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Letters from the public in support of A refugee camp at OSwego, Ny (1944)

An example of a handwritten letter from a Jewish women's organization: the Women's Division of the American Jewish Congress in Philadelphia, PA. Florence Pichnik, Letter no. 2038 to FDR, June 1944, War Refugee Board Papers, Series 4, Box 73, Folder General-A, Order no. 29 in folder, FDR Library and Museum, Hyde Park, NY.

War Refugee Board Papers, FDR Presidential Library and Museum, Boxes 73-74, Folders A-F

Developed by Dr. Abby Gondek, Morgenthau Scholar-in-Residence

This page is part of the Morgenthau Holocaust Collections Project, a digital history and path-finding initiative to raise awareness of the FDR library's unique but under-explored resources for Holocaust Studies. The FDR Library and the Roosevelt Institute are hosting a virtual conference Oct. 10-15, 2021: Examining American responses to the Holocaust: digital possibilities. This data visualization project is an example of the kind of digital humanities ventures the conference will emphasize. These data visualizations are one answer to the question: How have Holocaust related archives, libraries, museums, and organizations utilized digital possibilities to change the way the public, researchers, educators, and students interact with their materials?

Acknowledgement: Thanks to John Tappen and Eileen Dennis for their assistance with transcription and analysis of the D, E and F folders.

Data visualization using Tableau Public

What was the relationship between the War Refugee Board and the refugee camp at Oswego?

In January 1944, President Franklin D. Roosevelt created the War Refugee Board (WRB), after being convinced by a series of people, organizations and events. These sources of pressure included: Peter Bergson‘s organizing and activism, the Gillette-Rogers Resolution, Breckinridge Long’s false testimony, and of course the “Report to the Secretary on the Acquiescence of this Government in the Murder of the Jews” developed by Treasury staff: Josiah DuBois, Randolph Paul and John Pehle. The WRB was tasked with “taking all possible measures to rescue and save the victims of enemy oppression, and to afford them all possible relief and assistance.”(1) The WRB had contacts throughout Europe and worked with Ambassadors in London, Algiers, Spain, and with governments of allied and neutral nations to attempt to secure safety for refugees and other victims of Axis terror during World War II. In May 1944, overpopulation of refugees in Southern Italy required that these refugees be moved elsewhere, and John Pehle and his staff at the WRB convinced the president to establish an Emergency Refugee Shelter at Fort Ontario, Oswego, New York, to house 1,000 refugees until the termination of the war (actual number rescued: 982). The purpose of creating this refugee camp within the U.S. was as a:

“token to the rest of the world that we, the United States Government, aren’t high and mighty in asking the rest of the world to do something which we aren’t willing to do ourselves.” (2)

(1) John Pehle, “Reply letter to Mr. and Mrs. D. N. Dannenberg,” August 12, 1944, War Refugee Board Papers, Series 4, Box 73, Folder: General D, letter no. 3163, order no. 4 in file, FDR Library and Museum, Hyde Park, NY.

(2) Henry Morgenthau Jr., “Meeting transcript between HMJ, John Pehle, Josiah Du Bois and Henrietta Klotz to discuss the conversation with Mr. McCloy,” MD Vol. 738 (June 2, 1944): 179-180.

What is the purpose of this project?

To systematically develop a large data set (currently in excel) for the letters from the public in support of the “Emergency Refugee Shelter” at Fort Ontario in Oswego, NY. These letters are located in the War Refugee Board Papers, Series 4, Boxes 73-77. For the purposes of this analysis, only letters in folders A, B, C, D, E, and F were used (a total of 8 folders and 244 cases). The digital versions of these folders can be found via the “Digitized Documents Related to the Holocaust” in the folders which begin with the title “Records of the War Refugee Board - Admission of Refugees into the U.S.” The letters were sent from April through November of 1944. Replies were sent by John Pehle, Director of the War Refugee Board, from May through November. There are over 3,000 letters and petitions from the public. The folders span from A-Z and also include separate petitions from the Emergency Committee to Save the Jewish People of Europe (a Peter Bergson group).

