800.4016 D.P./2–2846: Telegram

The Chargé in the United Kingdom (Gallman) to the Secretary of State

u.s. urgent

2407. For Under Secretary Acheson, Assistant Secretary Clayton and Warren50 from Penrose.51

1. My report on 3 weeks’ investigation of displaced persons’ questions in Germany and Austria will shortly be completed and sent air pouch.52

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This message is sent in advance because of (a) imminence UNRRA Council meeting53 and (b) proposal to issue statement that camps for non-Jewish DP’s in US zone will be closed July 1. I hope it is not too late to give further consideration to (b).

2. Purpose of investigation was to obtain first-hand acquaintance with DP questions which cause frequent controversy on UNRRA European Committee. I was accompanied by Mr. Ray Krane of UNRRA and Miss Amende, then Embassy liaison officer on UNRRA matters.

3. We visited numerous camps and assembly and transient centers, interviewed hundreds of DP’s of many nationalities, UNRRA field teams and staff at central, zonal, district headquarters; military officers concerned with DP questions in US and UK zones both at headquarters and in local areas, including Generals Mickelsen54 and Kenchington55 (UK). We also had exhaustive discussions with General Morgan,56 Sir Raphael Cilento57 and Mr. Whiting.

4. Remarkable progress has been made, reflecting great credit on the military authorities, in repatriation of Allied nationals and in establishment of tolerable living conditions for those who remain. Over 5½ million have been repatriated and only about 900,000 remain in Germany, of whom about two-thirds are Poles and perhaps roughly five-sixths of the Poles are non-Jewish. However, difficult problems remain and I question the wisdom of committing ourselves to close all camps to non-Jewish DP’s on July first.

5. Great benefit has come from orderly handling of DP’s by military and UNRRA. Disorders have been greatly reduced. Armed guards are no longer needed in most camps we saw. A body of valuable information has been accumulated on which plans should be energetically pursued for repatriation and resettlement. I believe remaining problems can be solved by constructive measures and that it would be dangerous to turn loose among German population without discrimination remaining non-Jewish DP’s not repatriated by July 1st. Rumors concerning proposal to close camps March 1st have apparently leaked out in US zone and the excellent field relations between UNRRA and the military may be prejudiced.

6. Living conditions of DP’s have greatly improved since early stages of liberation and in US and UK zones Germans are no longer [Page 145] major difficulty. We closely examined food and health conditions. The 2,300 calorie level is adequate for energy needs having regard to age composition of DP’s and the very limited physical work they do. Height-weight ratios derived from samples are satisfactory. Food supply arrangements are working well under which military provide food and UNRRA teams supervise distribution through self-governing machinery of camps.

7. Health conditions are remarkably good. General sickness rate in camps we saw did not exceed one per cent. UNRRA nurses and doctors have energetically organized preventive measures and treatment. In many camps the whole population has received protective measures in respect to typhoid, typhus, small pox and among children diphtheria. During our visit there was no abnormal incidence of respiratory diseases. Tuberculosis is probably most important problem owing to dangers from foci of infection in crowded camps. Miniature radiography carried out extensively in some camps.

8. Repatriation. Poles are most important group. Non-Jewish and Jewish groups present some separate problems but in both cases the role of Polish Govt is vital. Non-Jewish Poles are one of most uncertain groups from standpoint of repatriation. Obstacles to repatriation appear as follows: (a) Polish DP’s have their own sources of information which have brought them frequent reports of unsettled conditions with a little improvement at time we were in Germany.

(b) Polish Govt repatriation agents sent to Germany have frequently been most inept. We visited camps in which addresses by these govt agents were followed by a decline in the number of DP’s willing to return.

(c) In private opinion of some UK military officers and some members of UNRRA teams the former liaison officers of London Poles who now work on welfare matters only succeed in giving under-cover discouragement to repatriation. The welfare activities of these Poles was apparently agreed to by Polish Govt officials because of their inability at present to replace them and the services they render.

(d) Some DP’s wish to avoid the rigors of present winter in Poland.

(e) Poles we interviewed whose homes were east of Curzon Line show no desire to become Soviet citizens or to resettle in present Poland.

(f) General opinion expressed by DP’s (this applies to Jews as well as others) is that Polish Govt is “weak.”

9. Re Polish Jews we visited (a) camps with DP’s resident many months and others largely of “infiltrees” (b) transient centers through which infiltrees passed in Bavaria, Vienna and Berlin; (c) the Oranienberg center now dissolved in Soviet sector in Berlin and the center in French sector and UNRRA center.

