Mcdonald Probes Refugee Problem
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Mcdonald Probes Refugee Problem

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Restrictions on the withdrawal of property from Germany by Jewish emigrants have been steadily intensified by the Reich government, correspondence on the subject between the office of James G. McDonald, High Commissioner for Refugees, and the Berlin Office reveals.

Members of the governing body have received copies of the correspondence, which indicates the negative attitude which the Nazi authorities have adopted on all except one of the specific matters taken up with them.

A survey of the exchange of letters between the High Commissioner and the Foreign Office, made public here by Mr. McDonald’s office, reads in part as follows:


It may be remembered that at the last meeting of the governing body it was reported that the High Commissioner had taken up with the officials at the German Foreign Office the question of German Consular authorities giving a written intimation to a German national when they were unable to renew his passport or to grant a new German passport, and the following questions as to the property of refugees:

(a) The possibility of obtaining uniformity in practice as to the amount which an emigrant from Germany is permitted to withdraw when he emigrates to a country other than Palestine;

(b) The payment of pensions to former civil servants etc., who have been dismissed or retired from their posts and have left Germany;

(c) The method of imposition of the tax on the property of persons leaving Germany;

(d) The recovery of payments made by workmen refugees to social insurance funds in Germany on account of old age and invalidity pensions.


Each of these matters formed the subject of a letter to the Foreign Office. The question of the social insurance payments was supported by a memorandum dealing with the broader equities involved, and suggesting that the matter could be examined more satisfactorily by personal talks than by interchange of correspondence, and that therefore the German government should appoint an official to discuss them with the High Commissioner or his representative.

A letter was received from the Foreign Office which defined the attitude of the German government. A satisfactory reply was given to the request about passports but on all the other points the answer was indefinite or negative, the government declaring itself prepared to deal with the suggestions of the High Commissioner “so far as they do not affect the principles of German internal policy, or would not imply a change in German legislation, but can be effected through administrative measures.”

In the reply sent to the German Foreign Office in July it was pointed out that most if not all of the proposals of the High Commissioner satisfied the general condition laid down by the German government, and that effect could be given to them by administrative measures.


At the same time it was indicated that the High Commissioner could not accept the limitation which the German government desired to impose, for: “There may be other matters which, directly or indirectly, would throw such an exceptional burden upon the governments or the philanthropic organizations of other countries, that the High Commissioner, in virtue of his office which was created in pursuance of a resolution of the Assembly of the League of Nation, may feel bound to raise them.”

To this communication a reply was received from the German Foreign Office which gave a more definite answer to the proposals.

It dealt at length with the existing law regarding social insurance funds; and, while stating that the Foreign Office was willing to be informed of individual cases in which German nationals have failed to obtain payment of their rights to insurance, with a view to the re-examination of their cases, it concluded that there was no possibility of making any suggestion for the solution of the general difficulties which are said to exist, and that therefore such a personal discussion as that which the High Commisioner had proposed would not have any practical results.


With regard to the transfer of the capital of emigrants the German reply stated that “treatment of the matter depends chiefly on the situation in respect of foreign exchange, which is extremely difficult at present.”

Since that letter was written a new and very grave position has been created on account of the fresh regulation of the German government, which almost completely stops the remittance of income from Germany to Germans abroad.

This restriction affects thousands of adult emigrants who had hitherto been able to maintain themselves in the countries of refuge by the modest sums which they were able to receive monthly from Germany, and it affects also the thousands of German children who are being educated in schools and institutions in the countries of refuge.

The High Commissioner’s office immediately presented the matter to the German Foreign Office and urged that some special remedial measure be taken, I pointed out that it would create an almost unbearable situation if the German government, having taken measures which compelled many of its citizens to leave the country, should then by its currency regulations render it impossible for those persons to maintain themselves and their families abroad by receiving part of the income from their own property in Germany.

When the High Commission was established it was hoped that the German government would cooperate in finding a solution for the problem created by it, at least to the extent of allowing its citizens to withdraw their property, or part of it, gradually from Germany, and so be able to establish themselves in a new home. Save for certain arrangements which have been made for the benefit of Jewish emigrants to Palestine, there has been no sign of such co-operation by Germany. In fact, its attitude has progressively aggravated the difficulties of settlement elsewhere.


The restrictions on the withdrawal of their own property from Germany by the emigrants, whether in the form of capital or income, have been steadily intensified. Meantime propaganda, participated in by Germans in many parts of the world, against the Jewish and other refugees, has made the position of the refugees more uncertain in some countries, and their admission more difficult in others.

The policy of the Reich by forcing out of the country thousands of her citizens on racial or political grounds, created in itself a serious social and economic crisis for the adjacent countries to which the citizens turned.

The latest step in that policy, which deprives these persons, some of whom still own considerable property in Germany, of their right of deriving any income from their property, and maintaining themselves and their children abroad by that income, aggravates the social and economic problem.

Under present conditions neither the governments nor the communities in the countries of refuge can readily shoulder this further burden.


The difficult economic position of Germany is notorious; but the position with regard to these German citizens receiving income from their property in Germany is different in essence from that of German creditors abroad seeking payment of their debts in foreign currency.

And their just claim could be met without prejudicing the general economic position. It is submitted that the German regulation cannot be regarded as a matter of purely domestic concern, since it directly affects the economic position of foreign States.

International collaboration for the solution of the problem, which was called for by the Resolution of the Assembly of the League of Nations in 1933 recommending the establishment of the High Commission, would seem in these circumstances to require some form of international action.

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