Excel database displaying data from the "A" folder; this presentation includes data from Folders A-F. Through the help of Eileen Dennis and John Tappen, folders A-N have been data-fied.

To visualize and display the data from the letters in engaging ways in terms of key patterns or themes related to the senders and the content of the letters (individual or organization, gender, if the letter mentions Jews). The following is an analysis using Tableau Public visualizations that I created using the data from letters in Folders A-F.

This data set can be used by researchers, educators and the public to conduct quantitative or qualitative analysis of the larger themes that the data displays or they can search for specific names of individuals, organizations or locations.

Organization of the visualizations and analysis

First, the timeline of the letters sent in support of the camp at Oswego is discussed. Then, the geographic origin trends of the letters from the public are explored. This is followed by analysis of several variables and their intersections: organizational vs. individual senders, gender of sender, whether an organization was Jewish or not, and whether the letter explicitly mentioned “Jews.” Finally, the factors contributing to the “for, but” response are analyzed. This was a type of response that expressed support for the plan to establish a refugee camp in the U.S., but felt that it was not enough.

Key findings from the data (in folders A-F)

Date: The majority of letters from the public arrived in June 1944. This corresponds with governmental statements and media coverage of the campaign to create the camp.

Geographic origin: The letters primarily came from the Northeast and specifically New York and Pennsylvania & within those states NYC and Philadelphia. This could have been because of the location of the camp (in New York), the fact that FDR’s base was in these states, or that this was where the majority of pro-refugee and pro-immigration constituents lived. Also, this could be explained by the Jewish populations in these major cities and letter writing campaigns.

Organizations: The majority of organizational senders were Jewish. There were more letters from individuals than organizations. Letters from women were more likely to be from individuals than organizations. Letters from men were more likely to be from organizations.

Jewish organizations and gender: If a letter was sent by a woman representing an organization, it was the most likely that it was a Jewish organization. For non-Jewish organizations, it was much more likely that the sender would be male.

Jewish organizations and explicit mention of Jews: Jewish organizations were NOT more likely than non-Jewish organizations to explicitly mention Jews in their letters. Jews were mentioned in a minority of the letters from all senders (27%).

Mention of Jews - individuals and gender: Individuals were more likely than organizations to mention Jews. Women were more likely than men to explicitly mention Jews in their letters.

The “for, but” response: A letter in support of the idea of a US based refugee camp but that argued that one camp was not enough or that it was only the beginning. This type of response made up only 17% of the sample. It was more likely for an individual rather than an organization to express this sentiment. Jewish organizations were not that much more likely than non-Jewish organizations to use a “for, but” type of response. It was more likely for women to use a “for, but” response. Finally there was a high correlation between the “for, but” response and the explicit mention of Jews in the letters.

When did the letters arrive?

Graph 1a. When did the majority of letters arrive? (Day and Month)

The majority of letters were sent by the public in June (54%). Approximately a fifth (21%) came in May.

Graph 1b: In which MONTH did the majority of letters arrive?

Timeline

In April 1944, the idea of “free ports,” a term usually applied to a port area where goods in transit are exempt from customs’ duties, was re-purposed by New York Post columnist Samuel Grafton, who applied this “free ports” concept to refugees. WRB staff members, Josiah Du Bois and Joseph Friedman, were likely his collaborators. Grafton’s article appeared in 41 newspapers with a combined circulation of over 4 million. Only a few days after Grafton’s article was published, a Gallup Poll revealed that 70 percent of respondents were in favor of the creation of refugee camps in the U.S. which would provide temporary refuge. These refugees would arrive outside of the regular immigration procedure, as "prisoners of war," with no rights and no possibility of citizenship unless they applied and went through the official channels to do so (2).

