Military Records

Records Relating to World War II Era Refugees

Table of Contents

Civilian Agency Records

Records of International Conferences, Commissions, and Expositions (Record Group 43)

General Records of the Department of State (RG 59)

Records of the Foreign Service Posts of the United States (Record Group 84)

Records of the Displaced Persons Commission (Record Group 278)

Records of Interdepartmental and Intradepartmental Committee (Record Group 353)

Records of U.S. High Commissioner for Germany (Record Group 466)

Records of U.S. Foreign Assistance Agencies, 1948-61 (Record Group 469)

Military Records


Civilian Agency Records

Records of International Conferences, Commissions, and Expositions (Record Group 43)

Records regarding refugees and displaced persons can be found in the following series:

  • Records of the Council of Foreign Ministers {ca. 1945-1955} {Lot M-88}
    (Entry UD-16)
    [Box 141 contains a folder on Displaced Persons and Refugees]

  • Country Files, 1946-48
    (Entry A1-484)
    [Box 201 contains a folder titled, "Moscow: Allied Prisoners of War, Refugees, and Expellees"]

  • Research Reports 152 And 160, April-May 1950
    (Entry A1-658)
    [Box 310 contains a folder titled, "Population Problems (Refugees, Expellees, DPs and PWs"]

General Records of the Department of State (RG 59)

The State Department's involvement in refugee issues began before the outbreak of war in Europe in September 1939 and continued after the war's end in 1945. The following is a description of the records of the Department of State.

The Central Decimal Files

The most important State Department records concerning refugees are contained within Record Group 59, the General Records of the Department of State. Of particular value is the Department's Central Decimal File, 1910-January 1963.

This series consists of incoming and outgoing departmental correspondence and memos. These documents are filed by subject according to a predetermined file classification scheme divided into seven date segments: 1910-29, 1930-39, 1940-44, 1945-49, 1950-54, 1955-59, and 1960-63. One filing manual covers the years 1910 through 1949. Revised filing manuals cover the years 1950-1959 and 1960 through January 1963.

Useful finding aids include:

  • Filing manuals which contain subject indexes

  • Footnotes in the volumes published by the State Department entitled Foreign Relations of the United States

  • Purport Lists and Cards which are abstracts of documents arranged according to the decimal filing scheme

  • Source Cards available for each segment 1910-49 arranged by the source of the communication (country or city, thereunder to or from, thereunder by date)

  • Name Cards available for each segment 1910-59 arranged alphabetically by name of person or organization

The primary source for refugees in the Central Decimal File from 1910 through 1949 are the decimals 840.48 and 840.48 (Refugees) which have been reproduced in microfilm publication M1284, Records of the Department of State Relating to the Problems of Relief and Refugees in Europe Arising from World War II and Its Aftermath, 1938-49.

These records relate to the State Department's interest and involvement in relief measures in Europe before, during, and after the war and with refugees displaced by persecution and fighting who were unable to return home after the war. These records are arranged by decimal and thereunder chronologically.

Rolls 1-18 (decimal file 840.48) contain State Department records documenting the general problem of calamities, disasters, and relief activities in Europe. Rolls 19-70 (decimal file 840.48 Refugees) deal with the problem of European refugees.

The early part of the file contains material documenting U.S. concern for political and Jewish refugees in Germany and Austria prior to World War II and U.S. participation in the Intergovernmental Committee for Political Refugees.

File 840.48 Refugees illustrates the problems of European refugees all over the world by documenting State cooperation on the refugee problem with other agencies of the U.S. Government, other government, and private organizations. After the war, the file includes information on repatriation of displaced persons and refugees from communism in Eastern Europe.

Some of the more interesting topics in decimal 840.48 Refugees include the settling of Jewish refugees in Santo Domingo, the trip of Linton Wells through Angola (1939) to examine that area for possible settlement by refugees, the smuggling of Jewish and other refugees out of Europe, the establishment of the Polish refugee camp at Santa Rosa, Mexico, the activities of the War Refugee Board, the liquidation of the Emergency Refugee Shelter at Oswego, NY, and the post war repatriation of refugees.

The best way to conduct research on WWII refugees in these records is to consult the Purport Lists for 1940-44 in microfilm publication M973 to examine abstracts of relevant documents, and then to proceed to M1284. Both microfilm publications are located in the Microfilm Research Room on the 4th floor of the National Archives research facility in College Park, Maryland.

