- REFUGEES (1933–1949). When the Nazis came to power, many Jews believed that this chapter in German history would soon pass, that Germany would come to its senses, and that Hitler could not last long. Over time, however, the ranks of the pessimists swelled. After kristallnacht (the November 1938 pogroms) for most German Jews the question was not whether to leave but where to go. Could a place of refuge be found? Would some country – any country – be willing to receive Jews? By the beginning of the war, the quest for refuge became a matter of life and death. The first wave of German Jews seeking refuge began in 1933 when according to Reichsvertretung der Deutschen Juden records, 52,000 Jews left and 37,000 who were abroad remained there. In 1934 the pace of emigration slowed down as conditions stabilized and after the Nuremberg laws of 1935, it once again intensified. Most Jews went to neighboring countries presuming that they were leaving Germany for a time and not for good and never imagining that Germany would conquer the lands in which they had found refuge. By 1938 approximately one in four Jews had left. Some countries were willing to receive some Jews but never in the numbers that would resolve the problem; Turkey imported professors, architects, musicians, physicians, and lawyers to Westernize their country. The quest for refuge was related to the perception of the viability of Jewish life in Germany. The calmer things remained the more Jews stayed and after periods of turmoil the pace of Jewish emigration quickened. By early 1938 the process of Aryanization had impoverished many Jews, making their lives within Germany ever more difficult and making them even less desirable to potential countries of refuge. In March, Germany entered Austria and as 200,000 more Jews became part of the expanded Reich, the Anschluss reversed, seemingly overnight, the "progress" that Germany had made during the previous years to be rid of its Jews. Efforts were made to speed up the emigration of Jews and adolf eichmann was dispatched to Vienna to organize the departure of its Jews. His success there propelled his career. The evian Conference of July 1938, convened ostensibly to solve the refugee crisis, proved that countries were unwilling to receive the Jews, at least not in sufficient numbers to handle the crisis. Only the Dominican Republic was willing to receive a large number of refugees, the comfortable euphemism for Jews. In October 1938, things went from bad to worse. Jews of Polish origin living in Germany were expelled, and in November Kristallnacht made matters all the more urgent. At the beginning of the Jewish quest for refuge, Jews could leave with their possessions and could dispose of what they had in an orderly fashion. Year after year, this became less possible. Economic restrictions on the Jews undermined their basic ability to earn a living and Aryanization deprived them of businesses and resources. By the late 1930s many were impoverished and appeared desperate. The haavara agreement of 1933, which permitted Jews to dispose of their property in Germany and receive a percentage of their capital in Palestine, was not augmented by any other agreements. (Aryeh Tartakower / Michael Berenbaum (2nd ed.) -High Commissioner for Refugees from Germany When Hitler came to power in Germany in 1933, thousands of Jews, together with many non-Jewish anti-Nazis, were compelled to take refuge in adjacent countries. Democratic governments and large Jewish organizations exerted pressure on the League of Nations to deal with the refugee problem. On Oct. 26, 1933, the League appointed james g. mcdonald as high commissioner for refugees from Germany, with the task of negotiating for international collaboration for solving the economic, financial, and social problems of the refugees. In order to avoid offense to Germany, at that time still a member of the League, the high commissioner worked independently and did not report to the League Council but to its own governing body. Its budget was mainly provided by Jewish organizations. The high commissioner achieved little except for conventions on political and legal protection (in 1933 and 1938), and, convinced that without the authority of the League his efforts were useless, he resigned on Dec. 27, 1935. In February 1936, after Germany left the League, Sir Neill Malcolm (1869–1953) succeeded McDonald as high commissioner, this time with direct responsibility to the League. In May 1938 his office was extended to help refugees from Austria, but it was limited to legal and political protection for refugees and intervention with the governments of the countries of asylum in order to provide residence and work permits. On Sept. 30, 1938, the Assembly of the League decided to merge the existing Nansen Office for Refugees of the League with the Office of the High Commissioner for Refugees from Germany and on Jan. 1, 1939, it