Pehle was questioned at a press conference on April 19, 1944 about whether the WRB was considering bringing more people into the U.S. Pehle replied that “it was being talked about” and used Samuel Grafton’s articles about “free ports” as examples. Then a reporter asked if the WRB was considering free ports, to which Pehle was non-committal, saying instead that “all sorts of things were under consideration.” However, Pehle’s response was mis-interpreted by New York papers to mean that the WRB was for “free ports.” HMJ sent one such article to FDR on April 19, 1944. The article stated clearly: “The War Refugee Board is considering… a plan to establish free ports of temporary residence in the United States for refugees from Nazi Europe… disclosed today by John W. Pehle, executive director of the board." (3)

In early May, an official proposal was created by the Board for the President (based on earlier drafts from March) suggesting that action be taken to create “temporary havens of refuge” within the United States. However, there were debates whether this step should be taken immediately by Executive action or submitted to Congress for approval. On May 4, 1944 in the New York Times, an editorial appeared arguing that prisoners of war were permitted entry into the US (“our captive enemies”) so why not refugees (“our luckless friends”)? The editorial articulated that the WRB would be a “logical agency” to carry out the “‘free port’ plan” and added that army camps could be used. While some of the refugees might return to their homes after the war, others would find homes in countries where “immigrants might be needed and welcomed” and then some could be “admitted regularly into the United States.” The author articulated that the plan had “nothing to do with unrestricted and uncontrolled immigration. It is simply a proposal to save the lives of innocent people.” (4)

Over 3,000 letters of support came from citizens all over the United States once the idea was publicized nationwide, which helped the War Refugee Board push to establish one such camp.

President Roosevelt was “sympathetic” to the proposal to establish a refugee camp in the U.S. and “pleased” at the “favorable publicity” the “free port” proposal had received, but he disliked the name “free port” because he wanted it to be clear that the refugees would only stay in the U.S. temporarily until the end of the war. He was reluctant to issue an announcement that large numbers of refugees were coming to the US without Congressional approval. However, if a specific emergency situation arose, he would be willing to bring 1000 refugees to the U.S. and then write to Congress after the fact explaining what he had done and why (5).

Meanwhile, in Italy, that exact type of situation was brewing: there were limited facilities for refugees in Allied controlled Italy, the Allied militaries had not been able to encourage the escape of refugees from enemy territory into Italy, and the refugees that managed to escape created a considerable burden to the military, causing them to discourage the escape of more refugees. Pehle informed the President that this situation prevented the rescue of people in Yugoslavia, and Hungary through Yugoslavia, and authorities in Italy were demanding that refugees be taken elsewhere. Pehle believed that this was the type of emergency that warranted FDR to bypass Congress and proceed with establishing a refugee shelter in the United States (6).

At the cabinet meeting May 24, Morgenthau did not get much support for the idea of setting up a refugee camp in the U.S. except the President agreed that the refugees could not be turned back. Harold Ickes (Department of the Interior) was the only one who favored the idea of the camp being set up in the U.S. The President seemed set on housing the refugees in Termini, Sicily. Stimson (Secretary of War) wanted the British to do something, Francis Biddle (Attorney General) attacked Morgenthau and Cordell Hull (Secretary of State) was a “mumble-jumble.” It is important to note that Ickes was the Honorary Chairman of Peter Bergson's Emergency Committee to Save the Jewish People of Europe. On May 25, Alfred E. Smith, the former Governor of NY called a press conference at which he announced that 72 important Americans (non-Jews) signed a petition that asked the President to establish a temporary haven in the U.S. The signers had responded to a telegram from Smith the day after Pehle distributed his new proposal for evacuating 1000 refugees from Italy. Right before this cabinet meeting, the President met with Guy Gillette and a bipartisan group from both houses of Congress. On May 29, Gillette introduced a resolution which urged the President to set up centers for “temporary detention and care” for Jews and other Nazi victims. The Washington Post ran an ad the same day from Bergson’s Emergency Committee supporting the Gillette resolution. Gillette, an ally of Peter Bergson, had developed a resolution in the fall of 1943 for what became the War Refugee Board. Gillette was the President of another Bergson organization, the American League for a Free Palestine (1945-48). (7)

Roosevelt decided that under no circumstances were the refugees in Yugoslavia to be turned back. He liked the idea of a camp in the U.S. for the refugees from Italy, but wanted it to be clear that provisions were being made for refugees in other places as well. The President was persistently pressed about the camp by Pehle and Morgenthau. FDR asked if they had a camp to use, and Pehle said he could get one quickly. The President selected the name “Emergency Refugee Shelter” out of a list of potential names provided to him because of its “temporary” nature as well as the “honest” tone of the word “shelter” (8).

