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World War II: Refugee Problem After The War

(1942) Excerpts

Before the war it was fairly clear that the scope of large-scale settlement was limited. The first difficulty is that of finance. The cost per family is high, and there is usually an initial period of several years before the settler becomes self-supporting. Even after this he can only repay the capital spent on his behalf over a long period of years, and there is always the very real danger of overloading him with a burden of long-term debt. On the other hand, if he does not make a considerable contribution towards this capital expenditure, the cost becomes prohibitive. Again, the only practical form of settlement dealing with large numbers is agricultural, associated in some cases with allied industries, As a producer of primary products, the settler is dependent on world markets, and since the last war, the experience of agricultural producers has fluctuated between a short boom and a long and very deep depression. It is quite impossible to forecast what may happen to primary producers after the present war. Some yesrs may intervene before a safe estimate can be made. At all events, there will be great uncertainty for some time. It will be unsafe to embark on big schemes of land settlement without obtaining the best advise obtainable, and it may be doubted whether the economist will be able to give a positive opinion. Two conditions will most probably have to be satisfied: first, a low capital cost per family; and second, the careful selection as settlers of persons who are hereditary agriculturalists, or who have had a very thorough training. The transfer of peasants from one European area to another may, however, be a practical proposition, when it would not be feasible to transfer refugees with no agricultural traditions to countries where the climat and other conditions are different from those to which they have been accustomed. While, therefore, big-scale settlement can make a contribution to the general sclution, I am very doubtful whether, during the years immediately following the war, it can play a substantial part, except in the case of peasant refugees. So far as Jews are concerned, it must certainly be preceded by a thorough training, and accompanied by a determination to stick to the land.

An important exception must be made in the case of settlement in Palestine. There the scope is not confined to agricultural settlement, and even in the agricultural field religious and racial fervour, supported by first-class organisation, has achieved a very large measure Of success. Finance hitherto has not been a difficulty, since the community as a whole has been willing to provide the necessary funds on a very generous scale, and will no doubt be willing to do so in the future. The difficulty in Palestine arises from the fact that absorption is determined by political and economic factors. It is to be hoped that, so far as these will allow, Palestine will make its full contribution.

Source: Myron C. Taylor, "The Refugee Problems After the War," Franklin D. Roosevelt Library