840.50 UNRRA/5–2345

The Counselor of the British Embassy (Marris) to the Assistant Secretary of State (Acheson)

RS 10AM/93/45

My Dear Dean: We have now had a reply from the Foreign Office about the Yugoslav displaced persons problem.71

I attach a copy of this telegram and I suggest, if this is agreeable to you, that you should let me know how we both ought next to proceed.

I fancy the Governor himself is away so, if this is so, perhaps we ought to talk to Hendrickson.

Yours sincerely,

Denny Marris

Telegram From the British Foreign Office to the British Ambassador in Washington (Halifax), May 22, 1945

Addressed to Washington telegram No. 5281, 22nd May, repeated to Caserta and Belgrade.


Your telegrams Nos. 3410 and 3411.

This raises a vital issue on principle. Many Poles and other East European displaced persons with whom UNRRA now has to deal in Germany will be unlikely for the present at any rate to have the “approval” of the Governments in power in their countries of origin; and if the principle were once admitted that a Government could exclude large categories of its nationals abroad from receiving relief on political grounds UNRRA would be unable to take care of very large numbers of people in Germany or elsewhere for whose relief no other provision exists.

In accordance with Resolution 2, paragraph l,72 UNRRA must distribute relief “without discrimination because of race, creed or political belief”. In accordance with Resolution 1 part 2 paragraph 2,73 UNRRA has to undertake first to care for persons “found in any areas under the control of any of the United Nations who by reason of war have been displaced from their homes” and secondly “in agreement with appropriate Governments, Military Authorities or other agencies to secure their repatriation or return”. Thus although the [Page 983] consent of the appropriate Government is necessary for repatriation it is not necessary for care. We agree with Acheson that the words “in agreement with the country of which they are Nationals” in Resolution 5774 apply not to the words “for the care of” but only to the words “repatriation and return”. There is therefore in our opinion sufficient legal ground to rebut the Yugoslav contention.
It is a fundamental principle of UNRRA’s work that there is to be no discrimination on grounds of race, religion or political belief; but if UNRRA is precluded from assisting large categories of displaced persons not in sympathy with the Governments which have since come into power in their countries of origin, discrimination on grounds of political belief will certainly be being applied and there will be a serious risk of UNRRA relief becoming simply a means of political pressure. This would be open to the strongest objection.
In any case it has always been contemplated that UNRRA should look after all displaced persons until their non-repatriability has been established and for a reasonable period thereafter. This surely presupposes, that UNRRA will be looking after people who may not (repeat not) be approved of by the Governments in power in their countries of origin at any rate for some considerable time.
In these circumstances we feel strongly that objections of Yugoslav Government should be disregarded and that UNRRA should assume responsibility for care of these Yugoslavs in Italy, Greece and elsewhere irrespective of their political colour.
We agree with Marris that appeal to Central Committee75 would be valueless.
  1. UNRRA was exploring with the Department of State and the British Embassy possible solutions to the problem of displaced Yugoslavs (840.50 UNRRA/5–1945).

    For documentation on the overall question of displaced persons and refugees, see pp. 1146 ff.; see also Conference of Berlin (Potsdam), vol. i, Index, p. 1064, and vol. ii, Index, p. 1611. For UNRRA’s role in general displaced persons operations, see Woodbridge, UNRRA, vol. ii, pp. 469 ff.

  2. For text, see ibid., vol. iii, p. 46.
  3. Ibid., p. 43.
  4. Woodbridge, UNRRA, vol. iii, p. 135.
  5. For information on the role of the Central Committee in UNRRA, see ibid., vol. i, pp. 52–60.