On June 2nd, the War Department informed the War Refugee Board that a vacant United States Army camp, Fort Ontario at Oswego, New York, would be made available to hold refugees nearly immediately. Roosevelt notified cabinet members, representatives in Algiers and Italy as well as Congress (on the 8th and 12th respectively) that the United States would host up to one thousand refugees from Southern Italy in order to relieve the burden placed on the war effort in Europe and to further help victims fleeing from enemy persecution (9).

A few weeks later, in mid-July, Ruth Gruber was chosen to represent the Department of the Interior in Italy and was tasked with accompanying and gathering information about the refugees. This information allowed the War Relocation Authority to better prepare for their arrival in Oswego. Toward the end of the month, the refugees set sail aboard the Henry Gibbons from Southern Italy to their haven in the United States. Upon their early August arrival, the refugees were given health examinations and had their belongings disinfected, and they began their journey from New York City to Hoboken, New Jersey, and on to Oswego by train (10).

(2) Rebecca L. Erbelding, “About Time: The History of the War Refugee Board” (PhD diss., George Mason University, 2015), 291. Arthur G. Klein, “Free Ports for Refugees: Extension of Remarks of Hon. Arthur G. Klein of New York in the House of Representatives,” USA Congressional Record, Proceedings and Debates of the 78th Congress, Second Session, Appendix 90, 9 (May 11, 1944): A2331-2. Sharon Lowenstein, “A New Deal for Refugees: The Promise and Reality of Oswego,” American Jewish History 71, no. 3 (March 1982): 328-329, 334, n. 35. No author, “Report to the War Refugee Board,” MD Vol. 707 (March 8, 1944): 235-240. John Pehle, “Memorandum for the President, draft given to Secretary Morgenthau,” MD Vol. 716 (March 24, 1944): 172-173.

(3) Virginia Mannon, “Treasury Department Inter-office communication to John Pehle,” MD Vol. 722 (April 19, 1944): 340. “Free U.S. Ports to Aid Refugees are Considered: War Refugee Board Studies Setting Up Places Where They Could Await Rescue,” New York Herald Tribune, April 18, 1944, in MD Vol. 722 (April 19, 1944): 343-344.

(4) John Pehle, “Memorandum for the President,” MD Vol. 726 (May 1, 1944): 40-47. John Pehle, “Report to the War Refugee Board,” MD Vol. 707 (March 8, 1944): 235-240. John Pehle, “Memorandum for the President,” MD Vol. 716 (March 24, 1944): 171-174. Arthur G. Klein, “Free Ports for Refugees: Extension of Remarks of Hon. Arthur G. Klein of New York in the House of Representatives,” USA Congressional Record, Proceedings and Debates of the 78th Congress, Second Session, Appendix 90, 9 (May 11, 1944): A2331-2.

(5) John Pehle, “Memorandum to Secretary Hull, Secretary Morgenthau and Secretary Stimson” MD Vol. 734 (May 20, 1944): 12-13.

(6) John Pehle, “Memorandum to the President,” MD Vol. 734 (May 18, 1944): 20-27.

