University of Minnesota

“If It Isn’t Fun.” – Austrian Journal

October 13, 1950  En route by car, Paris — Frankfurt — Salzburg

In Frankfurt for an introduction to my work as USPHS officer with the Displaced Persons Immigration Program, I toured today the I.G. Farben Fabrik, untouched by Allied bombs and now HICOG, headquarters for U.S. occupation forces in Germany. Its massive, bold lines recall the chilling pomp of Hitler’s Nurenberg. Today I also attended my first-ever government committee meeting, on the DP Program, chaired by the U.S. Consul-General, a genial, hearty guy. Consular staff attended from Vienna, Salzburg, Munich, and Berlin, along with representatives of the DP Commission and the U.S. Public Health Service.

The DP Program began to take form for me during the meeting, including the mechanics of visa issuance under the DP Act, and the types of DPs and Ethnic Germans the program was designed to recruit. It goes something like this: the visa candidate first undergoes an investigation by the International Refugee Organization, which correlates its findings with the prospect’s own story of refugee status. This seems to be a sort of political clearance to weed out Nazis and collaborators. Then formal visa application is made before consular staff, followed by the USPHS medical exam and the final decision by immigration officials. Since inception, the program has issued 200,000 visas and has another 100,000 to go by December 31, 1951. The issue rate, expected to exceed 10,000 a month, is close on schedule.

In addition to this special DP legislation, there is the ordinary Austrian and German immigration quota to administer along with a special one for Volksdeutsche, that is, German-speaking folk originally from the Sudetenland, the Baltics, Czechoslovakia and Poland, folks who now are unwelcome in the new post-war Communist states and are refugees from their homeland. Specially targeted for U.S. immigration, they are presumably favored by a “German block” in our U.S. Congress.

Of acute concern at this meeting of the DP Commission is the bill passed last week in Congress over the veto of President Truman. It changes the internal security laws affecting all immigrants. Anyone who has been a member of Nazi, Fascist, or Communist organizations, even as a child, would be barred. This has resulted in 300 Ethnic Germans being held at this moment on Ellis Island for intensive reinvestigation before entry. All visa issuances worldwide have been suspended except for those DPs who have already undergone a rigorous political going-over. 

These were the  first signs we had overseas of what would become the rampant tyranny of “McCarthyism,” which would soon decimate the competent ranks of our Foreign Service as well as wreak havoc domestically with its “loyalty oaths,” blacklists, UnAmerican Activities Committee witch-hunts, etc.

Our meeting closed with a session in a densely smoke-filled room in which the following summary was made by officials just back from hearing“the word” in Washington, D.C.:

“The DP Program is important. It has presidential and wide public interest.

Continued demands for DPs on farms and in factories indicate they are making good.

The arduous, often monotonous, work performed by those attached to the Foreign Service DP program is acknowledged with gratitude.”

Fair enough.

I can personally report that nothing remarkable developed subsequently in the post-meeting cocktail party held at the Consul-General’s mansion.

Welcome to government service.


Tomorrow I’m off to my job as Medical Officer in Charge (MOC) for the Austrian stations of the U.S. Immigration and U.S. Public Health Service. Tonight I called Nelly in Versailles. Both of us are regretting that we didn’t get married in Paris and come here together. I need her presence as I cope with new ideas and adjustments. By the time she joins me in Salzburg, it will all be routine and I may not have the intensity I feel now for the work nor the freshness of impressions of the country. Meanwhile, she sits in her cold, bare chateau, La Maison de la Reconciliation, unable to work on her Oberlin master’s thesis on Voltaire due to poor library facilities in Versailles. And she stews anew amidst the chaos of her family’s super-animated life, one that she had long ago and happily left behind.

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