In The Manner Of Breathing Free – The Refugee Situation – 1949 – Past Daily Reference Room

After World War 2 they called them Displaced Persons.

After World War 2 they called them Displaced Persons.

America United – Should The Displaced Persons Law Be Liberalized? – September 18, 1949 – Gordon Skene Sound Collection

With all the latest news concerning the recent flood of refugees to Europe and elsewhere from war-torn Syria and the Middle East, the question of how are they to be accommodated, who will take them, how many and what are the logistical/political/social problems keeps getting raised.

We’re no stranger to refugees. After World War 2, we called them Displaced Persons. During the Cold War they were Refugees fleeing tyrannical governments. Now, for some reason, the term is being blurred between Refugees and Migrants – casting the strange aura of floods of cheap illegal labor flooding welfare offices throughout Europe and the rest of the world.

Truths to tell, the people jamming boats, the children drowning and washed ashore, the ones being clubbed, gassed and kicked are fleeing a war zone. They are refugees, escaping a blood-bath they have no control over, looking to save their own lives and putting their lives on the line in order to exist somewhere safe.

And in 1949 it wasn’t a whole lot different. Only in 1949 it was still the aftermath of World War 2 and countries were struggling to rebuild. In 1949 though, the Cold War was underway and the floods of refugees also included those fleeing Iron Curtain countries. And as has been largely circulated by some of our extremist friends, the fear being spread in 2015 is that within the groups of refugees fleeing war-torn Syria are ISIS operatives, seeking to get a toehold in Europe and the West. Much the same as the fear from extremists in 1949; that those refugees from Poland, Hungary and Czechoslovakia and other Soviet bloc countries were hiding Communist operatives. Then as now too, the underlying issue of religion was creeping up. There were reports from various refugee camps around Europe that Jews and Catholics were being excluded, and this number was being reflected in the religious makeup of refugees coming to the U.S. – however, both the Communist infiltration issue and the issue of religious discrimination were refuted with reported numbers of some 58% of displaced persons coming to the U.S. were Catholic and some 28% were Jewish.

But the biggest concern was what to do. In the U.S. there were proposals in Congress to change the then-current Displaced Persons Law, allowing it to be liberalized and able to accept more refugees with fewer restrictions.

In this discussion, from the America United series of September 18, 1949 – a group of panelists attempted to tackle the issue. Since the law changing the number of Displaced Persons allowed in the country from 202,000 over a 2-year period to 339,000 over a 3-year period was waiting on a vote in Congress. The feeling of some was, we had done a pretty good job of cleaning up the physical wreckage of the war, but were falling behind taking care of the human wreckage, asking the bill go further and allow some 400,000 in. Most were in agreement that we needed to take in more Displaced Persons, but the question still was; how many.

To get an idea of what the circumstances and the solutions were to an issue from 1949, and to a large degree a similar issue in 2015, here is that discussion from September 18, 1949.

Further evidence not much really ever changes.

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