840.48 Refugees/5–246

Memorandum by the Acting Secretary of State to President Truman

Publication of the Anglo-American Committee’s Report70 has raised acutely the question of whether the borders of U.S. Zones of Germany and Austria should continue to be open to Jewish refugees from Central and Eastern Europe. The War Department has urged the necessity of closing these borders immediately, at least as an interim measure, to prevent any large influx in the near future.

The Department of State believes that it is impossible to predict accurately how migration to Germany and Austria will be affected by the reaction of European Jewry to the Committee’s Report. The Committee’s recommendation that 100,000 Jews be admitted to Palestine in the near future acknowledges that there are already more than that number in the Western Zones of Germany and Austria, and Italy. This fact, coupled with the uncertain conclusions of the Report with reference to the political status of Palestine, might deter any large influx to Germany and Austria. Instead, the influx might be confined primarily to relatives of those already in Germany and Austria. On the other hand, there is the real possibility that Central and Eastern [Page 157] European Jews will, in their desperation, regard the U.S. Zones of Germany and Austria as their only tangible hope for eventual migration to Palestine. Such a reaction might result in a large-scale unmanageable influx.

The Committee’s Report will undoubtedly be debated vehemently within the coming weeks. It would be unfortunate, particularly in view of the humanitarian reputation achieved by our policy to date, for the issues to be blurred and good will to be dissipated by closing the borders at this time if it is not really essential. It must be borne in mind that the borders can be effectively closed only by using German border patrols. Since the reaction of European Jews to the Report is so unpredictable, I believe it would not be advisable for this Government to issue a Directive to Generals McNarney and Clark71 requiring them to close the borders now.

It would be preferable, I believe, to inform Generals McNarney and Clark of this Government’s desire to continue the present liberal policy so long as it is consistent with maintenance of satisfactory conditions among the Jewish displaced persons in Germany and Austria. The Theater Commanders should be authorized, however, to prevent free entry of Jewish refugees at such time as it may appear that there are imminent large-scale movements into the U.S. Zone which would prejudice satisfactory handling of Jewish displaced persons already in Germany and Austria. If such action should prove necessary, it would be desirable to make special provision for regularizing admittance of hardship cases, such as relatives of persons already in Germany and Austria.

If an authorization along the foregoing lines is approved, it would be highly desirable to take the question of border closing out of the realm of controversial discussion on the Committee’s Report. I believe that this could best be done by an informal confidential conference with a few key Jewish leaders, confined to the question of border closing.

Accordingly, I recommend that you approve the following:

Generals McNarney and Clark should be authorized to close the borders to Jewish refugees only when there appears to be definitely imminent such a large-scale influx as would prejudice adequate handling of those already in Germany and Austria and would exceed the facilities available for proper handling of additional persons. In such an event, the border should be closed only as a temporary “freezing” measure, and hardship cases should be admitted at specified border control points.
A few key Jewish leaders (e.g., Louis Lipsky, Judge Proskauer, Rabbi Abba Hillel Silver, Edward Warburg and Rabbi Stephen Wise) should be invited to a confidential conference with the Acting Secretary of State and the Secretary of War to discuss only the border closing question. At such a conference, the following should be stressed: (1) The unannounced but widely recognized U.S. policy to date of admitting Jewish refugees to U.S. Zones of Germany and Austria; (2) The reasons for authorizing Generals McNarney and Clark to close the borders if necessary under conditions outlined in paragraph A above; (3) Cooperation of Jewish organizations is requested in discouraging future movements by making known in Jewish circles in Central and Eastern Europe the complications which would result.72

Dean Acheson
  1. Reference is to the report on Palestine by the Anglo-American Committee of Inquiry, released on April 20, 1946, at Lausanne, Switzerland. It was later published as Department of State publication 2536. For documentation on Palestine, see volume vii .
  2. Gen. Mark W. Clark, Commanding General, United States Forces, Austria.
  3. On the following day, May 3, Acting Secretary Acheson reported in a memorandum to Assistant Secretary Hilldring that President Truman had approved these recommendations at a cabinet meeting that morning and directed Messrs. Acheson and Patterson to carry them out (840.48 Refugees/5–246).