Military Records

Records Relating to World War II Era Refugees

Table of Contents

Civilian Records

Records of International Conferences, Commissions, and Expositions (Record Group 43)

General Records of the Department of State (RG 59)

Records of the Foreign Service Posts of the Department of State (Record Group 84)

Records of the Displaced Persons Commission (Record Group 278)

Records of Interdepartmental and Intradepartmental Committee (Record Group 353)

Military Records

Civilian Records

Records of International Conferences, Commissions, and Expositions (Record Group 43)

Records regarding discussion about refugees and displaced persons can be found in the following series:

  • Records of the Council of Foreign Ministers {ca. 1945-1955} {Lot M-88}  (Entry UD-16)
  • Records of the Council of Foreign Ministers, Country Files, 1946-48 (Entry A1-484)
  • Records of the Council of Foreign Ministers, Research Reports 152 And 160, April-May 1950 (Entry A1-658)

General Records of the Department of State (RG 59)

The Department of State's involvement with refugee issues began before the outbreak of war in Europe in September 1939 and continued after the war's end in 1945. The following is a description of the records of the Department of State.

The Central Decimal Files

This series functioned as the Department of State's central repository for documentation.  It consists of incoming and outgoing departmental communications with overseas posts, correspondence with foreign diplomats in the United States and with other government agencies and the public, internal memorandums and reports, and other documentation. These documents are filed by subject according to a predetermined subject classification scheme.  The records for the period of World War II are divided into the following time blocks: 1930-39, 1940-44, and 1945-49.

Useful finding aids include:

  • The filing manual which contains a subject index.
  • Source notes in the Department of State publication Foreign Relations of the United States.
  • Purport Lists and Cards which are abstracts of documents arranged according to the decimal filing scheme.
  • Source Cards available for each segment 1930-49 arranged by the source of the communication (country or city, thereunder to or from, thereunder by date).
  • Name Cards available for each segment 1930-49 arranged alphabetically by name of person or organization. This index is less than comprehensive.

The primary Central Decimal File categories relating to World War II refugee matters are "840.48" and "840.48 REFUGEES." Those records have been reproduced in microfilm publication M1284, Records of the Department of State Relating to the Problems of Relief and Refugees in Europe Arising from World War II and Its Aftermath, 1938-49.

Those records relate to the State Department's interest and involvement in relief measures in Europe before, during, and after the war and with refugees displaced by persecution and fighting who were unable to return home after the war. These records are arranged by decimal and thereunder chronologically.

Rolls 1-18 (decimal file "840.48") contain records documenting the general problem of calamities, disasters, and relief activities in Europe. Rolls 19-70 (decimal file "840.48 REFUGEES") deal with the problem of European refugees.

The early part of the file contains material documenting U.S. concern for political and Jewish refugees in Germany and Austria prior to World War II and U.S. participation in the Intergovernmental Committee for Political Refugees.

File "840.48 REFUGEES" illustrates the problems of European refugees all over the world by documenting State cooperation on the refugee problem with other agencies of the U.S. Government, other government, and private organizations. After the war, the file includes information on repatriation of displaced persons and refugees from communism in Eastern Europe.

Some of the more interesting topics in decimal "840.48 REFUGEES" include the settling of Jewish refugees in Santo Domingo, the trip of Linton Wells through Angola (1939) to examine that area for possible settlement by refugees, the smuggling of Jewish and other refugees out of Europe, the establishment of the Polish refugee camp at Santa Rosa, Mexico, the activities of the War Refugee Board, the liquidation of the Emergency Refugee Shelter at Oswego, NY, and the post war repatriation of refugees.

One way to conduct research on WWII refugees in these records is to consult the Purport Lists for 1940-44 in microfilm publication M973 to examine abstracts of relevant documents, and then to proceed to M1284. Both microfilm publications are located in the Microfilm Research Room on the 4th floor of the National Archives research facility in College Park, Maryland.  Alternatively, researchers can systematically page their way through the files on the microfilm.

Find information on how to purchase copies of this microfilm publication.

Other Central Decimal File segments for the war period that may include information on European refugees include "740.00116 EW" (Illegal and Inhumane Warfare), "8**.4016" (Race Problems. Replace the ** with the appropriate country number)), and "840.50" (European Recovery).

