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Register of the Commission for Polish Relief Records, 1939-1949
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Collection Details
Table of contents What's This?
  • Descriptive Summary
  • Administrative Information
  • Access Points
  • Historical Note
  • Scope and Content of Collection

  • Descriptive Summary

    Title: Commission for Polish Relief Records,
    Date (inclusive): 1939-1949
    Collection Number: 48000
    Creator: Commission for Polish Relief
    Collection Size: 70 manuscript boxes (29.2 linear feet)
    Repository: Hoover Institution Archives
    Stanford, California 94305-6010
    Abstract: Correspondence, reports, memoranda, financial records, and photographs, relating to efforts to provide relief to Poland during World War II. Also available on microfilm (52 reels).
    Physical Location: Hoover Institution Archives
    Language: English.

    Administrative Information


    Collection is open for research.
    The Hoover Institution Archives only allows access to copies of audiovisual items. To listen to sound recordings or to view videos or films during your visit, please contact the Archives at least two working days before your arrival. We will then advise you of the accessibility of the material you wish to see or hear. Please note that not all audiovisual material is immediately accessible.

    Publication Rights

    For copyright status, please contact the Hoover Institution Archives

    Preferred Citation

    [Identification of item], Commission for Polish Relief Records, [Box no.], Hoover Institution Archives.

    Acquisition Information

    Acquired by the Hoover Institution Archives in 1948.


    Materials may have been added to the collection since this finding aid was prepared. To determine if this has occurred, find the collection in Stanford University's online catalog at http://searchworks.stanford.edu/ . Materials have been added to the collection if the number of boxes listed in the online catalog is larger than the number of boxes listed in this finding aid.

    Alternative Form Available

    Also available on microfilm (52 reels).

    Access Points

    Commission for Polish Relief
    World War, 1939-1945
    World War, 1939-1945--Civilian relief
    World War, 1939-1945--Poland
    United States--Foreign relations

    Historical Note

    In response to the appeal of the Polish Government in Exile -including the Prime Minister, General Wladyslaw Sikorski, and the Ambassador in Washington, Count Jerzy Potocki -we organized the Commission for Polish Relief, Inc., on September 25, 1939. The officers of the new organization were: Chauncey McCormick, Chairman; Maurice Pate, President. The Directors were Hugh Gibson, W. Hallam Tuck, Edgar Rickard, Perrin C. Galpin, Lewis L. Strauss, Theodore Abel, Frederic C. Walcott, and Mrs. Vernon Kellogg. They sacrificed important positions to answer this call of suffering. I was made Honorary Chairman of the Commission. It was my responsibility to conduct negotiations with the various governments concerned, to secure financial support, and enlist public support by making speeches and by issuing public statements. My colleagues attended to the major problems of purchase of supplies and transportation. For the Polish operations, a staff was quickly recruited in Europe by cable. Mr. William C. McDonald..., was located in Switzerland, enjoyed high confidence in Poland. He went to Berlin immediately to conduct negotiations with the Germans and then proceeded to Warsaw, where he set up arrangements for the distribution of food and medical-relief supplies. Mr. Gilbert Redfern... was recruited in London and sent promptly to Vilna, where he performed an outstanding task in carring for Polish refugees in the Baltic States. Mr. F. Dorsey Stephens, aided by his wife Zora, did equally devoted and useful work among the fifty thousand Polish refugees in France. In the New York headquarters of the Commission for Polish Relief, McCormick and Pate had the invaluable devotion and experienced work of Columba P. Murray, Jr., Colonel Joseph Krueger, and Bernard Fraser, all veterans of the American Relief Administration. Hugh Gibson and Frederic Walcott voluntarily gave generously of their time on the negotiating and diplomatic side. Mrs. Vernon Kellogg was a zealous raiser of private contributions in the United States... In the initiation of relief to Poland, we concentrated upon two programs: the supply of food and clothing to the underfed children in the congested districts and ghettos in Poland, and care of Polish refugees, now scattered over Europe. Mr. Pate set up canteens, under the care of Polish women, which provided special meals to 200,000 undernourished children and aged persons daily in Poland. The Polish Government in Exile had set up refugee relief, and our organization supplied it with food and clothing. Our route for shipments was from the United States to Sweden and thence to Hamburg or Danzig. When it was cut off because of the German invasion of Norway on April 9, 1940, the Commission was able to ship through Genoa or Lisbon and thence by rail to Poland. To finance the relief, the Commission supported the appeals of the Polish-American organizations in the United States, from whom we received about $400,000. The Polish Government in Exile made an initial donation of $186,225.
    It was certain that if the Commission were to be successful in carrying out a substantial program, it would cost more than the combined resources of both charity appeals and the exiled Polish Government. Therefore, on February 29, 1940, I obtained a hearing before the House Foreign Affairs Committee and advocated a fifty-million-dollar appropriation to the Red Cross for relief for Poland. I urged Norman Davis, Chairman of the American Red Cross, to undertake this relief. When the Congressional appropriation subsequently became law, the Red Cross undertook medical aid, but our organization received no part of it for the major need: food. To stimulate charitable contributions, the Commission organized a mass meeting at New York City's Madison Square Garden on March 12 at which I spoke. It organized a mass meeting in Chicago at which I also spoke, and another in New York on April 28, where both General Joseph Haller, Minister of State of the Republic of Poland, and I spoke. In the meantime, August Zaleski, Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Polish Government in Exile in London, took a hand in the finances of the Relief Commission... Our total resources with these additions amounted to about $6,000,000, including $3,060,704 in Polish gold deposited in the National Bank of Rumania. We sent Dorsey Stephens to Bucharest to bring out the gold. The Bank of Rumania refused to hand it over. After all patience had been exhausted in negotiating with it, we attached its balances in New York and won our case on July 15, 1941, in the lower courts. Although the British blockade was in action against delivery of food to German-occupied territory, we had no difficulty in obtaining permits for relief shipments during the Chamberlain ministry. However, when Churchill succeeded Chamberlain as Prime Minister in May, 1940, he soon stopped all permits of food relief to Poland. At the outset of our Polish relief operations, I conducted negotiations with the Germans through their Embassy officials in Washington. They were most co-operative, and issued certificates of immunity from submarine attack, provided neutral vessels were used. After we were prevented by Mr. Churchill from sending overseas supplies to Poland, the Relief Commission deployed its American staff over Europe to seek food outside British control. They were able to make some purchases in the Baltic nations and in Russia, but in the end, the blockade closed in upon us, and this effort to aid Poland was ended. It was only by the incredible tenacity of Maurice Pate and our men in Europe that a meager stream of food and medical relief continued to trickle to Poland for nearly two more years. Beyond doubt, this saved thousands of lives. The further relief of Poland was now dependent on whether or not the British blockade could be relaxed for relief shipments. We did not abandon our effort to secure relaxation of the blockade, but merged this problem with those of the other small democracies.

    Scope and Content of Collection

    Correspondence, reports, memoranda, financial records, and photographs, relating to efforts to provide relief to Poland during World War II.