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John Pehle on: The Executive Order
John Pehle In drafting the Executive Order [to set up the War Refugee Board], we tried to be inclusive of all the people that were under stress and fear of life because of the Germans. We not only were anxious to help people escape from the Germans, but we were urging other countries to take refugees in. And we felt that unless we did something ourselves in the United States, it was a pretty hollow thing.

So we proposed to bring some refugees in outside the quota and we finally got permission to do this. And we put them in an Army camp in Oswego, New York, which the President agreed to and sent a message to Congress telling Congress what he had done, and saying they would be sent back after the War.

We recognized when the Board was established that it was very late, and that there were limits to what we could do given the military situation. But it was important that it was established and it was important that some of the things that we were able to do and the cooperation we were able to get from other agencies and from the private agencies, we were able to help.

Looking back at the Board, I recognized that it was too late when it was established and the resources available were too small to deal effectively with the problem. But we were able to change the policy of the United States, and we were able to help the private agencies, and we were able to change the moral position of the United States in this area.

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