WRB - War Refugee Board

On January 22, 1944, President Roosevelt established the War Refugee Board designed to assist refugees and help save European Jewry. Henry Morgenthau Jr., the Secretary of the Treasury urged Roosevelt to establish the WRB against the objections of the State Department and a luke-warm Congress, many of whose members objected to an influx of Jewish refugees into the United States. Roosevelt charged the Board with taking every measure to rescue victims of oppression and people in imminent danger of death. John Pehle, the head of Foreign Funds Controls in the Treasury Department became executive director. A small dedicated number of WRB staff stationed in Europe was to find safe havens, furnish relief supplies and evacuate Jews from enemy territory. The WRB was promised the authority to elicit cooperation from all government agencies but in reality only the Treasury helped. The Board had a staff of only thirty and an administrative budget of one million dollars collecting funds for its operation from the JOINT and a host of other Jewish organizations, reaching almost seventeen million dollars. One of the first objectives of the WRB was the rescue of the Hungarian Jewry in 1944. The WRB worked with Raoul Wallenberg and helped fund his operations. The Board brought refugees to Oswego in New York, designated a safe haven. Its demand for more such havens was never approved.  At war’s end, the Board could point to almost a quarter million lives saved, Jews and non Jews. Summarizing the WRB work after the war, John W. Pehle its director, said that the entire WRB endeavor was at the end, too little, too late. 


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