(7) Henry Morgenthau Jr., “Meeting transcript to discuss Cabinet meeting held May 24, 1944,” MD Vol. 736 (May 26, 1944): 67-70. Lowenstein, “A New Deal for Refugees,” 336, 337, n. 42, 43. Rebecca Erbelding, Rescue Board: The Untold Story of America’s Efforts to Save the Jews of Europe (New York: Doubleday, 2018), 44-45, 299. “Gillette, Guy Mark (1879-1973),” Biographical Directory of the United States Congress, 1774-Present, accessed September 1, 2020, https://bioguideretro.congress.gov/Home/MemberDetails?memIndex=G000205

(8) John Pehle, “Memorandum for the Files,” MD Vol. 738 (June 1, 1944): 39-41.

(9) FDR, “Memorandum for: Secretary of War, Secretary of Navy, Secretary of Interior, Director of Budget, Executive Director of the War Refugee Board” and “Cable from the President to Ambassador Robert Murphy, Algiers,” MD Vol. 741 (June 8, 1944): 49-50. FDR, “To the Congress of the United States,” MD Vol. 742 (June 12, 1944): 296-298.

(10) Cordell Hull, "Untitled telegram," Morgenthau Diaries Vol. 755 (July 18, 1944): 281. Rebecca L. Erbelding, “About Time: The History of the War Refugee Board” (PhD diss., George Mason University, 2015), 375. Dillon Myer, "Report on Emergency Refugee Shelter," Morgenthau Diaries Vol. 779 (September 19, 1944): 162-170.

Where did the letters come from?

Graphs 2a, 2b, 2c & map: The letters from the public primarily came from the Northeast and specifically New York and Pennsylvania. 78 percent of the letters, for which origin was known, were from the Northeast. In contrast, 9% were from the South.

47.5 percent of letters (with known origin) were sent from New York state, while 18 percent came from Pennsylvania.

Within these states, major cities such as New York City (and Brooklyn) and Philadelphia were the primary origins for the letters. New York City was the origin of 45 percent of letters from New York and Brooklyn made up 38 percent of the letters from New York. Philadelphia made up 77 percent of the letters from Pennsylvania.

Jewish v. non-Jewish organizations

If the sender was an organization, was it more likely for it to be a Jewish or a non-Jewish organization?

Graph 3: How likely was it for organizational senders to be Jewish?

A majority (64%) of organizational senders were Jewish.

Gender, Individual v. Organization

Graph 4: The gender breakdown for both individual and organizational senders.

Was it more likely for letters to come from individuals or organizations?

There were more individual (119) than organizational senders (78).

Overall there were more female senders (107 female senders versus 90 male senders). Women sent 66% of the letters from individuals, but only 35% of the letters from organizations. For individuals, it was twice as likely that the sender would be female (79 female v. 40 male). For organizational senders, 64% of the time the sender was male (50/78).

Organizations (Jewish and non-Jewish): Gender breakdown

For organizations, was it more likely for women or men to send letters? For Jewish organizations, was it more likely for women or men to send letters?

Graph 5: For organizations (both Jewish and non-Jewish) what was the gender make-up of the senders?

Jewish organizations had a more equal breakdown between male and female senders (23 female versus 29 male) than non-Jewish organizations. It was more probable that a Jewish organization would have a male sender BUT there wasn’t a huge gap between males and females for Jewish organizations (55% v. 44%). In contrast, for non-Jewish organizations, it was much more likely that a male sent the letter (80%).

For letters sent by organizations represented by females, 82% were from Jewish organizations. Thus, if a letter was sent by a woman representing an organization, it was the most likely that she was representing a Jewish organization.

Explicitly mentioning Jews

Graph 6: Which senders were more likely to explicitly mention Jews in their letters?

Were Jewish organizations more likely to mention Jews?

No.

Only 27 percent of letters mentioned Jews specifically (65/242). Though it might be assumed that Jewish organizations would be the most likely to mention Jews, this was not the case. For all organizations (including both Jewish and non-Jewish organizations) 18% (15 out of 82) mentioned Jews. Jewish organizations only explicitly mentioned Jews in 8 cases out of the total of 65 cases in which Jews were mentioned (so 12% of the mentions of Jews were found in letters from senders which were Jewish organizations).