Decentralized Office Files

Additional documentation concerning refugees in Department of State records that should be consulted are located in the files maintained by the different offices and officials of the Department.

There is no complete, comprehensive list of decentralized office files and there is no single source describing their content. However, there are finding aids available for the records, either by subject or by geographic region, giving a description of the files and including any available box or folder list. In the Archives II Research Room, the finding aid entitled Refugees - World War II contains pertinent finding aids.

Records Relating to the Intergovernmental Committee on Refugees

  • Records Relating to Administration and Finances, 1943-48 (Entry A1-1405) 4 boxes
  • Records Relating to Meetings, 1943-47 (Entry A1-1406) 4 boxes
  • Miscellaneous Subject File, 1942-47 (Entry A1-1407) 4 boxes
  • Country Files, 1938-41 (Entry A1-1408) 7 boxes
  • Alphabetical Subject File, 1938-41 (Entry A1-1409) 15 boxes

Records of the Special Committee on Migration

  • Subject File, 1943-44 (Entry A1-1410) boxes 1-4
  • Minutes of Meetings, 1943-44 (Entry A1-1411) box 5
  • Alpha-Numeric File, 1943-44 (Entry A1-1412) box 5
  • Memorandums, 1943-44 (Entry A1-1413) box 5
  • Documents, 1943-44 (Entry A1-1414) box 5
  • Records Relating to Atrocities Committed by the Nazis, 1944-45 (Entry A1-1415) box 8

Records Relating to the War Refugee Board

  • Subject File, 1943-45, (Entry A1-1417) 2 boxes

The records of the War Refugee Board are located in the Franklin D. Roosevelt Presidential Library and Museum.

Records Relating to the Santa Rosa Polish Refugee Camp

  • Subject File, 1944-46, 1 box (Entry A1-1418)

There is also documentation in the records of U.S. Foreign Service Posts in Mexico (RG 84) and in the records of the Foreign Economic Administration (RG 169)

Records Relating to the International Refugee Organization (IRO) and the Displaced Persons Commission (DPC)

  • IRO Subject File, 1946-52, 20 boxes (Entry A1-1419)
  • DP Subject File, 1944-52, 16 boxes (Entry A1-1420)
  • Resettlement File, 1941-52, 7 boxes (Entry A1-1421)

Special War Problems Division

  • Subject Files, 1939-54, 199 boxes

This division had responsibilities concerning the evacuation and repatriation of Americans in foreign countries and foreign citizens in the U.S. There is information on refugee matters. A folder title list is available.

Records of Harley A. Notter, Advisor for United Nations Affairs

During World War II, Harley Notter was involved in post-war planning with various offices and committees. The files include documentation on refugee matters.

Records of the Division of Central European Affairs

The mission of this division was to direct the day-to-day conduct of diplomatic relations with Germany, Austria, and Czechoslovakia. The following series includes documentation concerning displaced persons in Germany.

  • Subject Files, 1944-49 (Entry A1-381B)

Records of the Personal Representative of the President to Pope Pius XII, 1942-50

The following series contains information on Jews, refugees, and relief activities:

  • Decimal File, 1944-50, 27 boxes (Entry A1-1068)

Records of the Foreign Service Posts of the Department of State (RG 84)

This record group consists of documents originally filed at American embassies, legations, and consulates. Although much documentation is duplicated in the State Department's Central Files, there is often some unique documentation and even discrete series of records relating to activities unique to the post.

The records are filed by post, thereunder by year or block of years, and thereunder according to the foreign service post decimal filing scheme, which resembles the State Central Decimal filing scheme.

File categories from 1938-1948 that might include relevant documentation include:

  • 711 (War. Peace.)
  • 711.5 (Civil Prisoners)
  • 800 (Political Affairs)
  • 840.1 (People - Race Problems)
  • 848 (Calamities. Disasters) - Used for relief measures.
  • 851.51 (Financial Exchange) - Used for refugee funds

Records of the following posts include files regarding refugees:

