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Anglo-american Committee Told Majority of Displaced Jews Wish to Go to Palestine

January 8, 1946
See Original Daily Bulletin From This Date

The Anglo-American Inquiry Committee on Palestine opened public hearings here today with Earl Harrison, American representative on the Intergovernmental Committee for Refugees, testifying that most of the displaced Jews in thirty camps visited by him in Germany and Austria refuse to return to their native lands and wish to emigrate to Palestine.

Harrison, who studied the position of the displaced Jews in Europe as a special representative of President Truman, told the Committee that the main solution, and in many ways “the only one,” for the Jewish survivors in the camps for displaced persons lies in the quick evacuation to Palestine of the non-repatriable refugees wishing to emigrate there. He expressed the hope that the inquiry committee would strongly recommend some kind of international machinery to carry out its expected proposals on resettlement.

“I hope the committee will not spend much time in recommending ways in which Jews who do not wish to resettle in their home countries might be able to live in Germany and Austria,” Harrison said. He related that he had had the possibility of rehabilitation of such Jews on German soil very much in mind during the early part of his mission “in order to show our contempt for and condemnation of Nazi policies,” but that after ascertaining the wish of the great majority in the thirty camps he visited to emigrate to Palestine, he recognized “how inhuman” it would be to force them to remain, merely to prove a point to the German people or to avoid some very difficult problem.

Stating that he had kept closely in touch with the displaced persons situation since his return from Europe, Harrison further reiterated the conclusion of his report that “Palestine is definitely and primarily” the choice of most Jewish survivors in Germany and Austria. Many have relatives there, he said, and have experienced such persecution in their homeland that only in Palestine do they feel sure of a welcome and of opportunity to work and live in peace. “For some of the European Jews there is no decent solution other than Palestine,” he said, declaring that “nothing has occurred since my investigation to cause me to change my mind in the slightest.”


Harrison criticized the seeming policy of the Intergovernmental Committee on Refugees “of doing as little as possible to resettle displaced persons on the theory that it would encourage others to consider themselves as non-repatriable. He hoped the Inquiry Committee would recommend wider financial support for the Intergovernmental Committee on Refugees than it receives now solely from the American and British governments. He concluded by telling the committee he was sure they would find memorandums submitted by the Jewish Agency for Palestine as “a very persuasive piece of testimony.”

Dr. Joseph Schwartz, testifying as European director of the Joint Distribution Committee, agreed with Harrison that the great majority of the displaced Jews in Germany and Austria must be removed at once. He warned of rapidly growing demoralization if they are not evacuated. The only country which has offered quick opportunity for removal, he said, is Palestine. He estimated that eighty to ninety percent of the Polish Jews want to go there.


In Poland itself, he continued, the great majority of Jews are “sitting on their valises waiting for a chance to get out.” He told of a pogrom which took place in Cracow, which he visited a week after it occurred, and of an attack on a Jewish orphanage at Rabke, the only one in Poland, which had to be closed after being bombed. It was only a result of chance, he said, that no Jewish children were killed. It requires no conspiracy, as Gen. Morgan charged, for Jews to leave Poland, the J.D.C. director emphasized. In all of Poland, he said, there are today only about 5,000 Jewish children and no more than 100 intact Jewish families.

Dr. Schwartz pointed out that admission to the United States under the existing quota laws, even in view of President Truman’s recent order, was not a solution, since about 60,000 Polish Jews are waiting for release from Germany alone. With 6,500 visas available for all Poles, he pointed out, it would take ten years to bring in the Polish Jews even if all visas were to be given to Jews – which is not contemplated. There are 10,000 Hungarian Jews who want to leave, and only 800 visas a year for all Hungarians, he added.

Of the 1,300,000 Jewish children up to 14 years old who lived in Europe before the war, only 150,000 have survived, Dr. Schwartz continued. Most of them are either fully or half orphaned. They suffered all the horrors of concentration camp life and have had no education. “The children do not want to stay in places where in many cases they saw their parents killed,” he testified.

