Memorandum of Conversation, by the Assistant Secretary of State for Political Affairs (Armour)

Participants: Mr. Leonard Simutis, President of the Lithuanian-American Council
Dr. Pius Grigaitis, Secretary of the Council
Mr. Michael Vaidyla, Treasurer of the Council
Mr. Constantine R. Jurgela, Director, Lithuanian-American Information Center
Mr. Harry W. Lielnors, Representative of the Latvian and Estonian groups in the United States
Mr. Norman Armour—A–A
Mr. Francis B. Stevens1EE

The Delegation representing the Lithuanian-American Council called on an appointment arranged through the office of Congressman Gordon, of Illinois. Dr. Grigaitis, who served as spokesman for the group, referred to the desperate situation of the Baltic peoples under Soviet rule and their systematic persecution by the Soviet authorities, a policy which he described as genocide. He stated that unless the United States adopted a more forceful policy to protect the Baltic peoples, they were in danger of extermination in the near future.

I reminded the members of the Delegation that the policy of this Government on the issue of the Baltic States was clearly defined and had been consistently adhered to. The United States refused to recognize the incorporation of the Baltic States into the Soviet Union and continued to recognize the diplomatic representatives of the three Baltic States in the United States. I added that this Government had constantly in mind the situation of the Baltic nationals among the displaced persons in Europe and that it desired to assist them in so far as possible. The United States had consistently opposed the forceful repatriation of DPs to the Soviet Union, was the principal contributor to the “PCIRO”,2 and had supported the Stratton3 Bill in Congress [Page 403] which would provide for liberalization of the immigration quotas with reference to DPs.4

Mr. Jurgela complained about the treatment of Baltic DPs under IRO administration. He said that an improvement in the situation of the DPs had been anticipated when IRO took over the administration from UNRRA but that in reality the situation had deteriorated. Not only were Soviet repatriation officers admitted to camps to exert pressure on Baltic DPs to return to the Soviet Union but DPs were being repeatedly screened and were obliged to disclose the names of their relatives in the Baltic States, lists of which were then turned over to the Soviet repatriation officers.

Dr. Grigaitis said that the Council was considerably perturbed by a report which they understood was being prepared by a Senate Judiciary Committee Subcommittee which is investigating the DP problem. They understood that the Subcommittee would recommend legislation which would grant preferential treatment to DPs who were citizens of countries annexed by another state. While the Council was sympathetic to the aims of this report they were concerned by the use of the term “annexed by another state”, feeling that use of this language might be considered implicit recognition by the American Government of the incorporation of the Baltic States into the Soviet Union. They had been informed that this language had been approved by the Department of State.

I informed the Delegation that I had no knowledge of this proposal and that I was not aware that the Department had been consulted with reference to it. I agreed that the use of language of this kind would be unfortunate and undertook to inquire whether any approach had been made to the Department by the Subcommittee. Mr. Jurgela informed Mr. Stevens confidentially that the Subcommittee in question was the Revercomb Committee.

Dr. Grigaitis then referred to press notices that the Voice of America was inaugurating broadcasts in additional foreign languages and recommended that broadcasts in the languages of the Baltic States be undertaken. He stated that competent personnel and adequate material for such programs were available and expressed the opinion that broadcasts in these languages would have a considerable effect in strengthening the morale of the populations of these countries. He denied that most persons in the Baltic States could understand the Voice Russian language programs, pointing out that whereas [Page 404] the older generation knew Russian, those who had grown up after the first world war normally did not. In response to a query as to the number of short-wave receivers available to persons in the Baltic States, he said that while receivers had officially been confiscated, sets had been smuggled in from Sweden and he was confident that broadcasts in the Baltic States would be widely heard.

It was suggested to the Delegation that the inauguration of broadcasts by the Voice of America in the Baltic languages would be considered a deliberate attempt to incite opposition to the Soviet authorities and might result in an intensification of the repressive measures to which the populations of these countries are now subjected. This factor seemed to make some impression and the Delegation, before its departure, appeared agreed that it would perhaps be inadvisable to undertake such broadcasts at this stage. They expressed the hope, however, that material of direct interest to the Baltic peoples could be included in the Russian language programs and offered to supply material of this nature if it was desired.

Norman Armour
  1. Acting Chief, Division of Eastern European Affairs.
  2. The First Session of the Preparatory Commission for the International Refugee Organization (PCIRO) met in Geneva in February 1947 and in Lausanne in May 1947. For a brief description of these meetings, see Department of State Publication 3031, Participation of the United States Government in International Conferences, July 1, 1946–June 30, 1947 (Washington, Government Printing Office, 1948), pp. 300–304.
  3. Congressman William G. Stratton of Illinois.
  4. In June 1948, Congress passed the Displaced Persons Act of 1948 which would permit the entry into the united States of 200,000 displaced persons as well as 2000 recent Czechoslovak refugees and 3000 orphans. Because of the discriminatory features in the bill, President Truman signed it with reluctance; see the President’s statement to the press, June 25, 1948, Department of State Bulletin, July 4, 1948, p. 21.