James Hendrick to Eleanor Roosevelt

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James Hendrick to Eleanor Roosevelt

15 October 1947 [Washington, DC]

Dear Mrs. Roosevelt:

You will remember that we had a telephone conversation some time ago on the problem of Jewish war orphans which was discussed in a study of the Commission on the Status of Jewish War Orphans in Europe.

My present letter is by way of an interim report on this matter.

Consideration is being given to broadening the scope of this problem by extending it to include the entire question of legal status of children affected by the war. It may be that this question can be placed on the agenda of the United Nations body best suited to deal with it which would in all probability be the Social Commission.5

The matter is receiving study in the interested agencies of the government; a final decision is not expected in the immediate future.

In the meantime it is not believed that any further action can be taken by this country with respect to the particular problem of Jewish war orphans which you raised as it would normally be regarded as a matter of domestic jurisdiction.6

                                          Sincerely yours,

                                          James P. Hendrick


1. Rabbi Dr. Isaiah Isidore Grunfeld (1900–1975), senior member of the Ecclesiastical Court of the Chief Rabbi of the British Empire, worked for the British Council for Jewish Relief and Rehabilitation after the war. He condemned the "conversionists" who "refuse[d] to part" with the children because they wished to "save the souls of the Jewish war orphans for Christianity." The number of Jewish children who remained with their wartime foster families remains unknown ("Orphans' Return to Judaism Urged," NYT, 19 June 1947, 6; Rubin, Daughters, 145-46; "Isaiah Isidore Grunfeld," Who's Who in World Jewry (1972 ed.), 362; Elaine Sciolino and Jason Horowitz, "Saving Jewish Children, but at What Cost?" NYT, 9 January 2005, 6).

2. ER to Joseph Lash, 1 August 1947, JPLP, FDRL. When ER writes "if I am still on 3," she refers to the UN's Third Committee. Neither Lash nor ER retained copies of the correspondence prompting ER's letter to him or his response to her. Nor did Hendrick retain the pamphlet ER included with this letter.

3. ER had long worked to assist refugee children stranded in Europe, agreeing in January of 1940 to head a special advisory committee for the Youth Aliyah movement in the United States, which helped bring Jewish children from Europe to Palestine. Beyond this, ER supported the work of the US Committee for the Care of European Children, which after the war sought to bring war orphans to the United States for adoption ("To Advise Youth Aliyah," NYT, 22 February 1940, 20; MD, 15 November 1946).

4. Memorandum of Telephone Conversation, Department of State, 21 August 1947, RG59, NARA II.

5. The Economic and Social Commission (ECOSOC). The Child Search Branch of the International Tracing Service of the IRO tracked down missing children, including children in foster families, but Jewish organizations, such as Rescue Children, Inc., conducted most of the efforts to secure the release of children from Christian families to Jewish families or agencies. These organizations sometimes offered compensation to the Christian families, but most families refused to give up the children whom they now felt were theirs ("Report of the Secretary-General on the Progress and Prospect of Repatriation," 10 June 1948, Economic and Social Council, Official Records, Third Year, Seventh Session, E/816, 160-66; "An Inventory of the Rescue Children, Inc. Collection, 1945–1985," Yeshiva University Archives, 1986, 7-9).

6. ER maintained an active interest in the issue of children displaced by the war, visiting the Child Search Branch of the International Tracing Service of the IRO during an October 1948 visit to Stuttgart, Germany, and corresponding with the branch's chief, Herbert H. Meyer; secretary-general of the US Mission to the UN, Richard S. Winslow; and the IRO director-general in Geneva, J. Donald Kingsley in 1949 about the future of the IRO's efforts to trace missing children in Europe (MD, 29 October 1948; Herbert Meyer to ER, 12 April 1949; ER to Richard Winslow, 27 May 1949; J. Donald Kingsley to ER, 6 September 1949, AERP).

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