No. 623


Memorandum of Conversation, by Laurence A. Dawson, Refugees and Displaced Persons Staff, Bureau of United Nations Affairs1


Subject: Exclusion of former members of the Jewish Bund from immigration to the United States under the Displaced Persons Act, as amended.

Participants: Under Secretary Webb; Mr. Laurence A. Dawson, UNA/R; Mr. William Green, President of the American Federation of Labor; and Mr. Isaiah Minkoff, Executive Director, National Community Relations Advisory Council.

Mr. Green, who had originally requested an appointment with the Secretary,2 stated that in view of the urgency of foreign affairs problems he fully understood why the Secretary was not available. After commenting that he had learned that anti-communist refugees escaping from behind the Iron Curtain were being considered ineligible for immigration to the United States under the Displaced Persons Act, Mr. Green then outlined his specific problem as follows and in so doing quoted from a letter which he had received from Mr. David Dubinsky, President of the International Ladies Garment Workers Union.

It was learned some time ago by the Jewish Labor Committee that the Displaced Persons Commission has included the Jewish Bund on its list of organizations considered inimical to the United States and whose members are therefore ruled ineligible for immigration under the Displaced Persons Act. The American Federation of Labor (A.F. of L.) regards such a designation of the Bund as completely unjustified. The Bund since its inception more than a half a century ago as a socialist workers organization has consistently opposed all forms of totalitarianism. Specifically, it opposed fascism before and during the war and its opposition to communism brought about its virtual liquidation in Poland not long ago and the execution of two of its leaders by the communists. As everybody knows, he added, the A.F. of L. will not tolerate any form of [Page 1243] communism within its midst. It is with full confidence that the A. F. of L. can state that former members of the Bund would be valuable additions to our society and in our fight against communism. To emphasize his point Mr. Green stated that David Dubinsky himself was a member of the Bund prior to his immigration to the United States. Both the A. F. of L. and the Jewish Labor Committee regard it as inexplicable that the Commission initially made such a decision and has to date refused to remove the organization from the list, even though the Commission has been specifically requested to do so in the light of the foregoing information. Therefore, since the Department of State is responsible for United States foreign policy, Mr. Green added that he was now placing the matter before the Department confident that appropriate remedial action would be taken.

I stated that the Department was well aware that the Bund had opposed communism and had suffered at the communists’ hands, and pointed out that we have considerable data in our files concerning the liquidation of the Bund in Poland in 1949 by the communists, the execution of some of its leaders, and the deportation of others to Siberia. I stated that the Department considers the strong stand which the A. F. and L. has taken against communism as of great importance in the determination of the free world to maintain its freedom, and I also referred to the support which the A. F. of L. had given to displaced persons legislation. I pointed out that the primary responsibility for the implementation of the Displaced Persons Act rested with the Commission, but that the Department, of course, has a legitimate concern in these matters through its visa issuance functions and otherwise. In this regard I stated that the Commission’s list of proscribed organizations, which originally contained over 200 organizations, was now being reviewed and revised by an ad hoc interdepartmental committee established at the initiative of the Commission consisting of one member each from the Department, the Commission, and the Immigration and Naturalization Service of the Department of Justice. This committee has already removed some 90 organizations from the list. The committee has not yet come to the Bund in its review, but is expected to do so shortly, and the Department will strongly advocate its removal from the list.

Mr. Green and Mr. Minkoff expressed their deep appreciation of the Department’s position as stated by me, and the former handed me a list of displaced persons now in Germany whose immigration is allegedly held up under the present proscription. He requested that appropriate action be taken to facilitate their admission to the United States as soon as the Bund is removed from the list. Mr. Minkoff then added that the immigration of certain members of [Page 1244] the organization Mapai was also being held up because that organization had been included on the list. He stated that the Mapai should not be confused with the Mapam. The Mapai, like the Bund, was not a communist organization and, therefore, its former members should not be barred from the United States as having been in a communist-dominated organization.

With respect to Mr. Green’s opening statement, Mr. Dawson explained that nearly all refugees currently escaping from behind the Iron Curtain are ineligible under the Displaced Persons Act because of the January 1, 1949 deadline therein (except for 500 cases under Section 2 (d)), by which date a person must have arrived in the specified areas in order to qualify under the Act. Mr. Minkoff was familiar in detail with this whole problem. Turning then to the question of communist-dominated organizations, Mr. Dawson pointed out that that term had been interpreted by the Attorney General, in connection with Section 22 of the Internal Security Act, in a strict manner to include organizations which were essentially noncommunist before the communists took them over. Moreover, nominal membership in such organizations had been construed as a bar to immigration to the United States. However, the intent of the Internal Security Act has now been clarified by Public Law 14 to make it plain that persons who were merely nominal members of totalitarian organizations are not ipso facto to be barred from the United States. Until the passage of Public Law 14, members of the Bund would undoubtedly have been denied admission to this country under the Internal Security Act, irrespective of the Commission’s proscribed list. It is true that the Commission’s list was not issued in connection with the Internal Security Act, but rather under Section 13 of the Displaced Persons Act. However, the review and revision of the Commission’s own security list to which I had alluded would undoubtedly now be facilitated in the light of the enactment of Public Law 14 (a copy of which Mr. Dawson gave Mr. Minkoff). I emphasized that the Department’s position on the whole question of the interpretation of the Internal Security Act was well known, and that we had consistently worked for a broad and common-sense interpretation of that Act.

In departing Mr. Green again expressed his appreciation of the Department’s position on his problem. He added that the Department’s entire attitude towards the displaced persons problem had always been one of great sympathy and realism and had been completely vindicated by the performance of the displaced persons who have arrived in this country and who have proved themselves to be not only valuable additions to our labor force but strong anti-communists whose presence in this country cannot help but bolster our opposition to communist tyranny.

  1. The source text was transmitted by Dawson to Henry Cox (GPA), Department of State representative on an ad hoc Department of State-Immigration Service-Displaced Commission Committee, under cover of brief explanatory memorandum of May 1.
  2. Green originally sought an appointment with Secretary Acheson in late March, but it was not then possible to work out a mutually satisfactory date. (Memorandum by Battle (S), March 27, 711.001/3–2751)