Rifkind Report Recommending Transfer of Jewish Dp’s to Palestine Released by War Dept.
Menu JTA Search

Rifkind Report Recommending Transfer of Jewish Dp’s to Palestine Released by War Dept.

Download PDF for this date

Rapid mass resettlement in Palestine of the remaining 100,000 Jews in Germany and Austria was recommended by Judge Simon H. Rifkind, Special Adviser on Jewish Affairs to General Joseph T. McNarney, European Theater commander, in a final memorandum he submitted to McNarney upon completion of his five-months service in Germany, it was disclosed today by the War Department. Judge Rifkind recently returned to the United States to resume his duties as United States district judge for the southern district of New York.

In issuing the memorandum the War Department stated that it represented “only the personal views” of Judge Rifkind and was being released “as the comment of a qualified observer on a matter in which there has been substantial public interest.”

Rifkind emphasized that the problem of displaced Jews “is actually insoluble without Palestine,” which, he said, is the sole hope of the majority of Jews in Germany and Austria. “Disintegration has already begun and may rapidly spread,” he said, and “unless the world is prepared immediately to make a place for them, it will drive to despair and disaster this handful of a decimated people. All of them have but one earnest wish, to be quit of Europe, and most of them have one other compelling desire, to emigrate to Palestine.”


Rifkind recommended a number of changes to improve the effectiveness of policies regarding Jewish DB’s. Revision of diet to vary the monotony headed his list, followed by more adequate rehabilitation and training projects, provision of more civilian rather than barracks type housing, intensification of the education and religious progress, “first class effort” in providing opportunities for employment, prevention of “peculiarly inappropriate” tendencies to intensify policing of the persecuted DP groups, non-Jewish as well as Jewish, and an educational program for newly arrived troops and military police for understanding treatment of the DP’s.

However, the underlying problem of the displaced Jews, Judge Rifkind stressed, “will cease to be a problem, not when any specified agency has discharged its limited responsibility, but when the Jews concerned have been restored to normal life in an abode in which they strike permanent roots.” He warned that the frustration of finding a place outside Europe in which to live was rapidly bringing the Jewish DP’s “to the end of their emotional tether.”


Judge Rifkind categorically stated that of the several governmental agencies responsible for DP’s, “the Army is the only one that has to date made a substantial and noteworthy contribution.” He sharply criticized UNRRA for refusal to contribute any supplies to DP’s, for failure in the U.S. zone “to bring to its task the necessary initiative, administrative skill and imagination. Conspicuous has been its lack of drive to implement ideas conceived both within and outside its staff.” He praised the devotion of field workers but deplored the lack of routine, technical knowledge concerning housing, clothing and feeding, and absence of “necessary executive capacity.”

The Intergovernmental Committee on Refugees received even more rigorous criticism as an “impotent” organization which “has accomplished nothing in the way of resettlement of Jewish DP’s and can accomplish nothing under its present poli ces.” He said the committee has taken no steps so far to facilitate settlement of wish DP’s anywhere and “by appearing to act in this field has discouraged others from king the initiative.”

He recommended that the United States directly negotiate with other immigration-receiving nations to help remedy loss of valuable time.


Cataloguing many instances of “the Army’s warmheartedness” in dealing with all displaced persons and ex-persecuted ones particularly, Rifkind declared that “the Jews of the world are everlastingly in debt to the Armed Forces of the United States for the survival of a remnant of Israel in Europe.” He termed the rescue phases of liberation miracles of accomplishment,” and lauded the “heroic and selfless devotion of many medical and combat officers, and thousands of anonymous American soldiers of all breeds.”

Rifkind also praised the Army’s “great accomplishments” in arrangements for the “semi-permanent living” conditions of “ex-persecutes.” He mentioned the wide pressure of personal freedom accorded them, encouragement of self-government and broad freedom of movement, higher caloric diet than that permitted the Germans, and priority many items. He cited the provision of plane service to ferry in “sorely needed constructors and supplies from Palestine.”

He found especially noteworthy the accommodation and care extended to Jews who infiltrated from East European countries. He pointed out that the future of East European Jewry constitutes the primary problem, since only a minor fraction of German and Austrian Jews remain in Central Europe.

“Many of the Jews who are today living in Poland, Czechoslovakia, Rumania and Hungary are baffled and perplexed, insecure in the present, fearful of the future,” Rifkind reported. “Not so for Jews in Germany and Austria. They know what they want; they want to quit Europe, to live together, not dispersed among a population that rewards them as aliens; they desire to live in the pattern of their own historic culture; they visualize the realization of their desires in Palestine.”


These considerations are “crucially Germans” to the Army’s task, Rifkind declared, in that they supply the clue to the “sense of excitement” found in Jewish displaced persons centers, “the high pitch of the publications, the mass meetings, demonstrations, petitions and general atmosphere of political fervor, in sharp contrast of the relative quietude in other DP centers. They provide the reason for the Jewish that impatience with measures that give an atmosphere of permanency to their enforced residence in Germany, and their reluctance to do anything that appears to integrate on with the German population.”

They also help to explain, he said, the increase of the Jewish population in the U.S. zone, while that of other DP groups decreases. Finding themselves unwelcome in their lands of origin, indigenous anti-Semitism flourishing, their families, friends and homes gone, “they find it impossible to take up normal living in a graveyard of memories.”

Flatly declaring that life for these people is “impossible” in their home countries, and that “they cannot be repatriated,” Rifkind said that the Jews entering the U.S. zone in Germany seek only “a provisional place of refuge as a staging and rehabilitation area for migration.” He praised the Army’s “sympathetic understanding thus far” of the search for asylum, and strongly urged continuation of that policy.

Founding Funders

The digitization of the JTA Archive would not have been possible without the generous support of the following donors:
  • The Gottesman Fund
  • Righteous Persons Foundation
  • Charles H. Revson Foundation
  • Elisa Spungen Bildner and Robert Bildner, in honor of Norma Spungen
  • George S. Blumenthal
  • Grace and Scott Offen Charitable Fund