840.50 UNRRA/5–2445: Telegram

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

5223. ReEmbs 4993, May 18.49 There was considerable discussion at the Paris meeting of the Displaced Persons Subcommittee of UNRRA about the desirability of UNRRA seeking to renegotiate its agreement with SHAEF in order to obtain a more independent position in the handling of displaced persons in Germany. In particular, the members of the subcommittee are concerned that UNRRA appears to them to have no voice in the formation and execution of policy but merely to furnish the military with field teams.

At a meeting of the committee Tues Rendel50 (UK) presented a resolution criticising UNRRA for not playing a more important part in handling the displaced persons problem and calling for a new agreement with the military authorities enabling UNRRA to fulfill more adequately “the true purposes contemplated in the UNRRA agreement and the subsequent resolutions of the UNRRA Council.” This resolution will be discussed at a meeting on Fri May 25.

Whether UNRRA should seek to obtain a new agreement with SHAEF or with the appropriate military authorities succeeding SHAEF is largely dependent in our opinion on (a) how long it will take to complete the repatriation of the bulk of the Allied displaced persons in western Germany with whom UNRRA is concerned; and (b) whether UNRRA is to play a significant role in the maintenance or resettlement of the remaining non-repatriable displaced persons.

In regard to (a) the best evidence we have is that the job will be done within 4 to 5 months at the outside and probably sooner. If [Page 1167] this is the case, it may not be desirable for UNRRA to seek a new agreement since new arrangements under such an agreement could not become effective before the need for UNRRA’s services in handling the repatriation problem disappeared. It may nonetheless be desirable for UNRRA to seek a closer relationship with SHAEF or its successors in the formation and execution of repatriation policy under paragraph (a) of the existing agreement and to work out a more detailed future program. It is not true, as is stated in the resolution, that UNRRA has played no part other than recruiting of field teams for the military. Our information is that a close collaboration has existed in the formation and execution of policy and we will ask at the meeting of the subcommittee for a report from UNRRA.

If, however, UNRRA is to deal with the non-repatriables, even if only to maintain them for a significant period of time after the mass repatriation period is ended, a new status for UNRRA in relation to the occupying authorities becomes necessary. The UK resolution calls for a clarification of the “ultimate and wider aims to which UNRRA’s efforts should be directed”. This in effect means how far will UNRRA deal with ex-enemy nationals, with stateless persons and other non-repatriables. It is true that a more precise definition of UNRRA’s functions in this respect is required.

The resettlement of displaced persons for whom repatriation is not possible can be handled (1) entirely by giving the necessary authority to the displaced persons section of UNRRA suitably financed and probably continuing in a modified form after UNRRA itself goes out of existence or (2) by the Inter-Governmental Committee appropriately organized and financed or by a new international agency; or (3) by UNRRA in collaboration with the Inter-Governmental Committee or whatever long term resettlement agency is set up. This question should probably come up at the Council meeting in July but it is doubtful whether consideration of the question of revising the agreement with SHAEF or its successors should be delayed until that time if (1) or (3) (which is the arrangement at present) is ultimately adopted.

These alternatives require careful analysis—each has serious disadvantages—but it is desirable that the present uncertainty be resolved as soon as possible. We will propose that the matter should be brought to the attention of the CCE51 and of the several Govts.

It is difficult to determine what Rendel has in mind regarding the “true purposes contemplated” in the UNRRA agreement and subsequently by the Council but it is clear that the situation today is different from the situation envisaged at Atlantic City in three important respects: (1) the military have taken over the responsibility for [Page 1168] repatriation; (2) repatriation is proceeding at an extremely rapid rate; (3) UNRRA is not to work in eastern Germany. UNRRA has not in fact played the role contemplated at Atlantic City and it is useless now to argue whether it would have been possible or wise in the light of the recent events in Germany to have given it that role.

The Govt representatives on the displaced persons committee could be most useful now if they would point out specific problems that have come to their attention which UNRRA should explain to them or take up with the military. The vague generalities about lack of coordination of voluntary societies, of teams, and of SHAEF personnel; the general allegations that personnel are of poor quality and that camps are badly run are not particularly useful, especially since VE–Day52 was only two weeks ago. We will press that representatives for their part take up specific grievances with UNRRA and that UNRRA for its part make as precise and full reports and explanations as possible.

Commander Jackson has just returned from Paris where he discussed with the military authorities the future role of UNRRA in handling displaced persons in Germany. He is convinced that the military do not want to handle the displaced persons any more than is necessary and very much want UNRRA to take a significantly more important and responsible part. In Jackson’s opinion, UNRRA’s ability to do this is entirely dependent on the extent to which the Brit and Amer Govts are prepared to see that the top leadership of the ERO53 is strengthened. If these Govts do not make really first rate men available immediately the organization cannot take over the tasks the Allies and the military are pressing it to take over.

He considers that the second line and lower personnel are good but the higher direction (below Gov Lehman) lack stature, efficiency and drive. They have been content, for example, to approach the military at too low a level and to accept in general the role of poor relation.

Jackson said that unless the necessary Govt support is forthcoming, UNRRA will “crack wide open” and if it does “UNRRA will get in first”. By this he presumably meant that UNRRA will make clear to the world the reasons for its failure. The US and UK, particularly the US, took the lead in setting up the organization and the US must take a large share of the responsibility for its fate. He considers the criticisms in the May 14 issue of Time to be sound. Jackson is preparing a note on this subject which he will take up with the Amb and we will inform you more fully on the position in the immediate future.

  1. Not printed.
  2. Sir George William Rendel, British Representative on the European Regional Commission of UNRRA.
  3. Committee of the Council for Europe.
  4. Victory-in-Europe Day.
  5. European Regional Office.