appointed Sir Herbert Emerson (1881–1962) as high commissioner for all refugees for a period of five years. Despite the League's efforts to ease the situation of the refugees, the practical results were not encouraging. However, the Office of the High Commissioner for Refugees from Germany was marginally useful both in securing legal status for stateless refugees and in coordinating the work of the numerous Jewish voluntary and philanthropic organizations. In 1939 the situation became ever more desperate. Jews were willing to go anywhere. Seventeen thousand Jews arrived in Shanghai. Jews from Eastern Europe were later to join them in Japanese-occupied China. But there were few places to go. The United States operated on a quota system. A British White Paper limited the number of Jews immigrating to Palestine. Cuba and the United States turned away the ship St. Louis carrying affluent Jewish refugees. With nowhere to go, they were forced to return to Europe. When the Germans invaded Poland in September 1939, some Polish Jews faced a critical decision. History had taught them that refuge was in the West. During World War I, the Germans had been relatively benign during occupation. Did one go west or east to the land of Czar and of the pogroms, a land from which Jews had been fleeing for decades? Those who went against the grain of history and of collective wisdom suffered but were not killed. It is estimated that about half a million Jews left for the Soviet Union in the wake of the German advance. Many of these people were later engulfed by the German conquest of the Soviet-held territories, as were their counterparts, Jews who had left for France and Denmark, Belgium and Holland and other West European countries. Neutral countries were reluctant to be overrun by Jews. Switzerland received 21,500 but thousands more were turned away. And in the fall of 1938, the Swiss Foreign Ministry requested that the Germans stamp Jewish passports with the letter J so that non-Jewish Germans could enter Switzerland freely. Spain received some Jews. Those who made it over the Pyrenees were not turned back; they were sent on to Portugal, from where many managed to leave for the United States. Some German allies, notably Italy and Hungary, received some Jews. Sweden provided a sanctuary for Scandinavian Jews fleeing Denmark, but that was in 1943 when it was understood that Germany would lose the war. Clandestine passage to Palestine remained an option but the sinking of a stricken ship, the Struma, just outside Turkish waters in 1941 by a Soviet submarine, killing all but one of its passengers, underscored the difficulties of such dangerous routes. The Emergency Rescue Committee had a program for the cultural elite of Central Europe, but that was of little use to others. Among the great figures who fled were Jean Arp, Andre Breton, marc chagall , Marcel Duchamp, Max Ernst, jacques lipshitz , Andre Masson, and Henri Matisse. Eminent musicians included george szell and bruno walter . Many established writers came to the United States, among them franz werfel , the novelist whose work, Forty Days At Musa Dagh, conveyed the tragedy of the Armenians and was invoked by Jewish resistance fighters in Bialystok and Warsaw. lion feuchtwanger and max brod , the friend and biographer of franz kafka , were forced to flee. Feuchtwanger came to the United States and Brod reached Palestine. sigmund freud dispatched his disciples around the globe before he left Vienna for London. The Jewish refugee movement during the 12 years of Nazi rule (1933–45) differed in its structure from the usual population migrations, including Jewish migrations in previous generations. Among the German-Jewish immigrants to Palestine in the years 1933–37, practically all of whom were refugees, 52.2% were males and 47% females (0.8% were not recorded). The Jewish immigration to the U.S. in 1939–43, all of whom were refugees, showed a ratio of 46.3% males as against 53.7% females. The percentage of women refugees was much higher in comparison with general migration figures (in 1899–1914, out of every 100 immigrants to the U.S., 68.29% were males and 31.71% females), and even compared with general Jewish migration figures, where the percentage of women was always much higher (55.97% males as against 44.03% females). The refugee movement was thus mostly a family migration. This is also confirmed by the age structure of the movement and particularly by the considerable number of children (21% of the refugee migration to the U.S. in 1939–43; in the German-Jewish migration to Palestine in 1933–39, the age group of 1–20 was 32.5% – considerably more than within the Jewish population in Germany itself (21.5%) due to the fact that children were often sent out alone while the parents stayed behind in Germany) and old people, whereas people of working age were considerably less represented. There were also differences in the