Find information on how to purchase copies of this microfilm publication.

Other Central Decimal File segments for 1940-44 that may include information on European refugees include 740.00116EW (Illegal and Inhumane Warfare), 8** [* = country number].4016 (Race Problems), and 840.50 (European Recovery).

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Lot Files

Additional documentation concerning refugees in State records that should be consulted are located in the files maintained by the different offices and officials of the Department, referred to by the Department as office or lot files. All State Department records that were filed in Washington, but not in the Central Files, are in this category.

Although all policy documents created by State employees were to be filed in the Department's Central Files, the crises surrounding World War II and the postwar period put such a strain on the Department's records keeping that many offices and bureaus failed to send all relevant documents to the Central Files. As a result, lot files can contain the original copies of documents, as well as working papers, drafts, etc.

At this time, there is no complete, comprehensive list of lot files and there is no single source describing their content. However, there are finding aid binders available for the lot files, either by subject or by geographic region, giving a description of the lot file and including any available box or folder list. In the research room of our College Park, MD facility, there is a binder titled Refugees - World War II.

Lot files in this binder include:

Records Relating to the Intergovernmental Committee on Refugees

  • Records Relating to Administration and Finances, 1943-48
    (Entry A1-1405) 4 boxes

  • Records Relating to Meetings, 1943-47
    (Entry A1-1406) 4 boxes

  • Miscellaneous Subject File, 1942-47
    (Entry A1-1407) 4 boxes

  • Country Files, 1938-41
    (Entry A1-1408) 7 boxes

  • Alphabetical Subject File, 1938-41
    (Entry A1-1409) 15 boxes
Records of the Special Committee on Migration

  • Subject File, 1943-44
    (Entry A1-1410) boxes 1-4

  • Minutes of Meetings, 1943-44, box 5 (Entry A1-1411)

  • Alpha-Numeric File, 1943-44, box 5 (Entry A1-1412)

  • Memorandums, 1943-44, box 5 (Entry A1-1413)

  • Documents, 1943-44, box 5 (Entry A1-1414)

  • Records Relating to Atrocities Committed by the Nazis, 1944-45, box 8 (Entry A1-1415)
Records Relating to the War Refugee Board
  • Subject File, 1943-45, 2 boxes (Entry A1-1417)
Other records relating to the War Refugee Board are located at the Franklin D. Roosevelt Presidential Library and Museum.

Records Relating to the Santa Rosa Polish Refugee Camp

  • Subject File, 1944-46, 1 box (Entry A1-1418)

There is also documentation in the U.S. Foreign Service Post Files in Mexico (RG 84) and in the records of the Foreign Economic Administration (RG 169)

Records Relating to the International Refugee Organization (IRO) and the Displaced Persons Commission (DPC)
  • IRO Subject File, 1946-52, 20 boxes (Entry A1-1419)

  • DP Subject File, 1944-52, 16 boxes (Entry A1-1420)

  • Resettlement File, 1941-52, 7 boxes (Entry A1-1421)
Special War Problems Division
  • Subject Files, 1939-54, 199 boxes

This division had responsibilities concerning the evacuation and repatriation of Americans in foreign countries and foreign citizens in the U.S. There is substantial information on refugees. A folder title list is available.

Records of the Policy and Planning Staff

Beginning in 1947, this staff was responsible for the development of long-range policy which would serve as a framework for program planning and as a guide for current policy decisions and operations.

This staff's policy papers included document PPS 22 and PPS 22/1 on the topic of the "Utilization of Refugees from the Soviet Union in the U.S. National interest." This document is part of the series, Records of the Policy Planning Staff, 1947-54 (Entry A1-1568). It is also reproduced in microfiche publication M1171, "Policy Planning Staff Numbered Papers, 1-63, 1947-1949."

Records of Harley A. Notter, Advisor for United Nations Affairs

During World War II, Harley Notter was involved in post-war planning with various offices and committees. His papers include documentation on refugees. See the following series:

  • Miscellaneous Subject Files (Entry A1-496, box 17)

Records of the Division of Central European Affairs

The mission of this division was to direct the day-to-day conduct of diplomatic relations with Germany, Austria, and Czechoslovakia. The following series includes documentation concerning displaced persons in Germany.

