that in Transnistria,44 Rumania and Bulgaria there are substantial numbers of refugees in imminent danger of death. It also appears that arrangements can be made with the Turkish Government to receive refugees from these areas. There are strong indications that the Rumanian Government at least will permit a substantial number of these refugees to leave Rumania. It is indispensable that means of transportation be found at once.
The Board, in this connection, is endeavoring to arrange for a small Turkish vessel to proceed to the Rumanian port of Constanza and evacuate to Turkey approximately one thousand children. That the charter of the S. S. Vatan, a small Turkish vessel, might be obtained, has been reported by the Board’s representative in Turkey providing a guarantee to replace the ship in the event of loss would be made to the Turkish Government. Such a guaranty was promptly offered by this Government. The possibility of obtaining some Swedish ships for this purpose is also being taken up with the Swedish Government. The Board is also exploring other possibilities.
Licenses to six private organizations in the United States have already been issued by this Government giving permission to their representatives in Switzerland, in order to carry on relief and evacuation operations in enemy territory, to engage in the required communication and financing transactions. Our 242 of January 10, 1944 [Page 1005] and also our A–139 of January 31, 1944,45 describe, in this connection, licenses which now have been amended to permit the acquisition, if necessary, of local funds against payment in free exchange or free currency notes, from persons in enemy or enemy-occupied territory. Four additional private agencies have received identical licenses. This Government concluded in issuing these licenses that any danger involved in permitting the enemy to acquire such relatively insubstantial quantities of foreign exchange was far outweighed by the saving of lives.

More complete details will be sent to you shortly concerning these measures as well as others which the Board has taken or is planning to initiate.

  1. Or Trans-Dniestria, the region between the Dniester and Bug rivers in southwest Ukraine, U.S.S.R., which, together with Bessarabia, was given in 1941 to Rumania by Germany during World War II; retaken by Soviet armies in 1944–45.
  2. Neither printed.