occupational structure. Jewish mass migrations in the 19th and 20th centuries had consisted mostly of artisans and small traders, with no means of their own, who went abroad in search of a living. However, figures relating to German Jews coming to Palestine in 1933–39 showed 25.6% in the liberal professions and 27.7% as merchants, while industrialists and artisans accounted for 24.1%. Figures on Jewish immigration to the U.S. in 1932–43 showed nearly one-fifth (19.8%) in the liberal professions and 41.9% merchants. They brought with them rather considerable amounts of money, when some property could still be taken out of Germany. The estimate of such transfers to the U.S. up to the outbreak of World War II reached $650,000,000 while for Great Britain up to mid-1938 the figure was £12,000,000 (prewar parity $48,000,000). The haavara transferred the equivalent of £P 8,000,000 ($32,000,000) in the first years of Nazi rule into Palestine, while capital imported into the country in 1937–41 reached about £14,000,000. These possibilities of transfer gradually disappeared, until the refugees were forbidden to take with them any funds whatsoever and those who departed had less money because of years of economic harassment. Then the family character of the refugee movement and its occupational structure added to the difficulties of admission and absorption. Large numbers of people with commercial or free professions could not easily find employment in the prospective countries of immigration. The few refugees admitted as immigrants not infrequently had to switch over to other, mostly manual, work. For many refugees the abandonment of their occupation or profession and the changeover to physical work meant extreme hardship or even degradation. Only in Palestine was labor, and especially farming, socially favored, as part of the Zionist pioneer effort. The Nansen Office, established in the early 1920s, when millions fled revolutionary Russia without any travel documents, continued to function up to the end of 1938 and assisted "stateless" Jewish refugees from Germany by issuing them the so-called "Nansen passports," which established their identity and enabled them to travel. Among the German-Jewish refugees (after 1933) only those from the territory of the Saar took advantage of its assistance. For the rest a special agency was created by the Assembly of the League of Nations, in October 1933, called the High Commissioner for Refugees (Jewish and Other) coming from Germany (see below). The intergovernmental evian Conference convened by President Roosevelt in July 1938, in which 32 governments and representatives of 39 private organizations, among them 21 Jewish bodies, participated, set up a permanent Intergovernmental Committee for Refugees with headquarters in London. In February 1939 it merged with the office of the High Commissioner for German Refugees, but it hardly fulfilled the aims for which it was established. Apart from a few unsuccessful attempts at negotiations with the German authorities, very little was done before and during the war to help the refugees and deportees. The failure was due to the general atmosphere of helplessness during those years and a lack of real understanding for the tragedy of the refugees. Even later, when the German policy of the total extermination of European Jewry was known all over the world, the bermuda Conference of Great Britain and the U.S. in April 1943 proved completely fruitless. Its task was to manage a domestic problem, not to solve a refugee problem. Only in January 1944, an election year, after facing enormous pressure from his Secretary of the Treasury Henry Morgenthau Jr. did President Roosevelt establish the War Refugee Board and open a temporary asylum in the United States. A great deal more was accomplished by private, especially Jewish, relief agencies, which tried to mobilize public opinion, find countries willing to admit refugees, and rescue victims in the occupied territories. But even the accomplishments of bodies like the jewish Agency for Palestine, the american jewish joint distribution committee , the world jewish congress , and the Rescue Committee (Va'ad Haẓẓalah) of Orthodox Jewry were also pitifully small compared with the proportions of the disaster. In 1944, under considerable pressure of public opinion, the U.S. government established a special agency, the war refugee board , which succeeded in saving small groups of Jews from German-occupied countries. The only intergovernmental body whose activities proved of some significance was the United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation Administration (unrra ), set up by 44 Allied countries in November 1943. UNRRA took care of the displaced Persons after the end of the war in the countries of their temporary residence as well as aiding them to return to their countries of origin. However, all attempts to induce UNRRA to extend the