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10. Polish Jews are made up of a number of groups of widely different morale. Among some groups and in some camps morale is very low, the DP’s seem to have lost heart and also are reluctant to work. Others are vigorous and well organized. Particularly morale of Kibbutz groups is second to none among DP’s. In general, however, there are differences between morale of similar groups in different camps depending on vigor, initiative and tact of team leaders and camp heads on committees. Running a DP camp is an art. In the long-run, however, the problem of morale among Jewish DP’s can only be solved by workable plans for repatriation or resettlement, with prospects of willing repatriation very limited.

11. We interviewed large numbers of infiltrees in Berlin, Bavaria and Vienna. All maintained there was anti-Semitism in Poland, some asserted they knew of specific outrages, a few mentioned murders. But a larger number cited threats rather than acts of violence. All agreed that Polish Government opposed anti-Semitism but maintained government was weak and feared long period of confusion and insecurity. Generally Polish Jews, unlike many Polish Catholics, did not express anti-Soviet views and some praised Soviet for absence of anti-Semitism. While Polish Catholics attacked government for alleged domination by Soviet, Polish Jews attacked it for alleged inability to control right wing reactionaries. My impression is (a) that recent threats of violence were often associated with return of Jews who claim property or land that had passed to non-Jewish Poles during or just after occupation and that it might have been better to postpone restitution until the government had strengthened its administrative machinery; (b) that even after elimination of Germans a distaste remains for areas where mass murders of Jews took place.


12. It is in our interest that as many Poles as possible shall be repatriated. No doubt some collaborators have crept in among DP’s but large numbers of Polish DP’s are simple-minded peasants and artisans and small “white collar” workers whose hesitation about returning arises from destruction of former ties and from genuine fears. Renewed constructive efforts should be made to persuade them to return willingly.

13. This necessitates more practical and efficient steps by the Polish Govt to reassure genuine DP’s on their treatment after return. Govt repatriation agents should avoid doctrinaire politics, freely admit that conditions are still difficult in Poland, appeal to patriotism of Poles to return and take part in reconstruction, assure them of nondiscrimination and of an efficient organization to resettle those whose homes were destroyed or included in other national territories.

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14. Could not informal conversations be arranged whether bilaterally or together between US, UK and French DP experts and Polish Govt with the above object in view? Initiative on our part seems necessary to spur on the Polish Govt to play its part adequately. Efforts should also be made to provide substitute organization for welfare work London Poles in camps.

15. This should be accompanied by a vigorous screening of DP’s in Germany. Screening is extremely difficult, qualified personnel are scarce, and some undesirables are certain to escape their deserts through lack of data. But screening by military with assistance of UNRRA teams is a vital prerequisite to resettlement plans and should not be delayed. Some undesirables can be sent back to their countries and others who came willingly to work for Germans can appropriately be turned loose in Germany.

16. But I do not see justification for scrapping the whole non-Jewish DP organization four months from now and turning loose those who remain without discrimination. Is this consistent with principles stated by our representatives on UNO and the UNRRA Council in the past? If those principles are adhered to there will be a number of genuine cases for resettlement among non-Jewish as well as Jewish DP’s. It seems unlikely that resettlement can be completed in the next four months and pending its completion or at least up to the end of the year, if necessary, it seems better to continue the UNRRA set-up rather than throw everything into the melting pot.

17. Finally, resettlement plans are long overdue. Though we should be able to get closer accord than we have now with the Soviet, the Poles and Yugolsavs it is unlikely that we can get complete agreement in UNO on eligibility for resettlement. I suggest therefore careful exploration of the possibilities of bilateral arrangements of [on?] part of US and UK with potential immigrant countries, especially France, Canada and Australia. Under present conditions practical arrangements made with minimum publicity seem preferable to spectacular debates on general principles in the international organizations.

Because of length of this message discussion of other groups than Poles is deferred. [Penrose.]

  1. George L. Warren, Adviser on Refugees and Displaced Persons, Department of State.
  2. Ernest F. Penrose, Special Assistant to the U.S. Ambassador in London.
  3. Not printed.
  4. For information on UNRRA, see bracketed note, p. 221.
  5. Brig. Gen. Stanley R. Mickelsen, Director of the P.W. and D.P. Division, OMGUS.
  6. Brig. Arthur Kenchington, Chief of the P.W. and D.P. Division, British Element, Allied Control Council for Germany.
  7. Lt. Gen. Sir Frederick E. Morgan, Chief of UNRRA Operations in Germany.
  8. Sir Raphael Cilento, Director of UNRRA Operations, British zone of occupation, Germany.