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Aiding the Exiles

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High Commissioner for Refugees Coming from Germany

It is now a year and a half since the exodus is from Germany of tens of thousands of men, women and children—Jews and Christians—began, and just one year since the League of Nations provided for the creation of the office of the High Commissioner and of this governing body, to direct the international collaboration for the solution of the economic, financial and social problem of the refugees. It is therefore opportune to survey what has been done to estimate what remains to be done, and to suggest ways through which the work can be pressed more speedily towards completion.

The accomplishments of the private organizations dealing with the refugees in nearly all of the countries bordering on Germany and in many other countries where there are a considerable number of the refugees deserve the highest praise.

Their manifold activities in supplying relief, in directing retraining and in administering emigration have resulted in the settlement of approximately 27,000 refugees from Germany in new homes.


This work has been made possible only through the large funds raised by the private organizations in most of the countries adjacent to Germany, generously supplemented by grants up to the limit of their resources from the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee, the Central British Fund for German Jewry, the Jewish Agency for Palestine, and the Jewish Colonization Association. This record in the face of the extraordinarily adverse presentday economic conditions, is proof of the devotion of these organizations.

But no one connected with the work is satisfied. On the contrary, partially as the result of recent regulations by the German government affecting the transfer of funds, the situation of thousands of Jewish and Christian refugees is now acute. In certain centers, particularly Paris and Praha, the need for immediate day-to-day relief is desperate. Moreover, funds for training and retraining are inadequate, and the larger funds needed for the carrying forward of the further tasks of emigration and settlement, are not only not yet available—there is even doubt whether these will be made available. Meantime in many countries the opportunities for the refugees to try to find work and to make themselves secure are being lessened, not enlarged. This governmental restrictive tendency in turn disco: rages the private individuals and organizations in Great Britain and the United States who hithertofore have supplied the bulk of the funds for emigration. The remaining refugees therefore are moving in a vicious circle—insecure and not permitted to work where they are, and not enabled to settle elsewhere.


Nor can we be sure that the flow of refugees from Germany will cease in the near future. The conditions which brought about the initial flight from the Reich have not been fundamentally altered. The pressure of economic and other circumstances on the whole generation of young Jewish men and women continues to be such as to make their future within Germany difficult and doubtful. And within the next few months events in the Saar Territory may add largely to the total of refugees.

Under these circumstances there can be no expectation of further progress, unless the facts no matter how difficult or unpleasant they may be are faced frankly, and unless exceptional efforts, governmental and private are made to overcome these difficulties. Therefore I must appeal again to all the governments concerned to enlarge not narrow the opportunities for the refugees to establish themselves where they are, or to become members of new communities: and I must appeal again to the generosity of Jews and Christians alike in all parts of the world that the essential resources may continue to be made available to give to these thousands of innocent victims a chance to rebuild their lives.


A fair evaluation of the work done on behalf of the German refugees must take account of more than the bare facts these facts must be interpreted in the light of the excessively unfavorable conditions of the last eighteen months. During more normal times such as those which prevailed in the years of the great Russian emigration more than a decade ago the task that faced the private organizations and the office of the High Commissioner would have been relatively easy. But in a period of world-wide economic crisis only here and there showing signs of improvement, the task has been extremely difficult. And it has not been made easier by the tendency in many quarters toward economic nationalism. In recent months several political developments have been widely interpreted as justifying the most extreme forms of autarchy. Therefore it is in a world of improvised but rigid national controls, where freedom of movement of goods, of capital and of humar beings has entirely disappeared or is severely restricted, that the work of caring for and of helping to settle the German refugees has to be carried on.


Emigration of the refugees or of those within Germany who would otherwise become refugees has been the basic task. At the last meeting of the governing body it was agreed that the work of emigration, particularly overseas, should be developed as rapidly as may be. It is impossible to give precise figures, but it is estimated that since March, 1933, about 22,000 have gone overseas, whereas several thousands have settled permanently in European countries. The largest number of the emigrants have continued to go to Palestine at the rate of 10,000 a year. There are good reasons to expect that this scale of emigration to Palestine can be continued. That country enjoys the distinction of being one of the few prosperous regions in the world. That happy situation is in no small part the result of the steady inflow of industrious and capable emigrants from Central Europe, bringing with them material and physical resources, and, what may be even more important, moral and spiritual resources—the creative force of an ideal.

Emigration to Palestine has been effectively directed by a special committee of the Jewish Agency. During the summer the emigration to countries other than Palestine was accelerated through the energetic efforts of the HICEM and the cooperating organization, the Anglo-HICEM. Within the Reich the emigration agency of German Jewry is in no way associated with the office of the High Commissioner, but it is interesting to note from its report that the emigration overseas is steadily increasing, while the movement of persons to other countries in Europe is decreasing, and that the total emigration of Jews from Germany direct to countries overseas excluding Palestine, is reckoned at 400 a month. Thus the central organizations of German Jewry, by un-

This is the first of three articles in which Mr. McDonald reports on various aspects of his work. The second article will appear tomorrow.

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