scope of its activities to include resettlement of non-repatriable Displaced Persons – as, e.g., the overwhelming majority of the Jews among them who refused to go back to Poland, the U.S.S.R., Hungary, etc. – failed. In this field much more was done in the following years by the International Refugee Organization (IRO), established in 1946 (see below). (Shalom Adler-Rudel / Michael Berenbaum (2nd ed.) -The Refugee Movement and its Proportions An exact evaluation of the size of the Jewish refugee movement in the Nazi period and immediately after World War II presents considerable difficulties due to a lack of reliable statistics, especially during the last years of the war. An additional difficulty is how to define who is a refugee. Two attempts to produce accurate statistics were made at the end of 1943, one by the Institute of Jewish Affairs of the World Jewish Congress in New York and the other by the International Labor Organization (ILO). The Institute estimated the number of Jewish refugees at 2,391,000, the number of people deported from one country to another at 665,000, and those displaced within the same country at 2,205,000. These figures totaled over 5,000,000 – more than half of European Jewry. The ILO in a study of the war period proper estimated the number of Jewish war refugees at 2,200,000 and the number of deportees outside their country at 1,080,000, while Displaced Persons within their own country were estimated at 1,000,000. The total of this study was 4,150,000 and including Jewish refugees before 1939, the estimate comes to about 4,500,000. A deduction from the overall number of refugees of persons who found temporary admission in the interior of the U.S.S.R. during the war brings the figure to more than 800,000 distributed as seen in Table 1: Countries of Reception for Jewish Refugees 1933–1943. (For emigration of Jews from Germany in the period April 1933 to May 1939, including areas occupied by Germany by May 1939, see Table 2.) Compared with the overall figure of 5,000,000 Jewish refugees and deportees in this period, those admitted to different countries (most of whom survived), came to no more than one-sixth. The number was everywhere severely limited; only the U.S., Palestine, and to a certain degree England admitted larger numbers than the others. The overall figures of refugees and deportees rose considerably in the remaining years of the war, as the Hungarian Jews were included in deportation in 1944 and the remnants of Jews in several countries of occupied Europe were rounded up and transported to other areas. The grand total may therefore have reached 7,000,000 and perhaps even more, but the great majority of them perished, some during the process of deportation itself (German official sources estimated that 30% of those deported died on the way), and the others in ghettos and in labor and extermination camps. No more than one-fourth survived the war period. As to the definition of a refugee, two attempts deserve mention. In 1936 the Institute of International Law defined refugees as persons who have left or been forced to leave their country for political reasons, who have been deprived of its diplomatic protection, and who have not acquired the nationality or diplomatic protection of any other state (Summaire de l'Institut du Droit International, vol. 1 (1936), 294). The second definition, in 1951, went much further, considering as a refugee any person forced to leave his place of residence for reasons independent of his will (The Refugee in the Post-War World. Preliminary Report of a Survey of the Refugee Problem. Published by the United Nations, Geneva, 1951. Part One, Chapter One. The Concept of "Refugee," pp. 3ff.). From the point of view of Jewish experiences, both definitions are unsatisfactory. The first neglects to take into consideration persons displaced within their own country whose number Table 1: Countries of Reception for Jewish Refugees 19331943 Table 1: Countries of Reception for Jewish Refugees 1933–1943 Country Number admitted (thousands) Percent United States 190 23.5 Palestine 120 14.8 England 65 8.1 France 55 6.8 Belgium 30 3.7 Holland 35 4.3 Switzerland 16 1.9 Spain 12 1.4 Other European countries 70 8.8 Argentina 50 6.2 Brazil 25 3.1 Uruguay 7 0.8 Bolivia 12 1.4 Chile 14 1.7 Other Latin American countries 20 2.4 China 25 3.1 South Africa 8 1.0 Australia 9 1.1 Canada 8 1.0 Other countries 40 4.9 Total 811 100.0 Table 2: Emigration of Jews from Germany in the Period April 1933 to May 1939, including Areas Occupied by Germany by May 19391 Table 2: Emigration of Jews from Germany in the Period April 1933 to May 1939, including Areas Occupied by Germany by May 19391 Country of Reception No. of German immigrants 2"> 1 Estimated figures. United States 63,000 Palestine 55,000 Great Britain 40,000 France 30,000 Argentina 25,000 Brazil 13,000 South Africa 5,500 Italy 5,000 Other European countries 25,000 Other