Out of the 53 Jewish organizations in this sample, only 8 mentioned Jews (15% of the cases).

Non-Jewish organizations explicitly mentioned Jews 24% of the time (7/29). Thus, when considering organizations, non-Jewish organizations were more likely than Jewish organizations to mention Jews explicitly.

Of the 15 mentions of Jews from all organizations, 8 of those were from Jewish organizations (53%). In other words, if the sender was an organization and mentioned Jews explicitly, in 53% of the cases the organization was Jewish. Therefore, it could not be concluded that Jewish organizations were more likely than non-Jewish organizations to mention Jews.

Individuals were more likely than organizations to mention Jews.

Individual senders made up 66% of all letters which explicitly mentioned Jews (43/65). Thus, if a letter mentioned Jews it was much more likely that it was from an individual than from an organization or a couple or group.

Jewish orgs, non-Jewish orgs and groups/couples each made up between 11-12 % of the total mentions of Jews.

Gender and explicit mention of Jews

Women were more likely than men to explicitly mention Jews in the text of their letters. 32% of female senders mentioned Jews (36/111), while only 20% of male senders did (19/94). 55 % of mentions of Jews were in letters written by women. Males made up 29% of letters which mentioned Jews.

By clicking on Graph 6 within Tableau Public (and selecting "view full data"), you are able to see the following table which reveals all the senders who were female and explicitly mentioned Jews in their letters. Mrs. W. Gordon is the only case in which a female who was representing a Jewish organization explicitly mentioned Jews (in this sample of folders A-F). Mrs. Gordon was the President of the North Side District Women's Division of the American Jewish Congress (in Chicago).

You can do the same for any aspect of the data in Tableau Public. You can find the original data that contributes to any trend that you are interested in.

Her letter can be found in the War Refugee Board Papers, Series 4, Box 73, Folder: General-A, letter no. 1122, order no. 19 in the file.

This is the letter signed by Mrs. W. Gordon, President of the North Side District Women's Division of the American Jewish Congress. This is a classic example of a "for" letter that mentions Jews explicitly. Jews are mentioned twice: the Jewish people in the U.S. support the War Refugee Board's efforts on behalf of the "persecuted Jews of Europe."

Mrs. W. Gordon, Letter No. 1122 addressed to John Pehle of the WRB, June 1944, War Refugee Board Papers, Series 4, Box 73, Folder: General A, order no. 19 in the folder.

This is Pehle's reply message to Mrs. Gordon. Pehle used a template to write reply messages and this one is very common for the "for" type of letter. This is a classic example of the reply letter sent in June 1944 once the camp at Oswego had been established. This type of reply letter informed the sender of the creation of the Emergency Refugee Shelter and enclosed copies of FDR's messages to Congress, the Ambassador in North Africa, and his memo to agency heads. The final sentence was extremely common: "The concern of your organization for the fate of refugees and your interest in the problem of providing places of asylum for them are greatly appreciated."

John Pehle, "Reply letter to Mrs. Gordon, Letter no. 1122," War Refugee Board Papers, Series 4, Box 73, Folder: General-A, Order no. 19.

The "for, but" response

These were letters which supported the proposal for a temporary refugee camp in the U.S. but expressed that Oswego was only a beginning or that it was not enough. (Note that the “for” response was assigned when the author of the letter was in favor of establishing a refugee camp in the U.S. and did not state that it was only a beginning or that it wasn’t enough.) There were only 42 "for, but" responses in this sample (17%). The “For but” response was analyzed along four different variables to see answer the question: who was more likely to send a “for, but” themed letter?

Individuals vs. Organizations & the "for, but" response

Graph 7a: The "for, but" response - Was the sender more likely to be an organization or an individual?

It was much more likely for an individual rather than an organization to express this sentiment. If an organization did express this kind of view it was NOT that much more likely that it would be a Jewish organization. 76% of the cases who expressed this point of view were individuals and not organizations.

