Sample 1: Settling Refugees in the United States

November 29, 2018

Concerned about subversives within its borders and disillusioned by the democratic orientation of the new state of Israel, the Soviet Union launched a campaign of repression and intimidation against its Jewish citizens in the late 1940s. The campaign quickly spread to Eastern Europe where anti-Semitism had long flourished. Eastern Europeans also began to suffer repression more generally as their governments instituted Soviet-style practices in political and economic life. By 1953 those who disagreed with their governments for political, economic or religious reasons had begun to flee westward in ever-increasing numbers. In January 1953, for example, the New York Times reported that as many as 20,000 refugees were expected to arrive in Berlin by the end of the month. At the same time, a "residue" of displaced persons as ER described them in a January 19, 1953 column, remained in Western European refugee camps. Some were too old to emigrate. Others did not want to be separated from elderly family members who were not considered desirable immigrants.[1]

ER had long supported efforts to resettle European refugees in the US, particularly those who faced persecution or death if they returned to their homelands. As early as 1946 she had used My Day to argue that Americans had to overcome their “prejudices and intolerances” toward immigrants. In 1948 she actively lobbied for the Stratton bill, which would have allowed refugees from Eastern Europe to immigrate to the United States. Four years later, she urged President Harry Truman to veto the McCarran-Walter bill, which sought to restrict the number of immigrants from Southern and Eastern Europe because large numbers of them had already come to America between 1890 and 1924.[2]

ER’s support for refugee resettlement drew the ire of those Americans who feared that admitting large numbers of immigrants would irretrievably change the country politically, economically and socially. One such individual, R.O. Francke of San Francisco, California, wrote her and enclosed two of her My Day columns in which she had argued that the US “take a little of this burden” of resettling refugees and discussed the work of those who helped immigrants “become naturalized citizens and useful members of the community.”[3]

He also enclosed a newspaper photograph of a wheelchair-bound 84-year-old Holocaust survivor taking the oath of citizenship with his daughter and son-in-law[4] and an anti-Semitic extract alleged to have come from the diary of Charles Pinckney of South Carolina, one of the signers of the US Constitution.[5]

“Why are you so concerned over the people in Europe?” Francke asked ER.

There are a great many white people in your own country that should have your attention. We don’t want the skilled—to take our jobs or positions & especially the weak, unskilled. Mind you accepting that old man, as per newspaper slipping that I will enclose. It is just another case of a pension burden, and it is not right to do that to the taxpayers of this country.

You say, somehow, it seems we should be able to take a little of this burden. Why? I wouldn’t ask the old country to do that much for me. They should be made to stay where there belong. We have enough mongrels in this country now…

Just image what a mongrel country this will be in 20 years…with the inter marriages; the mingleing of the browns, yellow and black races!!! You & I won’t be here –but I am interested in my own, white, American country & hate to see it go to the dogs.[6]

ER dictated the following reply.   

19: Eleanor Roosevelt to R.O. Francke

15 February 1953 [New York City]


Dear Mr. Francke:

I never did agree with Mr. Pinckney of South Carolina and I do not agree with you today.

You seem not to realize that people escaping from the Iron Curtain countries[7] today love their country as much as they ever have but they love a country which was free and not a country in which they are slaves.

I am concerned about people in Europe and in the rest of the world because I am concerned about the people of my own country. Those who come to out country are usually very high class people who will be able to take care of themselves and your idea that they are going to take away your job is nonsense. They are going to create more jobs and will not be a burden on this country. The picture of the man you sent me, is a person who came because his children are here. He is not a burden to you or to other taxpayers, and will not be.[8]

Unless you learn to look at the people of the world as people and not look at their skins or their religions, I am afraid you are in for some difficult times.

This country is not going to the dogs. It is going to show humanity and good will and make friends in the world by its generosity and its belief in the validity of God's teaching.

Very sincerely yours,




[1]Judt, 181-86, 249-50; Dziewanowski, 280-81; Walter Sullivan, “Berlin Calls on Bonn to Accelerate Transfer of Refugees to the West,” NYT, 23 January 1953, 5; MD, 19 January 1953.

