War Refugee Board

▪ United States government agency
      United States agency established January 22, 1944, to attempt to rescue victims of the Nazis (Nazi Party)—mainly Jews—from death in German-occupied Europe. The board began its work after the Nazis had already killed millions in concentration (concentration camp) and extermination camps (extermination camp). A late start, a lack of resources, and conflicts within the U.S. government limited the board's effectiveness.

      The United States began its rescue efforts on behalf of European Jews caught in the Holocaust in January 1944 after Treasury Secretary Henry Morgenthau, Jr. (Morgenthau, Henry, Jr.), gave President Franklin D. Roosevelt (Roosevelt, Franklin D.) a document with decisive new evidence of State Department inaction that Roosevelt knew would be politically explosive if it became public. On January 13, 1944, Morgenthau had received a memo from his general counsel, Randolph Paul, and his staff entitled “Report to the Secretary on the Acquiescence of This Government in the Murder of the Jews.” It charged that the State Department had used the machinery of the government to prevent the rescue of Jews and to prevent news of the Holocaust from reaching the American public and that the department had covered up the government's guilt by “concealment and misrepresentation.” Three days later, Morgenthau, the ranking Jewish official in the president's inner circle, went to the White House to see Roosevelt with a more restrained but still forceful version of the document retitled “Personal Report to the President.”

      Roosevelt listened to a summary of the report but did not keep a copy at the White House. Morgenthau presented the president with a proposal to involve the United States actively in the business of rescue. Within a week of the meeting, Roosevelt established the War Refugee Board (WRB). It was charged with taking all measures within its power to rescue “the victims of enemy oppression who are in imminent danger of death.” The members of the board were the secretaries of state, treasury, and war. The executive order allotted about $1 million in federal funds for administrative purposes, but virtually all other funding for the board's work had to come from private sources. As a result, throughout its operation the board was underfunded, and, because of an ongoing internal struggle between the pro-rescue Treasury Department, the anti-rescue State Department, and the War Department, which did not want domestic concerns to interfere with the war effort, the board never achieved unanimity of purpose or direction.

      Although American rescue efforts began after more than 85 percent of the victims of the Holocaust were already dead—two years after the Wannsee Conference and the establishment of the extermination camps (extermination camp)—the creation of the WRB was fortuitous. Operations started just months before the deportation of Jews from Hungary and well after it was evident that Germany would be defeated. Therefore, neutral countries and even some of Germany's allies were prepared to cooperate in rescue efforts in order to position themselves for the postwar world.

      Under the direction of John Pehle, a Treasury Department lawyer who had worked to expose the State Department's alleged cover-up of the Holocaust, the WRB set out to find a haven for rescued Jews. The board elicited statements from Roosevelt condemning the murder of Jews, drew up plans for postwar war-crimes trials, and after much hesitation forwarded requests for the bombing of Auschwitz (See Sidebar: ).

      Among its activities were efforts to persuade neutral governments, including the Holy See, to cooperate in rescue efforts. It financed the rescue operations of Raoul Wallenberg (Wallenberg, Raoul) in Budapest, which pitted the Swedish diplomat against Adolf Eichmann (Eichmann, Adolf)'s efforts to deport the last remaining large Jewish community on the continent. Moreover, Ira Hirschmann, the WRB operative in Turkey, persuaded Archbishop Angelo Roncalli (John XXIII), later Pope John XXIII (John (XXIII)), to forward thousands of baptismal certificates to the papal nuncio in Hungary to provide Jews with false identities.

      The War Refugee Board also sought to establish free ports to which Jews could flee. Notably, it received permission to bring 982 Jews to a U.S. refugee camp in Oswego, New York, and in the waning months of World War II it was the most forceful American agency to consider and, at times, facilitate ransom proposals to exchange German citizens for Jews.

      Historians are reluctant to judge the success of the WRB. While the board may have helped save as many as 200,000 from death, the Nazis were able to murder some 6 million Jews. Clearly the intensity of Nazi commitment and the resources dedicated to the murder of European Jewry overwhelmed all efforts at rescue, including the meager and belated American rescue. When Pehle reviewed the work of the WRB, he commented, "What we did was little enough. It was late…Late and little, I would say."

Michael Berenbaum
 

* * *


Universalium. 2010.

Look at other dictionaries:

  • WAR REFUGEE BOARD — WAR REFUGEE BOARD, a United States government agency established to assist refugees during World War II. In the autumn of 1943, at the initiative of the Emergency Committee to Save the Jewish People of Europe (the Bergson group), members of… …   Encyclopedia of Judaism

  • War Refugee Board — Das War Refugee Board war eine unter Präsident Franklin D. Roosevelt im Januar 1944 eingerichtete interministerielle US Regierungsdienststelle, die Opfern der NS Diktatur, insbesondere jüdischen Flüchtlingen, weltweit helfen sollte. Finanz ,… …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • War Refugee Board — Le War Refugee Board, créé par le président Franklin D. Roosevelt en janvier 1944, était une agence exécutive américaine destinée à aider les victimes civiles des nazis et de leurs alliés de l Axe. Sommaire 1 Origine 2 Composition 3 Voir aussi …   Wikipédia en Français

  • War Refugee Board — The War Refugee Board, established by President Franklin D. Roosevelt in January of 1944, was a U.S. executive agency created to aid civilian victims of the Nazi and Axis powers. Created largely at the behest of Roosevelt s Secretary of Treasury… …   Wikipedia

  • War Refugee Board — (WRB)    The board was created by an executive order from President Franklin D. Roosevelt in January 1944 for the purpose of rescuing Jews from German occupied Europe. The circumstances under which the president established the board emanated… …   Historical dictionary of the Holocaust

  • War Refugee Board — (WRB)    The WRB was created in January 1944 at the behest of Henry Morgenthau Jr. to organize the rescue of racial and religious victims of Nazi persecution and seek the assistance of public and private bodies in the rescue, transportation, and… …   Historical Dictionary of the Roosevelt–Truman Era

  • War Resisters Support Campaign — The War Resisters Support Campaign (WRSC) is a Canadian non profit community organization, founded in April 2004 in Toronto, Ontario to mobilize support among Canadians and worldwide to convince the Canadian government to offer sanctuary to all U …   Wikipedia

  • War in Afghanistan (2001–present) — War in Afghanistan Part of the Afghan civil war and the War on Terror …   Wikipedia

  • War in Darfur — Situation in Darfur redirects here. For the criminal investigation started by the International Criminal Court see International Criminal Court investigation in Darfur, Sudan. Conflict in Darfur Date 2003–2009[1]/2010 …   Wikipedia

  • War on Terrorism — Infobox Military Conflict conflict=War on Terrorism caption=U.S. Soldiers boarding a CH 47 Chinook helicopter in Afghanistan during Operation Anaconda in the Shahi Kot Valley and Arma Mountains southeast of Zormat. date=October 7 2001cite web… …   Wikipedia

Share the article and excerpts

Direct link
Do a right-click on the link above
and select “Copy Link”

We are using cookies for the best presentation of our site. Continuing to use this site, you agree with this.