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Dear Editor:
The Truman directive of December 1945 which appeared in your October 13, 2003 issue was an important milestone in the evolution of American refugee policy. The now notorious failure of the United States to respond adequately to the refugee crisis of the 1930s and World War II was accurately characterized by Vice-President Mondale as "a failure of civilization." Truman's directive did not have the effect the president intended. Only about 5,000 Displaced Persons were able to enter the country because of it. Realizing this in late 1946 he began the push for the first congressional refugee legislation, the controversial Displace Persons Acts of 1948 and 1950. Under the Displaced Persons Acts, for the first time, refugee immigration became a major factor in American immigration. The 400,000 immigrants admitted as refugees during fiscal years 1949 through 1952 represent nearly half of the 900,000 legal immigrants of those years. The best and fullest account of the Truman policies is in Leonard Dinnerstein. America and the Survivors of the Holocaust. (New York: Columbia University Press, 1982).

Roger Daniels, Charles Phelps Taft Professor Emeritus of History
University of Cincinnati, Cincinnati, OH.



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