Reading

Breckinridge Long's Memorandum

Assistant Secretary of State Breckinridge Long (1881-1958), ca. 1918

While the horrors leading to the killing of millions of Jews and other minorities in Nazi-occupied Europe were unfolding, Breckinridge Long, who was in charge of refugees and immigration issues in the US State Department, devised a strict anti-immigration policy. Long and his subordinates were driven by xenophobia, antisemitism, and a fear of spies who might have infiltrated the US as European immigrants. The document below lays out the purpose of Long’s policy:


June 26, 1940.
A-B - Mr. Berle
PA/D Mr. Dunn

Attached is a memorandum from Mr. Warren. I discussed the matter with him on the basis of this memorandum. There are two possibilities and I will discuss each category briefly.
 
Non-immigrants
Their entry into the United States can be made to depend upon prior authorization by the Department. This would mean that the consuls would be divested of discretion and that all requests for nonimmigrant visas (temporary visitor and transit visas) be passed upon here. It is quite feasible and can be done instantly. It will permit the Department to effectively control the immigration of persons in this category and private instructions can be given the Visa Division as to nationalities which should not be admitted as well as to individuals who are to be excluded.
This must be done for universal application and could not be done as regards Germany, for instance, or Russia, for instance, or any other one government because it would first, invite retaliation and second, would probably be a violation of some of our treaty arrangements. The retaliation clause is in connection with Germany because it could mean the closing of our offices in almost all of Europe.
 
Immigrants
We can delay and effectively stop for a temporary period of indefinite length the number of immigrants into the United States. We could do this by simply advising our consuls, to put every obstacle in the way and to require additional evidence and to resort to various administrative devices which would postpone and postpone and postpone the granting of the visas. However, this could only be temporary. In order to make it more definite It would have to be done by suspension of the rules under the law by the issuance of a proclamation of emergency--which I take it we are not yet ready to proclaim.
 
Summing Up
We can effectively control non-immigrants by prohibiting the issuance of visas unless the consent of the Department to obtained in advance for universal application […]1

Citations

  • 1 : “Memo from Assistant Secretary of State Breckinridge Long, to State Department Officials dated June 26, 1940, outlining effective ways to obstruct the granting of U.S. visas,” Public Broadcasting Service, accessed August 19, 2013, .

Connection Questions

  1. What is Breckinridge Long proposing in the first part of this memorandum? What would be the impact of the decision to transfer temporary visitor and transit visas from US consuls in Europe to the State department?
  2. Long writes: “We can delay and effectively stop for a temporary period of indefinite length the number of immigrants into the United States.What would be the impact of following Long's proposals? What factors should officials take into consideration when they debate refugee policies in a time of cirisis?
  3. The Diplomat received this memo in the context of the Holocaust. How might they have weighed their professional duty to follow the directions of their supervisors versus the eithical obligation to help people in danger?

Related Content

Reading

Breckinridge Long Memorandum Text

June 26, 1940.
A-B - Mr. Berle
PA/D Mr. Dunn

Reading
Holocaust

A Rescuer in France: Hiram Bingham IV

Between 1940 and 1941, American diplomat Hiram Bingham IV, stationed in Marseille, France, helped as many as 2,500 Jews escape Nazi persecution by defying United States policies and issuing hundreds of immigration papers.

Reading
Holocaust

Secretary Morgenthau's Report on the Acquiescence of the US Government in the Murder of the Jews

In 1944, Treasury Department Secretary Henry Morgenthau, Jr. and his aides put together a report detailing the State Department's obstructionist efforts that kept Jewish refugees from escaping Nazi atrocities. As a result of Morgenthau's report, President Roosevelt established a War Refugee Board which went on to save as many as  200,000 Jews.

Reading
Holocaust

Cordell Hull’s Telegram to Hiram Bingham, September 18, 1940

Read the letter written to Hiram Bingham by the Secretary of State Cordell Hull, in response to rescue efforts of Jews and non-Jews in Vichy France.

Search Our Global Collection

Everything you need to get started teaching your students about racism, antisemitism and prejudice.