840.48 Refugees/1–245

Memorandum by the Adviser on Refugees and Displaced Persons (Warren) to the Secretary of State

The Department’s authority to act in matters initiated by the War Refugee Board2 and the disposition of the Department to continue activities of the Board which have created difficulties with the British blockade authorities, censorship and neutral countries are considerations pertinent to a decision by the Department to assume the functions of the Board.

The Board’s activities in extending relief to refugees in occupied areas through credit operations administered by private agencies or through the expenditure of hard currency were conducted under licenses issued by the Treasury. Should the Department desire to continue such operations licenses would have to be secured from the Treasury. British objections to these operations were based on the contention that they were properly a part of blockade controls. Fear was expressed that they might be extended to the point of risk of assistance to the enemy. The British requested that each license be issued after joint approval by the two governments. This the Board refused on the grounds that agreement seemed unlikely and that immediate action in the issuance of licenses was required. The Board noted that the British Government had not issued any licenses on its own account for such relief purposes. The British Government offered no objections to credit operations for relief in occupied areas, in fact approved identical operations by the Intergovernmental Committee.3

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The Board also secured exemptions from the Treasury for its own representatives and those of private agencies from the restricting provisions of the Trading with the Enemy Act.4 These exemptions enabled these representatives to communicate with enemy territory in rescue and relief activities. In connection with these activities the Board transmitted and received messages through the Department that were not subject to censorship. Messages addressed by and to private agencies through the Board were submitted by the Department to censorship before transmission or delivery. Certain private messages were suppressed by censorship. The Board notified Censorship that these messages by license of the Treasury were exempted under the provisions of the Trading with the Enemy Act. The authority to exempt was never accepted by Censorship and the point was never satisfactorily determined by conference between Censorship and the Board.

The difficulties with neutral countries, particularly Switzerland, grew out of the Board’s methods of presentation of rescue projects. Vigorous language was frequently used and the Board felt strongly that rescue measures to succeed required the laying aside of accepted methods of approach to neutral governments. In the Board’s opinion the objective sought justified the unusual measures adopted.

Should the Department decide to carry on the functions of the Board it would do so within the limits of its authority and on the basis of its own developed experience.

The Board has made certain commitments to neutral governments to remove refugees accepted on their territories during the war. These commitments are difficult to appraise. It can however be said that such commitments to Turkey, Spain, Portugal and Sweden have been fulfilled and will not require action by the Department in the future. The commitments to Switzerland have to do with the removal of some two hundred children after the war and of 1,700 Hungarian Jewish refugees received recently by Switzerland. Arrangements are now in process to secure their admission to the UNRRA camp at Philippeville, Algiers. Beyond these specific groups Switzerland may justifiably expect assistance from this government in reducing her present refugee population after the war.

In 1944 the War Refugee Board allotted $2,000,000 to the Intergovernmental Committee for operational purposes. The Committee has requested $4,000,000 for 1945. The Board feels that this request is inadequate to meet the needs that will have to be faced.

George L. Warren
  1. Special governmental agency established by President Roosevelt on January 22, 1944, by Executive Order 9417, which stated: “It is the policy of this Government to take all measures within its power to rescue the victims of enemy oppression who are in imminent danger of death and otherwise to afford such victims all possible relief and assistance consistent with the successful prosecution of the war.” For text of this Executive Order, see 9 Federal Register 935; see also Department of State Bulletin, January 22, 1944, p. 95.
  2. The Intergovernmental Committee on Political Refugees (IGC) was established in July, 1938; for documentation, see Foreign Relations, 1938, vol. i, pp. 740 ff.
  3. 40 Stat. 411.