840.4016 DP/4–446

Memorandum by the Secretary of State to President Truman

The Secretary of War62 and I have agreed that the displaced persons camps in our zones in Germany and Austria should be closed some time next August, except for persecuted groups who will be permitted to remain in camps. I have publicly announced that this Government is considering such a move.63

The chief reasons for this plan are that the War Department cannot finance indefinitely the operation of these camps, that there is no reason to believe they can be closed with less difficulty next year than now, and that they should be closed in time to permit these people to make some living arrangements before winter.

This proposal has been the source of some concern to the UNRRA officials. It has not met with the approval of the British. It has also been received critically by such groups as the Federal Council of Churches, the National Catholic Welfare Conference, the AF of L and the CIO. In general these groups feel that the camps should remain open until (a) most of the displaced persons have returned to their homes and (b) a solution is found through the Intergovernmental Committee on Refugees or a new organization of the United Nations for the resettlement of those who remain. It is not expected that significant results with respect to resettlement can be achieved much before the spring of 1947. These groups appear to recognize that the camps cannot be maintained indefinitely, but they are alarmed by a plan to close them on any given date.

Criticism has also been expressed, particularly in Catholic quarters, of the exception of “persecuted groups” from the plan to close the camps. The Catholic spokesmen argue that if this is intended to include only Jews or primarily Jews, it is unfair because, they allege, Catholic displaced persons would also be subjected to persecution if they were to return to Yugoslavia or the Baltic states. No answer is likely fully to satisfy this criticism. The justification for the exception, however, is: (a) anyone who was removed from his home because of race, religion or activities in favor of the United Nations will be included in the “persecuted group”; (b) undoubtedly this group will be largely composed of Jews, who were the largest single group displaced because of their religion, but other classes of persons are not excluded by the definition; and (c) Catholic displaced persons will not be subjected to persecution in Germany should they choose to remain after the closing of the camps.

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I believe it is likely that many groups critical of the closing of the camps will seek your intervention to delay the closing. You will recall that you have already received a memorandum64 from Cardinal Stritch of Chicago on this subject and I have received similar memoranda65 from the National Catholic Welfare Conference. A proposed reply64 to Cardinal Stritch, together with his communication to you, accompanies this memorandum. This reply has been drafted on the assumption that the camps in our zones will in fact be closed in August.

For this reason I wish to bring the matter to your attention. Unless you direct me otherwise, I propose to take the matter up again with the Secretary of War, to reach with him a final decision on the date in August on which the camps will be closed and also to determine a date in the very near future for announcing our decision.

James F. Byrnes
  1. Robert P. Patterson.
  2. See the Department of State Bulletin, March 24, 1946, p. 498.
  3. Not printed.
  4. None printed.
  5. Not printed.