Well we [staffers at the Treasury Dept.] became involved when we were asked to license communications with
occupied territory, enemy occupied territory. And our policy was at the
beginning to allow no communication. We thought that that was the strictest way
to help the war effort, to not let people do business with enemy territory or
We were finally convinced that it was possible to license some things if it
involve anything that would bring additional hard currency to the Germans or
Italians. And so we lessened our policy, reviewed our policy, and did issue one
or more licenses that permitted Jewish agencies to communicate with
representatives in occupied territory.
Well the licenses in effect were going out through State Department channels
and they never were received. They were held up. And when we discovered they
had been held up, we of course made inquiries and they were told that they were
consulting with the British. And they had had an arrangement whereby these,
the lifting of the embargo in a sense communications and fiscal problems in
isolated cases would be cleared with the British and ourselves. And the British
When we found out that the licenses had been held up because of this
cooperative arrangement with the British, inquiries were made to the American
Embassy in London, as to why it was held up. And we were told and they
received a written communication from the British who say they were reluctant
to engage in rescue efforts which the license was supposed to do because of the
difficulty of disposing of any considerable number of these people should they
And this is one of the things that really touched off Secretary [of the Treasury Henry] Morgenthau and
gave rise to ultimately the establishment of the War Refugee Board.
Once the State Department furnished us with a copy of the British written
report saying that they were opposed to financial transactions even though they
were carefully designed to avoid any hard currency coming into the hands of the
enemy, they said that, well, I've got it mixed up again.
And when we received this incredulous statement we were of course shocked, but
we also realized that this was a valuable document in obtaining some United
States action with regard to refugees.
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