Visit Your Local PBS Station PBS Home PBS Home Programs A-Z TV Schedules Watch Video Donate Shop PBS Search PBS
Montage of images and link description. America and the Holocaust Imagemap: linked to kids and home
The Film and More
Imagemap(text links below) of menu items
The American Experience
The Film & More
Interview Transcripts | Bibliography | Primary Sources

Excerpt from a plan for rescue of refugees that was submitted to the Bermuda Conference by Jewish leaders.


STEPHEN S. WISE, President
CARL SHERMAN, Chairman, Executive Committee
NATHAN D. PERLMAN, Vice President
LEO H. LOWITZ, Vice President
LOUIS LIPSKY, Chairman, Governing Council
M. MALDWIN FERTIG, Chairman, Administrative Committee

April 14, 1943

Hon. Sumner Wlles
Under Secretary of State
State Department
Washington, D.C.

My Dear Secretary Welles:

In behalf of the joint Emergency Committee for European Jewish Affairs, comprising the American Jewish Committee the American Jewish Congress; the B'nai B'rith the Jewish Labor Committee. the American Emergency Committee for Zionist Affairs of the Zionist organization of America; Hadassah; Mizrachi; and the Poale Zion; the Synagogue Council of America; the Agudath Israel of America, Inc.; and the Union of Orthodox Rabbis in America, we submit through you to the Bermuda Conference, scheduled to open on April 19th, the enclosed Memorandum and appendix, setting forth a program of rescue to be undertaken for the Jews of Nazi-occupied Europe, otherwise doomed to destruction. The signatories, to these Memoranda represent leading Jewish organizations in the United States with whom are affiliated a large majority of the Jewish population of this country.

These Memoranda set forth the principal projects representing, in our considered judgment, basic action to be undertaken immediately by the United Nations if the remnants of European Jewry are to be saved from destruction. Among these are:

(1) Negotiations with the Axis Powers through neutral governments to permit the exit of Jews from Axis-occupied countries;

(2) The creation of temporary and permanent Sanctuaries for them by the United Nations;

(3) In view of the fact that planned starvation is one of the methods of accomplishing the extermination of the Jewish populace of Europe, the feeding of those sections of the Jewish population in occupied Europe who will not be permitted to leave.

We would be less than frank if we did not convey to you the anguish of the Jewish community of this country over the failure of the United Nations to act until now to rescue the Jews of Europe. For many months it has been authenticated that the Nazis have marked the Jewish population of Europe for total extermination and that it is estimated that almost three million Jews have been done to death, while a similar fate awaits those who remain. World civilization has been stirred to its depths by these horrors. Every section of public opinion throughout the world, and more particularly in England and in the United States, has spoken out in the demand that the United Nations act before it is too late to save those who can still be saved. Six months have elapsed, however, and no action has as yet been taken. In the meantime it is reported that thousands of Jews continue to be murdered daily.

When first the Conference, which is now to open in Bermuda, was announced, it was our hope that at last effective action would be immediately forthcoming on the part of the United Nations. These hopes are seriously disturbed by three developments:

(1) Both our State Department and the Foreign Minister of Great Britain have announced that the Bermuda Conference is to be primarily exploratory.

(2) At this writing neither the United States nor Great Britain has seen fit to call into consultation the representative organizations of the Jewish communities of their respective countries. Nor has either Government seen fit to invite delegations representing the organized Jewish communities of these two countries to participate in the deliberations to be held in Bermuda.

(3) There are the doubts aroused by the isolation of the Conference in a place completely inaccessible to the influences of public opinion or public personalities, except by Government permission.

When millions of human beings have already been done to death, and the fact of their murder has been authenticated by the United Nations, the time for exploration has long since passed, and the time for action is long past due. Unless action in undertaken immediately, there may soon be no Jews left alive in Europe.

In communicating these views to you it is our purpose at this time also formally to place before you the request that a delegation representing the joint Emergency Committee for European Jewish Affairs be invited to the Bermuda Conference to present our views on the program of rescue to be undertaken for the Jews of Europe.

It is our sincere hope that you, who have long had an intimate and, I believe, sympathetic knowledge of this problem, will lend your influence to insure that the Bermuda Conference may serve as the instrument of humanity in rescuing a defenseless people who are otherwise doomed to complete annihilation.

Respectfully submitted,



American Jewish Congress

American Jewish Comittee

B'nai B'rith

Jewish Labor Committee

Synagogue Council of America

(signed by Stephen Wise)

In the belief that it may contribute to such a program, the following proposals are respectfully submitted:

I. The United Nations should approach the German Government, and the governments of the states it now partly dominates or controls, through the Vatican or neutral governments like Switzerland, Spain, Sweden, Turkey, Argentine, with a view to securing their agreement to the release of their Jewish victims and to the emigration of Jews to such havens of refuge as may be provided.

II. The United Nations should, without delay, take steps to designate and establish a number of Sanctuaries in Allied and neutral countries to accommodate substantial numbers of Hitler's victims and to serve as havens of refuge for those Jews whose release from captivity may be arranged for, or who may find their way to freedom through efforts of their own.

III. The procedure that now prevails in the administration of the existing immigration law in the United States, which acts as a deterrent and retardation of legal immigration under the established quotas, should be revised and adjusted to war conditions, in order that refugees from Nazi-occupied territories, within such quotas, may find Sanctuary here.

IV. Subject to provisions for its national security, England should be asked to provide for receiving a reasonable number of victims escaping from Nazi-occupied territories and to provide for their accomodation for the duration.

V. The possibilities in several British territories, both in Africa and in the Caribbean, should be explored without delay. Sanctuary has already been afforded to thousands of refugees in these territories and there is room for many more, if not for permanent settlement, at least for the duration.

VI. The United Nations should urge the Republics of Latin America to modify such administrative regulations that now make immigration under the law extremely difficult, and to endeavor to find temporary havens of refuge for a substantial number of refugees.

VII. Overriding pre-war political considerations, England should be persuaded to open the doors of Palestine for Jewish immigration and the offer of hospitality made by the Jewish Community of Palestine should be accepted.

VIII. The United Nations should provide financial guarantees to all such neutral states as have given temporary refuge to Jews coming from Nazi-occupied territories and to provide for their feeding and maintenance and eventual evacuation. The neutral states should be guaranteed that the refugees will not become a public charge and that they will be transferred to permanent Sanctuaries as soon as possible.

IX. In order to do away with the lack of identity which many stateless refugees present, and to give them sponsorship and protection, an arrangement similar to that which existed under the League of Nations should be established and the Stateless refugees should be given identification passports analogous to the "Nansen" passports.

X. In view of the fact that mass starvation is the design of the Nazi regime, the United Nations should take appropriate steps without delay to organize a system for the feeding of the victims of Nazi oppression who are unable to leave the jurisdiction and the control of the Axis.

XI. It is submitted that the United Nations undertake to provide the financial guarantees that may be required for the execution of the program of rescue here outlined.

XII. The United Nations are urged to establish an appropriate intergovernmental agency, to which full authority and power should be given to implement the program of rescue here outlined.

In support of these proposals an appendix is attached.

In the name of humanity and of the ideals which the Armed Forces of the United Nations have arisen to defend, we respectfully submit this appeal in the hope that effective action will be taken without delay.




American Jewish Congress, American Jewish Committee

B'Nai B'rith, Jewish Labor Committee

American Emergency Committee , Synagogue Council of America for Zionist Affairs

Agudath Israel of America, Inc. Union of Orthodox Rabbis of America

April 14, 1943

Back to Primary Sources | next