J.D.C. Warns Handling of St. Louis Case Must Not Be Taken As Precedent

Pointing out that chaotic, enforced emigration endangered the general system of Jewish relief and aggravated the situation of refugees who have found havens, the Joint Distribution Committee declared today that it could not regard the handling of the case of the 907 St. Louis refugees as a precedent for any similar action.

This was set forth in a statement of policy issued by Joseph C. Hyman, executive director, by order of the J.D.C. executive committee, meant for Jewish leaders and supporters of the J.D.C.

“It must be obvious to all,” the statement said, “that aside from the fundamental questions of policy which are involved, the financial and administrative burdens of such ‘dumped,’ chaotic, forced and disorganized emigration are entirely beyond.the scope of private philanthropic resources or the facilities of existing organizations. Moreover, this type of emigration aggravates immeasurably the situation, not alone of other emigrants who have already found asylum, but of the native Jewish populations in the countries to which these emigrants have gone.

“On a financial basis, merely to provide minimal funds for transportation, guarantees and to assure the maintenance for a single emigrant for a single year, without taking future burdens into account, requires an irreducible minimum of approximately $750. If the Joint Distribution Committee, under this type of terrorized pressure, were to be obliged to submit to this kind of program of enforced help, its entire resources for the whole year 1939 would be exhausted in taking care of from 10,000 to 15,000 emigrants.

“In other words, 20 boatloads of refugees like those on the St. Louis, whom the Joint Distribution Committee would undertake to provide for and for whom it would have to give guarantees, would virtually deplete the treasury of the Joint Distribution Committee and would deprive all of the other activities and programs of the Committee of essential funds. Already the cost of providing guarantees for the 907 St. Louis refugees is equal to the entire budgetary allotment of the J.D.C. for all of the work of relief and assistance to Jewish communities within Germany during the first six months of the year.

“Under these circumstances,’ the Joint Distribution Committee must place on record that it cannot regard its action in behalf of the St. Louis passengers and the enormous sacrifices it has made in the financial commitments undertaken for this relatively small number of persons as constituting a precedent for any similar action.

“There are dependent upon the program of aid conducted by the Joint Distribution Committee, multitudes of persons in Germany and Old Austria, in sections of Bohemia, Moravia and Slovakia; in Hungary; in Poland; in Rumania; and in refugee countries throughout the world. Its program of assistance includes the education of children, child care and welfare work, training of young men and women in productive occupations, credit aid and loans, development of new occupations, medical and sanitary service, relief as well as emergency emigration aid for the refugees. Conscious of its responsibilities in all of the vital necessities of the Jewish populations overseas, the J.D.C., as a trustee for the funds turned over to it by contributors throughout the country, cannot undertake to expend huge sums for a comparatively small number of refugees in any such type of enforced and disorderly emigration.

In the circumstances, the St. Louis incident must be regarded, as in fact it was, as a special problem that required special treatment. It must be brought home to all governments and all people that the Joint Distribution Committee is daily faced with emergency and critical needs, frequently of an equally urgent nature, affecting Jewish populations in many other parts of the world. Within the limits of the funds made available to the J.D.C.by the Jewish communities of this country, it is our duty so to expend those funds as to bring the greatest and most lasting good to the greatest number.”

The statement called attention to official utterances in London and Geneva that the case of the St. Louis passengers was extraordinary, not constituting a precedent. It also pointed out that the 907 refugees had not been advised or assisted by the J.D.C. or any affiliated organization in taking passage to Cuba and that, to the contrary, the J.D.C. had publicly warned against such emigration unless “entirely acceptable” documents were available. Still, it was largely through the J.D.C.’s efforts that havens were found for them in four European countries, it was pointed out.

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