25% of the letters sent by individuals, expressed the “for, but” point of view (36/126). In contrast, only 11% of organizations expressed this viewpoint (9/80). Of the few organizations which expressed this view (a total of 9), 5 of these were Jewish organizations (55.5%).

Gender and the "for, but" response

Graph 7b: Gender and the "For, but" response.

It was more likely for females to express the “for, but” type of response (67% of those expressing the “for, but” viewpoint were female). 25% of women senders wrote “for but” letters while only 14% of male senders did.

By clicking on Graph 7b within Tableau Public, for Jewish women's organizations which expressed the "for, but" response (and then clicking "view data"), you are able to see this table, which reproduces the data from the excel database. You can do the same for any aspect of the data in Tableau Public. You can find the original data that contributes to any trend that you are interested in.

This is the only letter from a Jewish women's organization that expressed a "for, but" response within folders A-F (which is the data that is explored in these visualizations). This letter and resolution came from the Business and Professional Women's Chapter of the Jersey City Women's Division of the American Jewish Congress in Jersey City, NJ. It was sent on June 15, 1944 by Miss R.E. Carlin, Chairman of the Legislative Action Committee.

This is the cover letter for the resolution from the Jersey City Women's Division of the American Jewish Congress, from Jersey City, NJ. This letter and resolution came from the Business and Professional Women's Chapter and was sent to the War Refugee Board on June 15, 1944. It was signed by Miss R.E. Carlin, Chairman of the Legislative Action Committee.

Miss R.E. Carlin, "Cover letter to resolution from the Jersey City Women's Division of the American Jewish Congress," June 15, 1944, War Refugee Board Papers, Series 4, Box 73, Folder: General A, letter no. 1446, order no. 21 in file, FDR Library and Museum, Hyde Park, NY.

This is the resolution from the Business and Professional Women's Chapter of the Jersey City Women's Division of the American Jewish Congress. It was signed by Dorothy Altbuch (President) and Muriel Schwartz (Secretary). This resolution is a perfect example of the "for, but" response because of the following wording "the failure of the USA to take adequate and sufficient measures of rescue would constitute guilt almost equal to that of history's most tyrannic [sic] oppressors" and later the writers ask that FDR expand and extend the stand he has taken so that "as large a number of refugees as can possibly reach our shores" are able to do so and "that our country may then take its rightful place as liberator."

Dorothy Altbuch and Muriel Schwartz, "Resolution from the Jersey City Women's Division of the American Jewish Congress," June 14, 1944, War Refugee Board Papers, Series 4, Box 73, Folder: General A, letter no. 1446, order no. 21 in file, FDR Library and Museum, Hyde Park, NY.

Reply letter from John Pehle, dated July 29, 1944 and addressed to Miss Carlin. Pehle's reply letters were created based on a template that changed slightly based on the passage of time (as the details for the camp at Oswego became clearer) as well as on the content of the letter from the member of the public. "For, but" types of letters typically got a response that included a reference to the War Refugee Board's overall efforts: "I assure you that the War Refugee Board is doing everything in its power to rescue the victims of enemy persecution and to find havens of refuge for them where they can remain in safety and be cared for until they can be returned to their own countries at the end of the war." The emphasis was always on making sure that the refugees returned to their homelands after the war.

John Pehle, "Reply letter to resolution from the Jersey City Women's Division of the American Jewish Congress," July 29, 1944, War Refugee Board Papers, Series 4, Box 73, Folder: General A, letter no. 1446, order no. 21 in file, FDR Library and Museum, Hyde Park, NY.

Explicit mention of "Jews" in the letter & the "for, but" response

Graph 7c: Explicit mention of Jews and the "for, but" response. 

There was a high correlation between the “for, but” response and the explicit mention of Jews in the letter. Of all the “for, but” responses, 52% also mentioned Jews explicitly (while 47% did not mention Jews). Of all the letters which mention Jews, 33% used a “for, but” approach. Of the letters which DO NOT mention Jews, only 11% expressed a “for, but” response.

Created By
Abby Gondek
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Tableau Public