I have received and considered the report of Mr. Earl
G. Harrison, our representative on the Intergovernmental Committee on
Refugees, upon his mission to inquire into the condition and needs of
displaced persons in Germany who may be stateless or non-repatriable,
particularly Jews. I am. sending you a copy of that report. I have also
had a long conference with him on the same subject matter.
While Mr. Harrison makes due allowance for the fact
that during the early days of liberation the huge task of mass repatriation
required main attention, he reports conditions which now exist and which
require prompt remedy. These conditions, I know, are not in conformity
with policies promulgated by SHAEF, now Combined Displaced Persons Executive.
But they are what actually exists in the field. In other words, the
policies are not being carried out by some of your subordinate officers.
For example, military government officers have been
authorized and even directed to requisition billeting facilities from
the German population for the benefit of displaced persons. Yet, from
this report, this has not been done on any wide scale. Apparently it
is being taken for granted that all displaced persons, irrespective
of their former persecution or the likelihood that their repatriation
or resettlement will be delayed, must remain in camps--many of which
are overcrowded and heavily guarded. Some of these camps are the very
ones where these people were herded together, starved, tortured and
made to witness the death of their fellow-inmates and friends and relatives.
The announced policy has been to give such persons preference over the
German civilian population in housing. But the practice seems to be
quite another thing.
We must intensify our efforts to get these people out
of camps and into decent houses until they can be repatriated or evacuated.
These houses should be requisitioned from the German civilian population.
That is one way to implement the Potsdam policy that the German people
"cannot escape responsibility for what they have brought upon themselves."
I quote this paragraph with particular reference to
the Jews among the displaced persons:
"As matters now stand, we appear to be treating
the Jews as the Nazis treated them except that we do not exterminate
them. They are in concentration camps in large numbers under our military
guard instead of S.S. troops. One is led to wonder whether the German
people, seeing this, are not supposing that we are following or at least
condoning Nazi policy."
You will find in the report other illustrations of
what I mean.
I hope you will adopt the suggestion that a more extensive
plan of field visitation by appropriate Army Group Headquarters be instituted,
so that the humane policies which have been enunciated are not permitted
to be ignored in the field. Most of the conditions now existing in displaced
persons camps would quickly be remedied if through inspection tours
they came to your attention or to the attention of your supervisory
I know you will agree with me that we have a particular
responsibility toward these victims of persecution and tyranny who are
in our zone. We must make clear to the German people that we thoroughly
abhor the Nazi policies of hatred and persecution. We have no better
opportunity to demonstrate this than by the manner in which we ourselves
actually treat the survivors remaining in Germany.
I hope you will report to me as soon as possible the
steps you have been able to take to clean up the conditions mentioned
in the report.
I am communicating directly with the British Government
in an effort to have the doors of Palestine opened to such of these
displaced persons as wish to go there.
Very sincerely yours,
HARRY S. TRUMAN