  • Austria, Records of the Political Advisor (POLAD) and USCOA (High Commissioner), Vienna, Austria
  • France, Records of the Political Advisor to SHAEF (Paris)
  • Great Britain, Records of the U.S. Embassy, London, and Records Maintained by Ambassador John G. Winant, 1938-46
  • Hungary, Records of the U.S. Legation and Mission, Budapest
  • Italy, Records of the Political Advisor to the Supreme Allied Commander, Mediterranean
  • Portugal, Records of the U.S. Embassy, Lisbon
  • Spain, Records of the U.S. Embassy, Madrid
  • Sweden, Records of the U.S. Embassy, Stockholm
  • Switzerland, Records of the U.S. Legation, Bern

Records of the Displaced Persons Commission (Record Group 278)

Congress established this Commission in 1948 to administer the program that allowed limited emigration of displaced persons to the United States. The commission was abolished in 1952 and the records transferred to the Department of State.  The records consist of policy and administrative files; they do not include files relating to individual displaced persons or lists of names of displaced persons.

Pertinent series include the following:

  • Central Subject File, 1948-52 (Entry A1-1)
  • Commissioner Harry N. Rosenfeld Subject File, 1948-52 (Entry A1-6)
  • Commissioner Edward M. O'Connor Subject File, 1948-52
  • Legal Division Subject File, 1948-52 (Entry A1-8)
  • General Counsel's Subject File, 1948-52 (Entry A1-9)
  • Correspondence with Voluntary Organizations, June-July 1949 (Entry A1-23)

Records of Interdepartmental and Intradepartmental Committee (Record Group 353)

The State-War-Navy Coordinating Committee (SWNCC) was a key interdepartmental committee. It was established in December 1944 to reconcile the views of the State, War, and Navy departments and to formulate politico-military policies. SWNCC prepared policies for occupying and controlling Japan, Germany, and Austria; and position papers for use by the United States at international conferences.

The records of the State-War-Navy Coordinating Committee (SWNCC) include records on refugees and displaced persons. See the following series:

  • SWNCC Documents, 1944-49 (Entry A1-503)
    • Document 80 (and sub-cases)- Displaced Persons in Germany and Austria
    • Document 359 (and sub-cases)- Evacuation of Jewish Displaced Persons and Other Unassimilablee Displaced Persons from Austria
    • Document 176/14 - Displaced Persons in Korea, January 10, 1946
    • Document 205 (and sub-cases)- Repatriation of Displaced Person in Japan

Military Records

Researchers interested in European refugees during World War II should also consult the files of various military organizations.  There are many places to look:

The general correspondence files of the major military organizational units during World War II are arranged by the War Department Decimal Filing System. The decimal for refugees is 383.7 and information on refugees is often located in the G-5 (Civil Administration) and/or the Adjutant General's section.

Documentation concerning refugees can be located at every major organizational level. For Europe the levels are as follows:

  • Secretary of War
  • Adjutant General's Office
  • Supreme Headquarters Allied Expeditionary Forces (SHAEF)
  • European Theater of Operations (ETO) - wartime
  • US Forces European Theater (USFET) - occupation period
  • Army Groups - 6 and 12
  • Numbered Armies - 1, 3, 7, 9
  • Corps

Below the Corps level, the general correspondence files were normally destroyed

Post-War (Occupation) Records

  • Office of Military Government for Germany (OMGUS) - AG and Civil Affairs
  • ACC Austria
  • ACC Italy

Special Cases:

Records of the Office of the Assistant Secretary for War (Record Group 107)

  • Formerly Security Classified Correspondence of John J. McCloy, 1941-45
  • General Correspondence of John J. McCloy, 1941-45
    • War Refugee Board (file 400.38)
  • Formerly Security-Classified Correspondence of Howard Peterson, 1945-47

Records of Supreme Headquarters Allied Expeditionary Force (SHAEF) (Record Group 331)

  • Records of the SHAEF General Staff Organizations, Records of the Chief of Staff
    • Records of the Secretary, General Staff
      • Decimal correspondence files, decimal 383.7, refugees and displaced persons
  • Records of the Economics Staff
    • Subject File, 1944-45
      • Refugees and displaced persons

Records of U.S. Army Commands, 1942- (Record Group 338)

  • Records of the Secretary, General Staff
    • Classified General Correspondence, 1944-45
      • Decimal 383.7 (refugees and displaced persons)

See also OSS Record Group 226), OMGUS (Record Group 260), and Naval Attache records.