Every returning Jew in Europe made at least ten anti-Semites, Dr. Schwartz continued. Everyone had some form of Jewish property and all were afraid that the Jew whose property he held would come back to claim it. Asked by Sir John Singleton, British co-chairman of the committee, whether the Jews’ desire to leave Eastern Europe would not change if conditions improved, Dr. Schwartz said that they had lost too much and they had no confidence in rebuilding their lives there.


Isadore Hershfield, HIAS counsel, recommended the following three steps for a permanent solution of the problem of displaced Jews:

1. Immediate measures to provide the displaced persons with the documents necessary for emigration.

2. Authorizing consular officials of the United States. Britain and all other countries willing to accept refugees to expedite measures for such emigration.

3. Opening the doors of Palestine to European Jews.

Hershfield said that a report of a HIAS representative recently returned from Europe, revealed that the majority of Jews in Germany, Italy, Switzerland and Poland wish to emigrate to Palestine. The great majority of the 11,000 Jews in Bergen-Belsen, at least 75 percent of those in Italy and Sweden, and over 11,000 of the 50,000 Jewish refugees in Switzerland desire to go to Palestine, the HIAS representative reported, according to Hershfield.

He characterized Poland as “the sore spot” and declared that the Polish Jews who have returned to Central Europe from Poland have not done so because of “wander- lust.” He said that there is no place other than Palestine for the 20,000 Jews now in Shanghai.

Herhsfield recommended that the civilized countries of the world, as well as Palestine, should receive Jewish refugees for permanent settlement in proportion to the population and unsettled area of the respective countries. Singleton and Richard Crossman, another British member, questioned Hershfield rather sharply on this point. Hershfield, in answer to their questions, stated that some South American countries, Canada, Australia and New Zealand, could afford permanent homes for the displaced Jews.

Major Manningham-Buller, another British member, asked Hershfield to elaborate on the proportionate immigration possibilities of Palestine. Hershfield replied that Palestine was in a different category, having been named in the mandate as the Jewish National Home. Quick correction was interjected by a British member who said “A” Jewish home.


Robert Nathan, who, last Spring, conducted an economic survey in Palestine for the American Palestine Institute, told the inquiry committee that there was now a shortage of manpower in Palestine and 100,000 immigrants could be absorbed almost immediately without any economic difficulty. He also estimated that the absorptive capacity of Palestine would permit the immigration within the next ten years of a minimum of 615,000 and a conservative maximum of 1,125,000 immigrants.

Nathan delivered a blistering attack on the Palestine Government for its negative and ineffective measures in regard to immigration. He said that any development of the country’s real potential would require a positive and imaginative government policy. The role of the Palestine Government, he said, would be the most vital signal determinant in the country’s future.

On the basis of his study in Palestine, Nathan told the committee that the Arabs had benefited from Jewish immigration in the following ways: 1. The life expectancy of Moslems had increased; 2. While the Arab birth rate remained high the infant mortality had dropped; 3. The better Arab health conditions were shown to be correlated with Arab proximity to Jewish settlements; 4. Arabs had benefited by being employed in Jewish chemical and industrial plants and by Jewish citrus growers; 5. Arabs had found a Jewish market for their agricultural products; 6. Jewish immigration had enhanced the general Arab standard of living.

Though Palestine had been fairly self-sufficient before the war, said Nathan, there has been a tremendous expansion, particularly in citrus growing but also in industry. He said he was surprised to find foundries manufacturing auto and ship parts for Britain’s war effort and for other Middle East countries.

Aggressive questioning by several of the British members of the committee, chiefly co-chairman Singleton, marked the conclusion of the first day’s testimony. Singleton asked whether further acquisition of land by the Jews would not intensify differences between Jews and Arabs. Arthur Gass, associate of Nathan, denied this. The more land bought in rural areas and subjected to irrigation, said Gass, the more land will be left to the Arabs for agricultural use.

Singleton then asked whether it was true that acquisition of more land by Jews would increase friendship between Arabs and Jews, or would have no ill effects. Gass replied that if the acquisition of land were an isolated act unaccompanied by other economic processes, it could only create ill will, but many advantages flowed from the Jewish acquisition when accompanied by economic development.

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