The Eleanor Roosevelt Papers, Digital Edition > My Day
My Day by Eleanor Roosevelt

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LONDON—In regard to the refugee problem, we know that UNRRA comes to an end in Europe at the close of 1946, but no one has made a study of the best type of organization to undertake the handling of the problem in the future and its proper affiliation with the United Nations Organization. In the meetings of the Social, Humanitarian and Cultural Committee this week, there have been several speeches on this question along much the same lines as had already been developed.

The resolution presented by the Russian delegate, Prof. A. A. Arutiunian, brought out the one real cleavage between our point of view and the thinking of the Russians and Yugoslavs. They consider that there are only two main categories of refugees:—first, those who wish to be repatriated, and secondly, those who do not wish to return to their homelands because they are "quislings, traitors, war criminals or collaborators." They acknowledge that there may be a small group of Jewish refugees who have such unpleasant memories of their homelands that they no longer wish to return, but they consider this a relatively minor question.

However, it seems to me essential that we have more concrete information before we ask our various governments to commit themselves on any of the details of future procedure in regard to refugees. It is said that, roughly, there are still a million displaced persons in Europe, but no one is sure that that figure is correct or will be correct three months from now—and no one knows the categories into which these remaining refugees will fit.

Of course, if all the European governments had been stable for years past and if all of them were so secure that they had no fear of opposition, the matter might be as simple as the Russians make it sound. If people holding different views from the present Governments in their countries could live there unscathed and unhampered, just as we do in the United States, waiting and working for the achievement of their particular point of view but meanwhile abiding by the will of the majority, the problem would be easy.

However, you must have a basic agreement on the type of government under which you live. In the United States, when a Republican administration is in power, the Democrats are constantly trying to persuade the voters to return them to power—and vice versa. But our force is all exerted by the ballot under a basic Constitution. It is a long time since the Civil War settled for us once and for all, I think, any question of armed force being used instead of the ballot.

If, however, when the Democrats were out of power, they could not live freely and unhampered within our country, I doubt if they would like to be sent back there against their will. And that, I think, is where the real cleavage of opinion comes in the arguments on refugees that have been presented in our committee debate.

The position of the United States, as presented in our resolution, is that we should ask the Economic and Social Council to set up a special commission to make a comprehensive study of the whole problem and formulate recommendations for action at the next session of the Assembly.

It is evident that speed will be required, but I cannot see how we will help matters by trying to accept a plan now which would not be based on any real factual knowledge. Neither can I see that it would help the special commission if we outlined definite procedures for them to follow, since they will undoubtedly meet new situations in the course of their study. Naturally, they should know how various nations feel and, for that reason, the speeches made in our committee should be "required reading," but I hardly think it would help them if we laid down any definite premises.

* * *

The dinner which the Pilgrims Society gave for me the other evening was a very unique and delightful occasion. In their forty-odd years of existence, I was the first woman to be their guest of honor, but I realize that I owe this to the fact that they wanted to honor my husband. The beautiful letter from Lord Derby, president of the society, proposing a memorial in London to my husband, touched me deeply.

Viscount Greenwood made me a charming speech of welcome and wrote a toast which I should like to keep for future years. Once my own speech was behind me, I enjoyed every minute. Before that, though I enjoyed the great kindness of my hosts, I was nevertheless somewhat oppressed by my own share in the proceedings.



Names and Terms Mentioned or Referenced

  • Arutiunian, A.A. [ index ]
         USSR delegate to the United Nations
  • Derby, Edward George Villiers Stanley, Earl of, 1865-1948 [ index ]
         English soldier, sec of state, ambassador
         [ LC | ISNI | VIAF | Wikidata | SNAC | FAST ]
  • Greenwood, Hamar Greenwood, Viscount, 1870-1948 [ index ]
         Canadian-born English lawyer and politician; Chief Secretary for Ireland
         [ LC | VIAF | Wikidata | SNAC ]
  • Roosevelt, Franklin D. (Franklin Delano), 1882-1945 [ index ]
         American politician; 32nd President of the United States
         [ ERPP bio | LC | ISNI | VIAF | Wikidata | SNAC | FAST | US Nat. Archives | ANB ]
  • London (England, United Kingdom) [ index ]
Other Terms and Topics

About this document

My Day by Eleanor Roosevelt, February 7, 1946

Roosevelt, Eleanor, 1884-1962
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Digital edition created by The Eleanor Roosevelt Papers Project The George Washington University 312 Academic Building 2100 Foxhall Road, NW Washington, DC 20007

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Transcription created from a photocopy of a UFS wire copy of a My Day column instance archived at the Franklin D. Roosevelt Library.