South American countries 20,000 Far Eastern countries 15,000 Other 8,000 Total 304,500 grew into the millions during the years of mass deportations, whereas the second definition is too broad because it includes victims of natural catastrophes, and only man-made events should be taken into consideration. A general definition, based mainly but not exclusively on Jewish experience in the 1930s and 1940s, would consider as refugees persons forced to leave their places of residence because of political or other man-made reasons, independent of their will or their individual character, mostly because of their race, religion, nationality, or political convictions. (Aryeh Tartakower / Michael Berenbaum (2nd ed.) -International Refugee Organization (IRO) The IRO was created by the General Assembly of the United Nations on Feb. 12, 1946, as a specialized agency for refugees and stateless persons to assist in the repatriation, protection, and resettlement of refugees and Displaced Persons after World War II. A special Committee on Refugees and Displaced Persons was then set up to work out a draft constitution for a nonpermanent organization to replace existing refugee organizations (such as UNRRA and the Intergovernmental Committee for Refugees (IGCR). The Economic and Social Council ratified the draft constitution on Sept. 30, 1946, and the General Assembly gave its final approval on December 15 that year. The IRO constitution determined the criterion for "eligibility" of a refugee or Displaced Person. The signatures of 15 member states who would contribute 75% of the operational budget were required before the organization could function effectively. By Dec. 31, 1946, eight governments had signed the constitution, thereby making it possible to establish a preparatory commission for the IRO (PCIRO) which would immediately assume certain functions and become fully operative. On June 30, 1947, this commission went into effect and the responsibilities of UNRRA and IGCR were transferred to it; but the organization did not formally come into existence until Aug. 20, 1948, when the 15th member ratified the constitution. When the PCIRO began operations there were over 1,000,000 refugees, 20% of whom were Jews, in the liberated countries of Europe. At the peak of its operations in 1948, the IRO was working in about 30 countries and employed an international staff of 2,800. Between 1947 and 1951, it maintained about 1,500,000 refugees, repatriated 75,000, and resettled 1,040,000. These results were achieved at a cost of $430,000,000 which was contributed by 18 countries. About 20 countries offered to resettle refugees. Three of these countries accepted nearly two-thirds of all the refugees for resettlement: the United States, 330,000; Australia, 182,000; Israel, 132,000. The IRO was helped by many governments and 25 voluntary societies which included six Jewish organizations, the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee (JDC), the Jewish Agency for Palestine, united hias service , ort , oze , and the Jewish Committee for Relief Abroad. The government of Israel in cooperation with the JDC and the Jewish Agency for Palestine undertook final responsibility for the resettlement and care of 8,700 hard-core cases toward which the IRO provided assistance amounting to $6,500,000. It contributed over $10,000,000 for transportation costs toward resettling refugees in Israel. The IRO succeeded the IGCR as trustee for international reparations (amounting to $25,000,000) for the resettlement of Jewish refugees. The IRO was dissolved in February 1952 when some of its functions were taken over by governments and voluntary agencies; others were handed over to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees and to the Provisional Intergovernmental Committee for the Movement of Migrants from Europe. (Shalom Adler-Rudel) -BIBLIOGRAPHY: A. Tartakower and K.R. Grossmann, Jewish Refugee (1944); J.H. Simpson, The Refugee Problem (1939); Z. Warhaftig, Uprooted: Jewish Refugees and Displaced Persons After Liberation (1946); M. Wischnitzer, To Dwell in Safety (1948); J. Vernant, The Refugee in the Post-War World (1951); E.M. Kulischer, The Displacement of Population in Europe (1943); E. Dekel, Bi-Netivei ha-"Berihah," 2 vols. (1958); Bauer, in: Yalkut Moreshet, 2, no. 4 (1965), 93–117; P. Frings, Das internationale Fluechtlingsproblem 1919–1950 (1952). INTERNATIONAL REFUGEE ORGANIZATION (IRO): L.W. Holborn, International Refugee Organization (1956), incl. bibl. HIGH COMMISSIONER FOR REFUGEES FROM GERMANY: A.D. Morse, While Six Million Died (1968), index; J.G. Macdonald, Letter of Resignation (1935); J.H. Simpson, Refugee Problem (1939), 214–18. ADD. BIBLIOGRAPHY: D. Wyman, Paper Walls: America and the Refugee Crisis 1938–1941 (1968), idem, The Abandonment of the Jews (1985); M. Marrus, The Unwanted: European Refugees in the Twentieth Century (1985).
Encyclopedia Judaica. 1971.