WASHINGTON (Feb. 4)
John W. Pehle, whose appointment as director of the War Refugee Board was officially announced today, told a press conference that the rescue job with which the War Refugee Board has been entrusted “must be done within months, or there may be no job to do at all.” He emphasized that the Board has a short-term task of rescuing people whose lives are in immediate danger.
The main task of the War Refugee Board, he declared, will be to speed the flight of refugees from occupied countries through the underground. He named the American Joint Distribution Committee, the Hias and the World Jewish Congress among the organizations already at work on this job.
Private funds, including those of the American Friends Service Committee and the International Red Cross would be largely used, Pehle added. “There will be no difficulty in raising private funds” he predicted, noting that Hias has already made the first large contribution — $100,000.
Pehle would not estimate the number of refugees now escaping through the underground, though he said that Spain was receiving more than any other country. It would be one of the Board’s tasks, he added, to remove refugees as soon as possible to places of temporary shelter like the camps already established in North Africa, and Mexico, in order to make room for newcomers. Asked whether there would be any attempt to move 3,000,000 Jews into Palestine, he replied that there are not 3,000,000 who could be rescued from Hitler’s clutches.
The director of the War Refugee Board revealed that he would have a small professional staff, and would work largely through other branches of the government international organizations like the United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation Administration, and private groups. He has been granted a leave of absence from his post as assistant to Secretary Morgenthau.
The official announcement of Pehle’s appointment said that “Pehle’s work as director of Foreign Funds Control has afforded him wide experience in negotiating with members of foreign governments, as well as with the various departments and agencies of this government that will be called on to participate in the work of the War Refugee Board. His work in these fields has also brought him into close touch with the problems now before the board, and he is well known to the private agencies interested in relief work and the rescue of refugees.”