  • Subject Files, 1944-49, (Entry A1-381B)

Records of the Personal Representative of the President to Pope Pius XII, 1942-50

The following series contains information on Jews, refugees, and relief activities:

  • Decimal File, 1944-50, 27 boxes (Entry A1-1068)

Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration

NARA holdings include the following lot files created by this Bureau's Office of Refugee Relief Programs:
  • Refugee Organizations, 1946-47 (Entry A1-5491, boxes 1452-1459)

  • [Statistics Unit] Reports and Correspondence, 1953-57 (Entry A1-5494, boxes 88-90)

  • Files of Harry Lyford, 1953-55 (Entry A1-5495, boxes 91-95)

  • Subject Files, 1952-57 (Entry A1-5498, boxes 25-55)

  • Subject Files, 1953-55 (Entry A1-5496, boxes 96-104)

  • Correspondence with Foreign Service Post Files, 1952 (Entry A1-5497, boxes 1-15)
Lot Files Pertaining to the Middle East
  • Records of Arthur Zimmermann Gardiner - Palestine Refugee Case Files, 1947-49 (Entry A1-1107B, boxes 3-4)

  • Office of Near Eastern Affairs - Miscellaneous Records Relating to Problems of Palestinian Refugees, 1949-56 (Entry A1-1300, Boxes 70-74)

  • Bureau of Near Eastern and South Asian Affairs - Records Relating to Refugee Matters and Jordan Waters, 1949-68 (Entry A1-5270, boxes 1-10)

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Records of the Foreign Service Posts of the United States (RG 84)

This record group consists of documents originally filed at American embassies, legations, and consulates. Although much documentation is duplicated in the State Department's Central Files, there is unique documentation and even discrete series of records relating to activities unique to the post.

After 1935, the records are arranged by country, thereunder alphabetically by diplomatic and consular posts. Most of the records are filed by post, thereunder by year, and thereunder according to the foreign service post decimal filing scheme, which resembles the State Central Decimal filing scheme.

The decimal numbers of the two schemes can be translated back and forth. Under each post, series are created according to the original security classification of the records (i.e., general, confidential, secret, and top secret). There are detailed box lists for the 1936-54 time period available.

Key decimals in the post files from 1945-48 include:

  • 711 (European War)

  • 711.5 (Civil Prisoners)

  • 800 (Political Affairs)

  • 840.1 (People - Race Problems) Jewish Refugees (This decimal category contains documentation of cases of Jews smuggled out of Europe for a ransom)

  • 848 (Relief Measures) International Refugee Organizations

  • 851.51 (Financial Exchange) Refugee funds

Key decimals in the post files from 1949-63 include:

  • 300 (Political and Governmental Affairs - General)

  • 321.4 (Prisoners of War)

  • 321.5 (Civil Prisoners. Enemy Non-Combatants)

  • 350 (Political Affairs - Political Refugees)

  • 570.1 (People - Race Problems. Pogroms, Racial Disturbances, Displaced Persons, Refugees)

There are significant records in the following posts regarding refugees:

  • Austria, Records of the Political Advisor (POLAD) and USCOA (High Commissioner), Vienna, Austria

  • France, Records of the Political Advisor to SHAEF (Paris)

  • Great Britain, Records of the U.S. Embassy, London, and Records Maintained by Ambassador John G. Winant, 1938-46

  • Hungary, Records of the U.S. Legation and Mission, Budapest

  • Italy, Records of the Political Advisor to the Supreme Allied Commander, Mediterranean

  • Portugal, Records of the U.S. Embassy, Lisbon

  • Spain, Records of the U.S. Embassy, Madrid

  • Sweden, Records of the U.S. Embassy, Stockholm

  • Switzerland, Records of the U.S. Legation, Bern

  • U.S. Mission to the United Nations - Central Subject Files, 1950-1963 (Entry 1030-D)

  • U.S. Mission to the United Nations Position Papers and Background Books, 1946-1963 (Entry 1030-B)

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Records of the Displaced Persons Commission (Record Group 278)

Congress established this Commission in 1948 to administer the program that allowed limited emigration of displaced persons to the United States. The commission was abolished in 1952 and the records transferred to the Department of State.

