840.48 Refugees/3–1044

Memorandum by the Executive Director of the War Refugee Board (Pehle) to the Under Secretary of State (Stettinius)

Pursuant to your suggestion, there follows a brief summary of those problems relating to the work of the War Refugee Board, in connection with which I feel that you can, while you are in London,46 help our cause a great deal.

As you will note these problems are of major importance and are directly related to the question as to the extent to which the British Government is prepared to give us its wholehearted cooperation in this task. For this reason, may I suggest that a frank discussion of the whole matter by you with Mr. Eden47 might well result in a tremendous contribution to our efforts.

(1) Convincing the British that we really mean business.

There is good reason to believe that the British are not yet convinced that there has been a real change in this Government’s attitude toward this matter—rather that they feel that the creation of the War Refugee Board was primarily a political move in an election year.

It is most important that we convince the British Government, as well as other governments, of our sincerity. In this connection, a citation of some of the significant steps which we have actually taken may be most helpful. I am attaching a résumé47a of the highlights of our action to date, and we are keeping our Embassy in London informed of developments.

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(2) Cooperation with the British.

Our position on this was best expressed in our cable to Winant of February 29 (1503). As we pointed out, it is our policy to encourage and participate in effective cooperative efforts with other governments in taking all possible measures for the speedy rescue and relief of the Jews of Europe and other victims of Hitler’s persecution. We hope that our actions will not be unilateral and that the British Government will actively cooperate in concrete measures designed to carry out this policy.

Whether there will be wholehearted cooperation between this Government and the British Government is not dependent as much upon the expressions of policy made by each Government as it is upon the actual steps which are taken by each Government to put these policies into effect.

In brief, are the British prepared to take the same kind of measures we have taken?

(3) Relations with the Intergovernmental Committee.

As in the case of our relations with the British, I think that it is most important to convince the Intergovernmental Committee that we really mean business. Once they realize that our purpose is not to outshine them, or to cast aspersions on what they are doing, but to get the job done and get it done quickly, there will be a better basis for cooperation.

In connection with your discussions on the relationship between the War Refugee Board and the Intergovernmental Committee, I would like to make the following points:

The War Refugee Board is an American organization set up to carry out the policy of the American Government. The Intergovernmental Committee is an international organization, representative of over thirty nations, and therefore obviously in no position to carry out effectively and promptly the policy of any one individual nation.
The War Refugee Board is prepared to lend every assistance to any and all projects which the Intergovernmental Committee has undertaken or undertakes in the future, designed to bring about the speedy rescue of victims of enemy oppression. In so far as financing such projects is concerned, the Board has already paid out $200,000 towards operating expenses of the Committee.
The War Refugee Board is determined to carry out the policy of this Government as announced by the President. In doing this the Board is not anxious to take on any job which can be done just as quickly and effectively by any other organization, whether such organization be domestic, foreign or international. If the Intergovernmental Committee is in a better position than the Board to carry out with speed any particular project designed to save the lives of refugees, the Board will gladly look to and support the Committee in the execution of such project.
On the other hand, the Board has no intention of referring to or clearing with the Intergovernmental Committee any project which is necessary to carry out this Government’s policy, unless such action would facilitate the speedy effectuation of such project. In the less than two months it has been in existence, the Board has already taken many steps designed to save people from death. A mere examination of these steps, in the light of the record of the Intergovernmental Committee to date, will reveal that most of these steps would not have been taken in this short time had they been referred to that Committee.

(4) Palestine issue.

The War Refugee Board has not taken and has no intention of taking a position supporting the establishment of a Jewish national state in Palestine.

The Board’s sole interest in Palestine lies simply in the question as to what extent Jewish refugees can be brought into Palestine, even if only on a temporary basis.

From the standpoint, with which we are concerned, of saving the Jews in Europe from death, bringing them into Palestine and placing them in camps, to be returned to their homelands at the end of the war, is just as effective as admitting them to Palestine on a permanent basis.

(5) Cyrenaica and Tripolitania.

We have no intention of turning down any project for the rescue of refugees facing death solely because of the problems which may be involved in finding a temporary place to put these people once they escape from Hitler.

However, the fact that we do not now have a place where we can assure that these people can go, at least temporarily, in as large numbers as possible is actually interfering to a great extent with our efforts to bring these people out of enemy territory.

As you know, one of the specific recommendations made at the Bermuda Conference48 was that the British Government consider the question of admitting refugees to Cyrenaica. Moreover, in July 1943, at the time the President and Prime Minister Churchill agreed to the establishment of a refugee camp in North Africa, the President expressed a definite interest in the possibility of establishing refugee havens in Cyrenaica and Tripolitania. As recently as January of this year, Mr. Long49 informally presented the matter to Sir Ronald Campbell.50 Despite this long standing interest in the matter, no agreement has been reached between the two Governments.

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In my letter to you of March 251 it was recommended that a definite proposal be made at once to the British Government. We pointed out that once an agreement has been concluded with the British the matter can then be cleared with the Combined Chiefs of Staff.

In discussing this urgent matter with the British they might be advised that this Government is prepared to share with the British Government the responsibility for arranging to finance the establishment and maintenance of refugee camps in Tripolitania and Cyrenaica, including the cost of transferring refugees to such camps; and that this Government is also prepared to handle the transportation problem on a cooperative basis with the British. Thus, a division of obligations and responsibilities between the two Governments could be made in this case as in the case of the transfer of refugees from Spain to Camp Lyautey in French North Africa.

The importance of establishing refugee camps in Tripolitania and Cyrenaica can not be overestimated. The War Refugee Board is convinced that there is a real opportunity for actually bringing many people out of German controlled territory, particularly from areas adjacent to Turkey and the Black Sea. The Board is determined to do what it can to bring these people out in as large numbers as possible. Once these people are evacuated to Turkey, it is essential that areas be found to which they can be removed without delay. Camps in Tripolitania and Cyrenaica could be used for this purpose.

J. W. Pehle
  1. At the request of the Secretary of State, the Under Secretary was to visit London for informal discussions with members of the British Government.
  2. Anthony Eden, British Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs.
  3. Not printed.
  4. For correspondence on this Conference, see Foreign Relations, 1943, vol. i, pp. 134 ff.
  5. Breckinridge Long, Assistant Secretary of State.
  6. British Minister.
  7. Not printed.