[2] ER’s efforts met with mixed success. Congress failed to pass the Stratton bill. In the case of the McCarran-Walter bill, Congress overrode Truman’s veto and the legislation became law (MD, 14 November 1946)  For more on ER’s efforts to resettle refugees in the US, see ERP, vol. 1, 599-601, 613 and ERP, vol. 2 Document 127. For more on the McCarran-Walter bill see ERP vol. 2, Document 76. For more on ER’s UN efforts to aid refugees, see ERP, vol. 1. 202-06, 230-33, 244-51, 396-401, 423-29.

[3] R.O. Francke to ER, n.d., AERP, FDRL; MD, 28 August 1950 and MD, 9 May 1952.

[4] Above the photo of Buchenwald survivor Moritz Sachs, Francke had typed, “No other country would accept an old man like that. Not even for a visit, I don’t think. JUST HERE THE PENSION---schemy jews” (“New Life Begins For Exile, 84,” San Francisco Call Bulletin 3 September 1952, AERP, FDRL).

[5] Charles Coatesworth Pinckney (1745-1825), a lawyer, planter, politician and diplomat represented South Carolina at the 1787 Constitutional Convention. A staunch defender of the Constitution and a strong federal government, he helped broker the compromise that ended the importation of slaves to the US in 1808. His diary has never been found. The statement, attributed to Benjamin Franklin and known as the Franklin “Prophecy,” was an anti-Semitic hoax first published in 1934. 

The copy of the “Prophecy” Francke sent ER reads as follows:

There is great danger for the United States of America. The great danger is the Jew. Gentlemen, in whichever land the Jews have settled, they have depressed the moral level and lower the degree of commercial honesty. They have remained the apart and unassimilated---oppressed, they attempt to strangle the nation financially, as in the case of Portugal and Spain.

For more than seventeen hundred years they have lamented their sorrowful fate---namely, that they have been driven out of their Motherland; but, gentlemen, if the civilized world today should give them back Palestine and their property, they would immediately find pressing reasons for not returning there. Why? Because they are vampires and vampires cannot live on other vampires, they cannot live among themselves. They must live among Christians and others, who do not belong to their race.

If they are not excluded from the United States by the Constitution within less than one hundred years, they will stream into this country in such numbers that they will rule and destroy us and change our form of Government for which we Americans shed our blood and sacrificed our life, property and personal freedom. If the Jews are not excluded within too hundred years, our children will be working in the fields to feed the Jews while they remain in the counting house gleefully rubbing their hands.

I warn you, gentlemen, if you do not exclude the Jews forever, you children and your children’s children will curse you in your graves. Their ideas are not those of Americans even when they have lived among us for ten generations. The leopard cannot change its spots. The Jews are a danger to this land; if they are allowed to enter they will imperil our institutions. They should be excluded by the Constitution.

(ANBO,  R.O. Francke, to ER, n. d., typewritten enclosure falsely attributed to Charles Coatesworth Pinckney and Benjamin Franklin, AERP, FDRL; Anti-Defamation League, “The Franklin ‘Prophecy’ Modern Anti-Semitic Myth Making,” accessed 1 December 2010,  Mary Jo Binker telephone interview with Charlene Bickford, First Federal Congress Project, Washington, DC, 1 December 2010).  

[6] R.O. Francke to ER, n.d. AERP, FDRL.

[7] In a speech in Fulton, Missouri, March 5, 1946, former British prime minister Winston Churchill introduced the term “iron curtain” to describe the division between those countries in Eastern Europe that had come under Soviet domination after World War II and the non-Communist countries of Western Europe (OEWH under “Iron Curtain”).

[8] The day after ER wrote to Francke, the New York Times reported that she had signed a letter to President Dwight Eisenhower asking him to place a proposal for a “watchdog” committee to prevent anti-Semitic violence worldwide on the agenda of the United Nations General Assembly. ER and her fellow co-signers who included American clergymen, educators and other prominent figures contended such a step was necessary because “a danger of physical violence exists for 3,000,000 Jews in various countries” including the Soviet Union. They also asked Eisenhower “to issue a declaration” condemning the anti-Semitic attacks that had already occurred and warning the Soviet Union that their anti-Jewish campaign “constituted incitement to massacre.” They also asked the president to halt US aid to “any country engaged in such attacks” (“Eisenhower Move To Aid Jews Urged,” NYT, 16 February 1953, 1, 7).