James G. Mcdonald, Sailing for Europe, Hints at Attitude in Refugee Problem
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James G. Mcdonald, Sailing for Europe, Hints at Attitude in Refugee Problem

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James G. McDonald has mounted the bucking broncho of international diplomacy.

He is going to make an attempt to settle the problem of the German refugees. Before he sailed on the Ile de France yesterday, Mr. McDonald talked with the Jewish Daily Bulletin on the problems involved.

The new high commissioner would not discuss the pertinent question facing international Jewry: what is to be done about the German situation? His reason is clear. Whatever he should say at the present time would injure the cause, perhaps ruin the hopes, of the nations which have placed in his hands power to mediate for the refugees.

He consented nevertheless to talk briefly about the manner in which the refugee commission was appointed, and about himself.


The face of James G. McDonald reminds one of the late Woodrow Wilson. It was the same angular face, quite as full in cheek and lean in contour. Like Wilson, the High Commissioner is personable and has cold grey eyes, keen, searching and snappily intelligent. He peers through horn-rimmed glasses, and suddenly whips them off as though they annoy him.

From an hour’s interview the writer gathered that this is a man upon whom one may depend in a crisis. Easly and with accustomed fluency Mr. McDonald talks; he has the candor of one accustomed to speaking the truth, and the construction of one accustomed to know what he is talking about.

He was asked for comment and disclaimed his role as a commentator.

“I am now a commissioner, a fact-finder,” he said.


Mr. McDonald has been engaged in a close study of international affairs for more than twenty years. He has been in Europe, observed political movements, talked with foreign potentates, attended conferences of historical import, had friendly intercourse with peoples of many lands and considered with authority the turbulent issues of European diplomacy.

Mr. McDonald’s position with relation to the refugees made him cautious in talking about them, or about the country that has left them bereaved and homeless. He must have freedom in dealing with their predicament, one that is aggravated by the anomalous situation of almost world-wide refusal of nations to open their doors to fleeing nonconformist Germans.

He talked, sparingly, of the body which is to coordinate and reen-force the meagre assistance advanced by sympathizers; he avowed his personal feeling of friendship for the Jewish people; he said that he does not countenance or understand religious discrimination; he insisted that for years he has befriended the German people and has entertained a sense of their unhappy lot.

From which one must necessarily gather that High Commissioner McDonald is a humanitarian in the purest meaning of the word. He is not a reformer, not even a churchgoer, although his work has brought him into close contact with the Federal Council of the Churches of Christ in America. The latter body, one of the most powerful religious units in the United States, representing all denominations of the Protestant faith, has an extensive program for the counteraction of anti-Semitism.


Mr. McDonald has acted in an advisory capacity to the federation, as well as for a number of other organizations of equivalent strength. His authority on questions of international importance has never been challenged.

“The Dutch government,” Mr. McDonald said, “feeling the burden of the German refugees, moved in the Assembly of the League of Nations to create under the League a high commissioner whose job it would be to coordinate on an international basis the relief efforts in behalf of German, Jewish and other refugees.”

“German, Jewish and other refugees.” Mr. McDonald made it clear that Jews are not the only sufferers at the hands of Nazi Germany.

“Our job,” he said, “will be in part to publicize the facts of the refugee question. You must know that the Jews are not exclusively the victims of Nazi hatred of nonconformists.”

He continued:

“Finally it came out of the hopper that the League Assembly v###d to ask the Council to set up an organization. The body was to consist of a high commissioner, named by the president of the Council, and a governing board of fifteen members, to be named one by each of fifteen countries. The board will have the right to select or invite private organizations to be represented. These appointments are permissive and not required.”


As a young professor of modern European history at the University of Indiana, his alma mater, Mr. McDonald was named to direct an investigation into the German war atrocities. He examined and sifted the facts. He adjudged a nation despised by the commonwealth of world nations and at the Armistice he was among the few who questioned the widely-accepted view that Germany was guilty of starting the War.

“Since the War, as president of the Foreign Policy Association, I have been active in studying the question of the effects of the Versailles Treaty. When I recently had occasion to point out facts about the new regime in Germany, I decided that they ought to be read in the light of the record of twenty years. Therefore I have felt a keen sense of friendship for a nation denied the friendship of the world.”

Asked regarding his views on the Nazi discriminations against Jews, Mr. McDonald said:

“The Nazi record is quite clear on the face of it. The Nazi public state and the Nazi laws have never disguised the essence of their attitude toward non-conformists. It’s all a matter of the record. Different interpretations can be placed on the record, but it is there.”

Among his many activities, Mr. McDonald is the author of pamphlets on a wide variety of subjects, a radio lecturer and organizer. During his incumbency as the Association’s chairman he witnessed the growth in influence and power of the F. P. A. and had a great deal to do with its development. Members of its National Council today include Jane Addams, Thomas W Lamont, William Green, Roscoe Pound, Felix M. Warburg, William Allen White, Owen D. Young and others. It is an American organization which is non-partisan and non-endowed.


Mr. McDoald said that he will remain in Europe until the Christmas holidays, and return again the early part of January. He lives in Bronxville with his family. Golf is his favorite sport.

“It just happens,” he told the Jewish Daily Bulletin, “that for many years I have had friends in all Jewish camps, Zionists and non-Zionists, orthodox and non-orthodox. And my family has always been on friendly terms with Jews.

“I find it impossible to discriminate between people on religious grounds. They are what they are I have no patience at all with prevailing prejudices.”

From pamphlets issued by Mr. McDonald the writer has picked a few essential paragraphs which follow:

“Much as some of us may deplore the restricted cooperation of the United States, it would be mistaken to attribute to that limitation the major responsibility for Europe’s present plight. That is an outgrowth of the World War and the Versailles Treaty, which intensified traditional national animosities, and fertilized the seeds of new conflict. At times, since 1918, there have been some signs of the beginnings of reconciliation between the defeated and the victorious countries But these faint signs have been replaced during the last two or three years by indications of increasing national suspicions and fears.

“The rise of the Nazi regime in Germany wrought to a new pitch the feelings of the Poles. Greater and greater became the difficulties of reconciliation between those who insisted that the territorial and other provisions of the peace treaties must remain essentially unaltered and those who insisted that they must be revised. The President’s initiative (in offering cooperation in outlawing recalcitrant nations) and the Hitler response eased the tension but removed none of the underlying causes of conflict.”

At another point, Mr. MacDonald wrote:

‘World peace may yet become a reality.”

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