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John Pehle on: Establishing the War Refugee Board
John Pehle We were advised by our friends in the State Department that the State Department not only was not interested in the refugee problem, but that they were actively suppressing information about the extent of the Holocaust by sending instructions to their legation in Switzerland not to permit private Jewish agencies to transmit any such stories.

This suppression and cover up were the final straws in causing the Secretary [of Treasury Dept., Henry Morgenthau, Jr.] to go ahead with the President on the establishment of the War Refugee Board.

We prepared a memorandum, prepared by Joe DuBois and Randolph Paul and myself to Secretary Morgenthau recommending that he go to the President and that an agency be established outside the State Department to handle the refugee policy of the United States.

The suppressing of the information was the key to action being taken on behalf of the refugees. If you don't know what is going on, and you suppress the information, the government becomes an accomplice to what the Nazis were doing, by hiding the information from the American public.

We had a meeting Sunday afternoon at the White House in the Oval Office and the President was there, Secretary Morgenthau, Randolph Paul, and I. We gave the President the memorandum but he largely listened, rather than reading the memorandum. And Secretary Morgenthau left it to me to explain why we were there, which I did. The President asked questions and was very interested. And at the end of the meeting the President said, "We will do it."

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