Unrra on Balance


No experiment in international administration has ever been tried on such a large scale as that of the United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation Administration. Congress has already authorized appropriations representing America’s share in UNRRA totaling $2,700,000,000, of which $2,100,000,000 has been made available in cash. We have gone far enough by this lime to have a perspective of this huge undertaking, both in its saving of human lives and its part in the rebuilding of a shattered world.

At the conclusion of the war, the nations which had taken the severest beating and had suffered the greatest economic and population dislocations could be grouped under three heads.

First, there were the occupied countries — France, Belgium, Holland, Denmark, and Norway — which through colonial possessions, holdings abroad, or shipping had some foreign exchange with which to purchase food and industrial rehabilitation materials.

Second, there were the occupied countries — Poland, Czechoslovakia, Yugoslavia, Albania, Greece which had little or no foreign exchange and were therefore entirely dependent on outside help.

Third, there were the former enemy nations — Italy, Germany, Japan, Austria, Finland, Hungary, Rumania, and Bulgaria.

In an intermediary position was China, — about one half of whose population came under Japanese rule, — a divided country which had fought for eight years, which was destitute and in need of help, but which had a limited amount of exchange available. Also in an intermediary position were the two portions of Russia which were recognized at San Francisco as autonomous republics — the Byelorussian Soviet Socialist Republic (White Russia) and the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic. These areas had suffered severe destruction at the hands of the Germans, and had no foreign exchange whatever.

When, on November 9, 1943, UNRRA was created in Washington by the vote of some forty-four nations, the first group of nations I have mentioned excluded themselves from the category requiring outside help for relief purposes. With the exception of Denmark, each had a fairly strong government making its temporary headquarters in London, and in each case that government, having recognition from the outside powers and having exchange available to it, desired to take full responsibility for the future welfare of its people.

The second group of countries were clearly in no position to take care of their own needs and were the initial and obvious responsibility of UNRRA.

The third group presented a number of problems. Italy had been liberated by degrees. Long before V-J Day, the greater part of Italy had become a major problem in relief—a problem which was shouldered by the American, British, and Canadian armies of occupation. Nearly a billion dollars has been spent by these groups in bringing food and fuel to the Italian civilian population in order to maintain minimum living standards. In the case of the American Army, this relief work was done under authority of the Army appropriations, which permitted the importation of necessary foodstuffs in order to prevent “disease and unrest” behind our lines.

Germany and Japan are wholly under military controls. These controls form the government of the country and are therefore still responsible, under the “disease and unrest” formula, for the welfare of the civilian population.

Finland, Hungary, Rumania, and Bulgaria are under Russian military occupation. Russia has assumed full responsibility for their citizens.

Austria, the somewhat unwilling partner of Germany, is still under a four-power control. The military authorities in Austria, through the correlating medium of the Control Commission, are completely responsible for the Austrian civilian population.

Among the former enemy nations or parts of nations which cannot fit into any of the categories listed are Formosa and Korea. The former presumably is to be reinstated as a part of China, and (he latter will presumably be restored to its pre-1910 status of an independent nation.

Three annual meetings of the Council of UNRRA have been held. At the second and third meetings the scope of UNRRA’s work and UNRRA’s areas of responsibility were enlarged. At the first meeting, only the destitute nations were definitely listed as eligible for help. At the second meeting, held in Montreal, Italy was made eligible for a limited $50,000,000 program which would give special aid to children, the indigent, and expectant mothers, and operate in conjunction with the civilian relief administered by the military authorities. At the third meeting, held in London during August of 1945, Italy was made eligible for a full program lo begin shortly after military aid ceased. In addition, Austria, White Russia, the Ukraine, Formosa, and Korea were all made eligible for help.

This extension of the program, together with a new assessment of China’s wants, created an urgent need for additional appropriations from all member nations of UNRRA— a need which Congress was slow to see and did not meet until mid-December, 1945.

Here are the figures agreed upon tentatively as of December 31, 1945, showing the distribution of the total anticipated assets of UNRRA.


Proposed Appropriation $3,000,000,000
Authorized $1,883,300,000
Anticipated 1,883,300,000
Administrative $35,100,000
Operating 55,500,000
Displaced Persons 91,200,000
Balance $3,584,800,000
Shipping $596,600,000
Albania $25,000,000
Austria 75.000.000
White Russia 50.000.000
China 562.500.000
Czechoslovakia 262.500.000
Greece 375.000.000
Italy 409.000.000
Yugoslavia 432.500.000
Poland 444.200.000
Ukraine 158.000.000
Others 31,500,000
Reserve 163.000.000

as to the nature of its activities. Most people believe that the supplying of food for starving people is UNRRA’s primary task. Actually, not over 40 per cent of UNRRA’s funds will be spent for the purchase of food; the balance will be used for items which are of the utmost importance in helping the individual nations to get on their feet.

