MAY 5, 1947
HYDE PARK, Sunday—Two months from now, when UNRRA goes out of existence, the care of nearly a million displaced persons in European camps is supposed to be taken over by the International Refugee Organization at present being created under United Nations sponsorship. Yet there is danger that this organization will not be ready to undertake the job when the time comes.
This was indicated the other day in Switzerland, at a meeting of the Preparatory Commission, by Arthur J. Altmeyer, American executive secretary of the Refugee Organization. Mr. Altmeyer, a man who likes to face realities, pointed out not only that his organization would be unable to function unless a fifteenth nation signs and pays one percent of the budget, but also that only two of the 14 national pledges already given have as yet been made unconditionally.
The two pledges are those of little New Zealand and of the United Kingdom. The United Kingdom is sorely pressed for funds these days, and yet this seems to her such an inescapable obligation that she has made her pledge without strings attached. We in the United States, who lead the world democracies today, have still not ratified our pledge, which had to be made conditional upon appropriations by the Congress.
There are undoubtedly even greater worries on the minds of our legislators, but I think there are few moral obligations that should weigh more heavily. As of February 28, 1947, Mr. Altmeyer reported, there were approximately 834,950 persons in DP camps. Of that number, only 170,000 are Jews. The remaining number are probably two-thirds Roman Catholics and one-third Protestants and other religious denominations. It seems to me that the religious groups of the world should take a particular interest in the two steps that are necessary now.
Until these people can leave the camps, first of all, they must have at least subsistence care. Conditions will be little better than that in the coming months, and it is therefore essential that the International Refugee Organization be given an opportunity to plan the resettlement of those who will not return to their countries of origin.
Our second major responsibility is to make a gesture of accepting some of these people. In order to do that, we have to be permitted by Congress to use the immigration quotas which remained unused during the war years. Labor has voted in favor of this. There are rumors that the American Legion may change its stand, but as far as I know they have taken no action up to now. I hope with all my heart, since they are the strongest and the leading veterans' organization, that they will see fit to reverse themselves and allow the United States to lead in what, after all, is for her a traditional type of humanitarianism.