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

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NEW YORK—If the President would ask General Joseph M. Swing, Commissioner of Immigration, to carry out what Mr. Eisenhower originally intended and bring in 3,000 more Hungarian refugees under the original parole qualifications, I think we would retain all the respect and affection to which we were entitled by our original generosity.

The refugees understood that the President promised to admit 35,000 and then, when many were waiting to be processed, we stopped at 32,000.

Because about this number was asked to go to the camp at Salzburg, Austria, for processing and then the qualifications under the Attorney General's rules were changed, the bitterness which these people now feel is understandable.

They believed they were started on their way to a free land and permanent home, so everything that has gone before has been clouded by their feeling of bad faith on our part, as you will see from the words of the refugees' petition handed me last week in Salzburg.

Because of space limitations, I cannot quote the petition in full, but I will give the pertinent parts of it so as to give you a feeling of their tragedy:

"The inhabitants of the Hungarian refugee Camp Roeder in Austria, after careful and conscious considerations, came to the decision that we want to show in this memorial our situation to the people of the U.S.A., at the same time we start our hunger strike, for the solving of the unbearable problems as soon as possible.

"The nearly 3,000 refugees of Camp Roeder made up their minds to start a hunger strike, till all the Hungarian refugees who are in Austria and intended to migrate to the U.S.A. should hold out the prospect of a suitable arrangement by the government of the U.S.A.

"In heroic days of the Hungarian revolution, the entire Hungarian nation felt that all the free world—at first the U.S.A.—was on our side, with their moral aid.

"Our war of liberty was conquered by the bloodthirsty Russians—as it is well known—and the best of the Hungarian people, its most valuable members from point of view of freedom, were being compelled to leave their homes and seek shelter in the Western states.

"The first weeks after our defeat proved that the free world, with the leadership of the U.S.A., felt sympathy and was ready to help the refugees, not only with shelter but also giving new homes in their countries.

"The people of Hungary were trusting steadfastly at the time of the revolution and soon afterwards in the help of the people of the free world, especially the government and people of the U.S.A. The best sign of this help was, and should be in the future, too, if the U.S.A. would approve to be ready to admit all the Hungarian refugees who are intended to settle in the U.S.A.—except those who are proved politically unworthy....

"To this belongs those unfortunate refugees who asked the Austrian authorities to be repatriated to Hungary in their hopeless situation and desperation.

"It is unnecessary to point out that this involves a great propaganda possibility for the Communist systems and what an enormous effect it has to the Hungarian people at home and abroad....

"The main point of the judgment should not be on medical, but a thorough political examination.

"At the same time we are begging you to rejudge all the cases refused in accordance with your immigration laws. We are not simply immigrants, but refugees."

The Hungarian Refugees of Camp Roeder


(Copyright, 1957, by United Feature Syndicate, Inc.)

Names and Terms Mentioned or Referenced

  • New York (N.Y., United States) [ index ]

About this document

My Day by Eleanor Roosevelt, May 16, 1957

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.