Scope and Content of Collection
Title: Commission for Polish Relief Records,
Date (inclusive): 1939-1949
Collection Number: 48000
Commission for Polish Relief
Collection Size: 70 manuscript boxes (29.2 linear feet)
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
Collection is open for research.
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[Identification of item], Commission for Polish Relief Records, [Box no.], Hoover
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
. 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).
Commission for Polish Relief
World War, 1939-1945
World War, 1939-1945--Civilian relief
World War, 1939-1945--Poland
United States--Foreign relations
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
Scope and Content of Collection
Correspondence, reports, memoranda, financial records, and photographs, relating to efforts to provide relief to Poland during
World War II.