Pertinent series include the following:
  • Central Subject File, 1948-52 (Entry A1-1)

  • Commissioner Harry N. Rosenfeld Subject File, 1948-52 (Entry A1-6)

  • Commissioner Edward M. O'Connor Subject File, 1948-52

  • Legal Division Subject File, 1948-52 (Entry A1-8)

  • General Counsel's Subject File, 1948-52 (Entry A1-9)

  • Correspondencee with Voluntary Organizations, June-July 1949 (Entry A1-23)

Records of Interdepartmental and Intradepartmental Committee (Record Group 353)

SWNCC was established in December 1944 to reconcile the views of the State, War, and Navy departments and to formulate politico-military policies. SWNCC prepared policies for occupying and controlling Japan, Germany, and Austria; and position papers for use by the United States at international conferences.

The records of the State, War, Navy Coordinating Committee (SWNCC) includes records on refugees and displaced persons. See the following series:

  • SWNCC Documents, 1944-49 (Entry A1-503)
    • Document 80 (and sub-cases)- Displaced Persons in Germany and Austria
    • Document 359 (and sub-cases)- Evacuation of Jewish Displaced Persons and OtherUnassimilablee Displaced Persons from Austria
    • Document 176/14 - Displaced Persons in Korea, January 10, 1946
    • Document 205 (and sub-cases)- Repatriation of Displaced Person in Japan

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U.S. High Commissioner for Germany (Record Group 466)

The following series are particularly helpful:
  • Office of the Executive Director
    • General Records, 1949-55 (Entry A1-9; arranged by post file decimal scheme)


  • Office of the Executive Secretary
    • General Records, 1947-52 (Entry A1-16A)


  • Office of the U.S. Land Commissioner for Bavaria, Political Affairs Division, Displaced Populations Branch
    • Children's Case Files, 1946-51 (Entry A1-198)
    • Closed Children's Case Files, 1946-52 (Entry A1-199)
    • Correspondence Regarding Displaced Children, 1946-52 (Entry A1-200)

These case files document the placement of orphan children of Jews and others whose parents died in the concentration camps with foster parents in the U.S. There is a list of case files available.

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U.S. Foreign Assistance Agencies, 1948-61 (Record Group 469)

This Record Group contains additional material relating to the Marshal Plan and the problem of European refugees. Of particular relevance are the following series contained within the records of the Foreign Operations Administration headquarters Office of European Operations, Office of the Director:

  • Geographic Files, 1953-54 (Germany-Refugees)

  • German Division, Subject Files, 1948-53 (Refugees)

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Military Records

Researchers interested in European refugees during World War II should also consult military records. There are many places to look:

The general correspondence files of the major military organizational units during World War II are arranged by the War Department Decimal Filing System. The decimal for refugees is 383.7 and information on refugees is often located in the G-5 (Civil Administration) and/or the Adjutant General's section.

Documentation concerning refugees can be located at every major organizational level. For Europe the levels are as follows:

  • Secretary of War
  • Adjutant General's Office
  • Supreme Headquarters Allied Expeditionary Forces (SHAEF)
  • European Theater of Operations (ETO) - wartime
  • US Forces European Theater (USFET) - occupation period
  • Army Groups - 6 and 12
  • Numbered Armies - 1, 3, 7, 9
  • Corps

Below the Corps level, the general correspondence files were normally destroyed

Post-War (Occupation) Records
  • Office of Military Government for Germany (OMGUS) - AG and Civil Affairs
  • ACC Austria
  • ACC Italy

Special Cases:

Records of the Office of the Assistant Secretary for War (Record Group 107)

  • Formerly Security Classified Correspondence of John J. McCloy, 1941-45
  • General Correspondence of John J. McCloy, 1941-45
    • War Refugee Board (file 400.38)
  • Formerly Security-Classified Correspondence of Howard Peterson, 1945-47

Records of Supreme Headquarters Allied Expeditionary Force (SHAEF),(Record Group 331)

  • Records of the SHAEF General Staff Organizations, Records of the Chief of Staff
    • Records of the Secretary, General Staff
      • Decimal correspondence files, decimal 383.7, refugees and displaced persons
  • Records of the Economics Staff
    • Subject File, 1944-45
      • Refugees and displaced persons

Records of U.S. Army Commands, 1942- (Record Group 338)

  • Records of the Secretary, General Staff
    • Classified General Correspondence, 1944-45
      • Decimal 383.7 (refugees and displaced persons)

See also OSS Record Group 226), OMGUS (Record Group 260), and Naval Attache records.

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