840.48 Refugees/5372

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

No. 14393

Sir: Upon receipt of the Department’s airgram A–83, 7:20 p.m., January 19, 1944 the Embassy immediately discussed with the appropriate British officials the matter of immigration into Palestine and expressed the hope of the United States Government that the British authorities might reconsider their position and authorize numbers to be allocated permitting children to enter Palestine within the total allowable under the White Paper.

[Page 1012]

The view expressed by the Foreign Office was that, although there is no intention on the part of the British Government to close immigration into Palestine after March 31, 1944, (the time limit originally expressed in the 1939 White Paper for the immigration quota established therein) it is nevertheless undesirable to freeze any substantial number of certificates for cases that may never arise. By way of confirming the views expressed in that discussion the Foreign Office addressed to us a letter dated February 18, 1944. A copy is enclosed.53

It will be observed that the Foreign Office assumes that the aspect of the matter which gives concern to the Department is the effect upon Switzerland of British refusal to issue to refugee children to whom Switzerland may be considering giving temporary asylum quota numbers assured to be valid for immigration into Palestine after the war. To that presumed basis of the Department’s inquiry the Foreign Office addresses its answer, pointing out that, so far as it is aware, the Swiss Government has made no representations either to the Intergovernmental Committee or to the British Government regarding conditions on which Switzerland would be willing to receive refugee children. It should particularly be noted that the Foreign Office holds open appropriate consideration of the matter if and when the Swiss Government approaches the Intergovernmental Committee for concrete assurances. The position stated is that the British Government does not wish, on a hypothetical basis, to complicate its administering of the immigration quota into Palestine.

The Embassy has taken the occasion, by way of obtaining expressions of view of possible use to the Department in weighing the tenability of the British reply as above, to consult representatives here of several concerned organizations with regard to present practice in issuing quota numbers for immigration into Palestine. There is general agreement among them that, for reasons of political equilibrium in Palestine and the Arab area while the war continues, the British Government is seeking to keep the total of immigration into Palestine well within the number previously announced, in spite of lengthening the period of time to which it is to apply. On the other hand there is also general agreement that difficulties of travel and exit from enemy-occupied territory are the actual determining limitations under present conditions rather than lack of availability of numbers.

The 1939 White Paper (Cmd. 6019, May 1939, entitled Palestine, Statement of Policy; enclosed with despatch 2679, May 18, 193954) laid down certain conditions (page 10 and 11), including Palestine’s economic absorptive capacity, to govern the admission of some 75,000 Jewish immigrants into Palestine in the five year period from April 1, [Page 1013] 1939 to March 31, 1944. In the House of Commons on November 10, 1943 (Parliamentary Debates, vol. 393, No. 120, column 1152; enclosed with despatch 12278, November 17, 194354a) the Secretary of State for the Colonies reported that up to the end of September 1943 the number of Jews who entered Palestine against the total of 75,000 to be admitted under the existing quota system was 43,922, leaving a balance of 31,078 concerning which he made the following carefully-worded statement:

“… There are thus 31,078 who, it may be fairly assumed, would have reached it before 31st March, 1944, but for the exigencies of the war. His Majesty’s Government have been considering this position, and have reached the conclusion that it would be inequitable to close the doors of Palestine to these persons on account of the time factor. No effort will be lacking on the part of His Majesty’s Government to facilitate their arrival, subject to the criterion of economic absorptive capacity.[”]

The unused balance of 31,078 as of the end of September 1943 has been reduced at the present to approximately 26,000 according to statements informally made to us at the Foreign Office.

Respectfully yours,

For the Ambassador:
W. J. Gallman

Counselor of Embassy
  1. Not printed.
  2. Despatch not printed.
  3. Despatch not printed.