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The Harrison Report (September 1945)

This report by lawyer and civil rights activist Earl G. Harrison for the American President Harry S. Truman from the summer of 1945 painted a rather grim picture of the situation of Jewish and Eastern European refugees and expellees in Germany and Austria. Harrison criticized the fact that the situation of former concentration and labor camp inmates had hardly improved under Allied liberators. In many cases, they had to continue living in the same barbed wire-enclosed camps as before. There was a lack of food, clothing, medicine, and winterized buildings. Appropriate psychological care and efforts at family reunification and repatriation hardly existed. Harrison criticized the Allied bureaucracy and the behavior of the officers on the ground, who were more intent on not spoiling their relationship with the German population than on helping victims. Offers of help from civilian aid offices or the refugees themselves were being turned down. The situation of the Jews was especially disastrous. Harrison was strongly in favor allowing many death camp survivors to follow their wish and emigrate to Palestine. He also recommended allowing more refugees to enter the U.S.

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Report of Earl G. Harrison

Mission to Europe to inquire into the conditions and needs of those among the displaced persons in the liberated countries of Western Europe and in the SHAEF area of Germany – with particular reference to the Jewish refugees – who may possibly be stateless or non-repatriable.

London, England

The President,
The White House,


Pursuant to your letter of June 22, 1945, I have the honor to present to you a partial report upon my recent mission to Europe to inquire into (1) the conditions under which displaced persons and particularly those who may be stateless or non-repatriable are at present living, especially in Germany and Austria, (2) the needs of such persons, (3) how those needs are being met at present by the military authorities, the governments of residence and international and private relief bodies, and (4) the views of the possibly non-repatriable persons as to their future destinations.

My instructions were to give particular attention to the problems, needs and views of the Jewish refugees among the displaced people, especially in Germany and Austria. The report, particularly this partial report, accordingly deals in the main with that group.

On numerous occasions appreciation was expressed by the victims of Nazi persecution for the interest of the United States Government in them. As my report shows they are in need of attention and help. Up to this point they have been “liberated” more in a military sense than actually. For reasons explained in the report, their particular problems, to this time, have not been given attention to any appreciable extent; consequently they feel that they, who were in so many ways the first and worst victims of Nazism, are being neglected by their liberators.

Upon my request, the Department of State authorized Dr. Joseph J Schwartz to join me in the mission. Dr. Schwartz, European Director of the American Joint Distribution Committee, was granted a leave of absence from that organization for the purpose of accompanying me. His long and varied experience in refugee problems as well as his familiarity with the Continent and the people made Dr. Schwartz a most valuable associate; this report represents our joint views, conclusions and recommendations.

During various portions of the trip I had, also, the assistance of Mr. Patrick M. Malin, Vice Director of the Intergovernmental Committee on Refugees and Mr. Herbert Katzski of the War Refugee Board. These gentlemen, likewise, have had considerable experience in refugee matters. Their assistance and cooperation were most helpful in the course of the survey.

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