281 Report by Calwell

Extract [8 July 1947] [1]


On the 8th July, 1947 the Minister and Mrs. Calwell, accompanied by Mr. R.E. Armstrong (Private Secretary), Mr. Ian Hamilton (Department of Information, London), Mr. Harry Beilby (Department of Immigration, London) and Mr. 0. Loorham, of the Australian Reparations Team in Germany, departed from London in a British R.A.F. plane and arrived at Bremen, Germany, at 6 p.m.

The Minister and party were met at Bremen by Major Pitman, of the U.S.A. Forces, and taken to a hotel conducted by the American Occupation Forces. Later in the evening the American Consul, Mr.

Altaffer, and the British Consul, Mr. Patrick Johnston, paid courtesy calls on the Minister.

The representative of the International Refugee Organisation in the district, Mr. Thomas R. Gray, called on the Minister and had a long discussion with regard to displaced persons.

Mr. Calwell informed Mr. Gray that prior to leaving London he had a conference with Mr. R. Innes, the Deputy Director of I.R.O. and with Mr. Dow of that Organisation. The I.R.O. approached Mr.

Calwell to ascertain if Australia would be prepared to assist them by taking a given number of displaced persons to Australia. It had been stated that the I.R.O. had three ships and that they were at present taking displaced persons to America and to Brazil and that it would assist them considerably if Australia would indicate that she would accept some of the displaced persons.

The Minister informed Mr. Gray that Australia was interested particularly in the Balts, i.e., Latvians, Lithuanians, Estonians, and the main purpose of his visit to Europe was to see some of these displaced persons, and, more particularly, to view for himself some of the vessels which were being used to transport the displaced persons to America and Brazil. Mr. Innes had informed him that three ships were leaving that week on the 9th, 12th and 15th of July for Brazil or America, and Mr. Calwell wished to satisfy himself that they were suitable for the longer journey to Australia.

Authority for Agreement to take Displaced Persons Mr. Calwell informed Mr. Gray that after his conference with the I.R.O. officials in London he had cabled the Australian Prime Minister and had been given authority to enter into an agreement with regard to Australia taking a number of displaced persons. Mr.

Calwell also informed Mr. Gray that Australia had agreed to accept a number of Poles stationed in Great Britain but had stipulated that all such Poles must have fought with the Australians in Tobruk.

Mr. Gray stated that in the American Zone there were some 400,000 displaced persons, amongst whom were some particularly fine types.

The greater portion of those who had been shipped to America were the older people, who had relatives in America and who had been nominated from that end.

The American Authorities would be pleased if Australia would help by accepting some of the displaced persons. They had been averaging two (2) ships a week from Bremen but that rate was not sufficient to make much difference to the numbers. He, Mr. Gray, would be pleased to arrange for the Minister to visit the camp of displaced persons and also to inspect the transit camp from which the displaced persons were shipped.

The Minister informed Mr. Gray that Australia would be interested in the more youthful types of Baltic peoples who were capable of doing hard work and who would be useful to the Australian economy.

Australia had to be careful that those they accepted were of good character and that they had a clean record. We desired to make sure that those who were taken were actually displaced persons who had suffered as a result of their political or religious views in this war.

Mr. Gray asked the Minister if it were proposed to take displaced persons from the British or American Zones or both. Mr. Calwell stated that that aspect would not be considered until he had visited Europe and seen the position on the spot.

The Minister informed Mr. Gray that Australia had issued landing permits to about 8,000 persons on the Continent and these were issued on the clear understanding that the persons to whom they were issued sailed from the Continent, and did not take space on ships which could be occupied by British migrants. There were some 400,000 persons in Great Britain who desired to go to Australia but were having great difficulty in obtaining shipping space.

Australia wished to treat displaced persons separately from refugees. Three ships had sailed from the Continent some time ago and had taken a considerable number of Jewish people to Australia and it had now been decided that any future shipments should not include more than 25 % of Jewish people in any one ship. The Australian people were asking how it was possible for Jewish people to get to Australia from Europe when British people could not obtain shipping space to come out to Australia.

1 The document is undated. It reports on the period 8-22 July.

[AA : A445/1, 223/2/5]