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Letter from Margaret E. Jones, an American Quaker working with European Jews hoping to emigrate to the U.S., expressing her distress at the impact of Breckinridge Long's memo.


Memo to Clarence E. Pickett from Margaret E. Jones

Re,--Visa situation in Vienna

Because I am deeply disturbed over present visa difficulties in Vienna, I want thee to have this memorandum for thy information.

Last July, en route from Geneva back to the Vienna Center, I stopped in Zurich and had an interview with Mr. Strom, at the U.S. Consulate. He told me of recent orders from Washington which would severely limit the number of visas ordinarily issued month by month from the various Consulates. I asked him if this was an attempt on the part of the State Department to offset any move by Congress to stop immigration entirely. Mr. Strom at once asked me with whom I had been talking to get that impression, and then said that he "did not think it was". Later in Vienna, Mr. Hohenthal told me too about the new stringent regulations, and was also obviously interested when I raised the same question with him. About the middle of August, the Consulate--always, as I have repeatedly said, working most cooperatively and sympathetically with me and the Quaker Center--telephoned to say the Mr. Warren, Mr. Morris and Mr. Hohenthal and I talked that afternoon about the new regulations concerning emigration. Mr. Warren began by saying, "Miss Jones, you Quakers will be doing a straight relief job for the non-Aryans here from now on." I said, "No more non Aryans to go to the U.S.?" Warren replied- "Not just non-Aryans--but no more aliens." Then I asked him the same question --was this an attempt to forestall Congress and prevent an out and out closing of immigration by making so severe a cut that the State Dept. could assure Congress they had the situation in hand. Mr. Warren said not Congress, but the President just did not want any more aliens coming to the U.S. and would like to have it closed especially for aliens coming from Germany. The State Dept. asked to be allowed to taper it all off gradually, and he, Warren, was touring Europe as far east as Moscow to check up with the consulates and to make plans accordingly. He explained it somewhat casually--increasing anti-Semitism in the U.S.; some refugees had already been traced to 5th column activities; the need to give visas to England and so forth. He told me that during July, 4000 visas had been granted to England,--many to English people, and many to German refugees in England, and he said that he also hoped additional visas would be granted to Shanghai, to help the refugee situation there. He told me Stuttgart had only given 3 visas during July. Vienna had issued that month about 100, but the number would be greatly reduced. I asked him what the State Dept. planned to do about reuniting families, and also about children. Warren implied that they would carefully consider cases where reuniting families was an issue, and that surely some children would be allowed to emigrate from Germany. But his whole idea was that emigration for German Jews coming from Germany was practically finished.

Thee may recall that as soon as I get to Geneva, in September, on my way home from Vienna, I wrote about this and indicated just how awful it was, because the Consulate kept encouraging people to do everything required of them, and then at the final interview decided the person would "become a public charge" and therefore could not get a visa. I now know that about 3 or 4 visas are issued each week, and that supposedly with each, the Consulate evaluates the candidate according to Mr. Warren's instructions, "What outstanding contributions can he make to the U.S.A.?" No one can imagine what trouble the men and women must go through to finally get to the Consulate for the last interview--all sorts of severe local requirements must be met before permission to leave is given by the Nazi authorities. Each step takes weeks, and also Marks. (This entirely apart from the heartbreaking anxiety over affidavits and steamship tickets. With every thing in order, the candidate learns now from the Consulate that he must have a new certificate notarized (20 to 40 Marks) indicating that at least two friends can vouch that he is an upright man and not engaged in espionage activities. This in addition to the usual Police certificate, which would be sufficient. (I should think the Consulate would know, if they suspect every applicant for a visa as a potential spy, that the applicants could get anyone to sign such a statement if they wanted to do so.) Furthermore, the candidate for the visa in his final interview faces a board of Consuls, who ask questions ( I was told in the Consulate in Vienna that this questioning HAD to last 40 minutes and that often the two men doing the questioning just couldn't fill in the time!) and a stenographer takes down the answers in short hand. Now very few non-Aryans in Germany entirely trust the German members of the U.S. Consular staff, and to reply to questioning in a way which would damn the Nazi government, and to know that those replies are being taken down by a German, naturally terrified the applicant. On the other hand, if he doesn't say what he thinks about the Nazi gov't, he feels that the U.S. Consuls will judge him potential 5th Column material and refuse the visa accordingly.

Perhaps I feel too strongly about this--but I know only too well what the life of the Jew in Vienna is today. I know of the terror and despair, and of the unbelievable difficulties each man and woman endures, and tries to solve, in connection with obtaining the U.S. visa. I want to say again that the Vienna Consulate has on its Visa Division staff men of ability and sympathy, who work as much as possible with the individual in mind, but they can only do what the U. S. immigration law permits. (I cannot endorse the physician at the Consulate, but his attitude is subject for another memorandum!) But it seems to me that if the U.S. wants to make a new ruling due to the war, etc., that it must make it openly and give the reasons. We cannot continue to let these tragic people go on hoping that if they comply with every requirement, if they get all the special documents required (Marks are increasingly needed by the Jews just to live), if they nerve themselves for the final interview at the Consulate, they may just possibly be the lucky ones to get visas when we know that practically no one is granted visas in Germany today. As thee knows, the whole question of affidavits is involved --irrevocable trust funds as required by the Consulate--we can't go out to individuals in this country for this basic cooperation when we know that regardless of what we or the applicant does, he is not going to get the visa.

Thee understands that this is a confidential report for thee to have as background. I do hope that the question can be given very careful study, and a decision reached which will in some measure allay the mental suffering of so many persons. We could alleviate a lot of the mental suffering , of course, by restoring the normal visa program for the applicants in Germany.

Naturally I am fully aware of the almost insuperable difficulties of travel from Germany. Greece is now closed to those who would have attempted to go via that country through the Mediterranean to Lisbon. Spain now refuses a transit visas to anyone with a "J" on his passport. The route via Siberia and Japan is the only one open, and it offers tremendous difficulties. But our government should make its own position absolutely clear , and I do hope the several refugee committees can get this matter satisfactorily outlined.

Margaret E. Jones


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