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Harrison Urges Early Evacuation of Displaced Jews from Germany to Palestine

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The early evacuation to Palestine of all non-repatriable Jews in Germany and Austria who wish to go there is the principal recommendation of the 7,000-word report on displaced persons submitted to President Truman by Mr. Harrison, as a result of the inquiry which he made, at the President’s request, into the conditions and needs of displaced persons in Western Europe, particularly Jews, who might be stateless or non-repatriable.

Declaring that the majority of the approximately 100,000 Jewish refugees wish to go to Palestine, Harrison reiterates throughout the report his thesis that “the main solution, in many ways the only real solution, of the problem lies in the quick evacuation of all non-repatriable Jews in Germany and Austria, who wish it, to Palestine. In order to be effective this plan must not be long delayed. The urgency of the situation should be recognized. It is inhuman to ask people to continue to live for any length of time under their present conditions.” He urges “some reasonable extension or modification” of the White Paper in view of the moderate numbers involved and, “if there is any genuine sympathy for what these survivors have endured.”

RECOMMENDS ENTRANCE INTO U.S. OF “REASONABLE NUMBER” OF REFUGEES

Harrison further recommends entrance into the United States, under existing immigration laws, of “reasonable numbers,” particularly those with family ties here and emphasizes that the number wishing emigration to the United States is not large. Other recommendations include:

1. That the Jews, who suffered first and worst from Nazi persecution, should have first claim upon “the conscience of the people of the United States and Great Britain” in the program for aiding displaced persons.

2. That the Jews be separated from other nationality groups and placed in separate camps or billeted in private homes.

3. That actual operation of the camps be turned over as soon as possible to the UNRRA.

4. An immediate review of military personnel selected for the jobs as camp commandants and more extensive “field visitation” or inspection of the camps by army group headquarters responsible for their administration.

5. That a tracing service be set up to aid in reuniting families.

Harrison sharply criticizes the military handling of food for DP’s. He contrasts the “more varied and palatable diet” of the German population and declares: “The camp commandants put in their requisitions with the German burgomeister and many seemed to accept whatever he turned over as being the best that was available.” Other major charges in Harrison’s report include:

1. Many Jews and other displaced persons are still living under guard in former concentration camps “amidst crowded, frequently unsanitary and generally grim conditions” in complete idleness and without opportunity to communicate with the outside world.

2. While there has been marked improvement in the health of victims of Nazi starvations, there are still many cases of malnutrition in the camps. He said one Army chaplain, a rabbi, had attended 23,000 burials at the Bergen Belsen camp alone after liberation and that 14,000 refugees were still being held there.

3. Many Jewish displaced persons late in July still had no other clothing than their concentration camp garb or old German S.S. uniforms.

4. With few exceptions, no effort has been made to rehabilitate the internees: “Beyond knowing that they are no longer in danger of the gas chambers, torture and other forms of violent death, they see–and there is–little change.” Meanwhile, they see German civilians continuing to live normal lives in their own homes.

5. Very little has been done to reunite family groups that have been separated for from three to five years.

6. Many displaced persons, after long periods of near starvation, are still receiving a diet of principally bread and coffee. In many camps the 2,000 calories of food provided daily included 1,250 of wet black bread.

7. Many camp buildings in which displaced persons are housed are clearly unfit for winter use.

Harrison describes his report as partial in the sense that it does not include observations with regard to the situation of the displaced persons in France, Belgium, Holland and Switzerland. He pays tribute to the valuable work of Dr. Joseph Schwartz, European Director of the Joint Distribution Committee, who accompanied him, and emphasizes that the report represents their joint views, conclusions and recommendations.

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