The principal items coming under this head are transportation equipment (including trucks, trailers, some railway equipment, barges); fuel (both coal and petroleum products); fertilizer, seed, tractors, insecticides, draft animals, livestock, tools; clothing, textiles, footwear, raw materials such as cotton and wool; some metals, tanning materials, paper, roadbuilding machinery, public utilities equipment, repair parts, for industrial rehabilitation. Medicines and medical supplies complete the roster. As the table shows, $596,600,000 of the total money available to UNRRA has to be applied to shipping costs alone, because the chief supplying countries — the United States, Canada, Argentina, and Great Britain — are long distances away from the areas where relief is most needed.


THE Organization of UNRRA is by no means perfect. At one time it was very bad. It is improving rapidly. Any huge administrative organization made up of persons of many different nationalities, accustomed to different rates of pay, different types of living conditions, and different methods of operating, is at a disadvantage from the outset. Add to this the fact that the initial organization had to be created at a time when most able administrators and all ablebodied young men were devoting their full energies to the prosecution of the war, and it becomes obvious that recruitment of personnel for the UNRRA staff was an extremely difficult undertaking.

Mistakes were made in the initial concept of the administrative organization and in the selection of personnel for many key positions. Glaring errors of both policy and administration characterized the whole displaced persons operation. Delay in establishing salary scales and fiscal policies had a bad effect on morale. Long waits for assignments to liberated countries caused resignations and deterioration of enthusiasm to a point where the early operation might well have been judged a serious failure. Nevertheless the appraisal of UNRRA must be made on balance. This is no time to create an alternative organization.

We must acknowledge that whatever success UNRRA may have had in revitalizing and reorganizing its personnel was due almost entirely to former Governor Herbert Lehman’s Chief of Staff, Commander R. G. A. Jackson, a Scotch-Australian British naval officer, who was ordered to take his position by the British government and who by dint of unceasing labor succeeded in cleaning up many of the mistakes and in attracting, particularly from the British and Canadian military services, high-ranking officers of demonstrated ability.

Perhaps 75 per cent of the success of the huge operation depended on logistics pure and simple. It was and is a supply problem of the first magnitude, and when Lt. Gen. Sir Humphrey Gale, who had been chief supply officer for Eisenhower, took command in London, and Lt. Gen. Sir Frederick Morgan took over the displaced persons operation in Germany, immediate improvements became visible. With the appointment of Gen. Lowell W. Rooks of the United States Army to a high position on the Washington staff and Brig. Gen. George Drury, a 34-year-old Canadian, as chief of the Polish mission, the “whole organization received a great lift. In fairness to Governor Lehman it must be said that these individuals and many others who are being brought into positions of responsibility were not available after V-J Day.


To illustrate the complications of UNRRA’s work, let me review the situation briefly in a number of the recipient countries,


The first UNRRA operation began in Greece. Up to April, 1945, the British military authorities, which were the principal factor in the liberation, had the responsibility of trying to bring foodstuffs, clothing, and other supplies into the few ports where facilities had not been destroyed by bombing. Emergency measures were the order of the day. UNRRA officials began to estimate continuing requirements not alone in food but in materials necessary to repair bridges, water supplies, temporary shelters, and so on. Transport facilities were at a minimum. Even at the end of September, 1945, only 180 miles of railway in the whole country were in operating condition. Roads were indescribably had, but at least UNRRA had the summer months in which to work.

While the heat of those summer months could offset the lack of fuel (the Germans had cut all available timber and brushwood within twenty miles of Athens), no one could anticipate the tragedy that befell the Greek crops. The worst drought in a hundred years, toget her wit h parching weather, destroyed the cereal crops; except in Macedonia and Thessaly, there was literally nothing available for either the farmers or the big city population. The drought struck not only Greece but North Africa, Southern Italy, Albania, and Western Yugoslavia as well.

UNRRA’s food figures and the transport estimates had to be revised. The small rural settlements in the mountainous area, which were normally selfsufficient, had to he stocked with sufficient food to carry the population through the winter, when snow would make transport impossible.

Even the fisheries, which in normal times provided an important element in the diet of Greece, were cut down to one fourth of their normal production because of lack of ships and lack of nets, and because fishing waters had not yet been cleared of mines. With the tremendous shortage of mules and of livestock of every kind (goats alone being in fairly plentiful supply), UNRRA’s task assumed the proportions of keeping almost two thirds of the entire population of Greece alive until the next harvest.

Fortunately, the Greek War Relief, which had accumulated roughly $150,000,000 during the war period, was able to supplement the help given by UNRRA.

As a relief operation it was a superb performance. Unfortunately, however, ihere is one serious drawback. Because of the weaknesses of the succeeding Greek governments, politics play a considerable role in prices. The price charged to the people of Greece for their daily ration is roughly one fourth of the landed cost of that ration, and it is being held at this low figure while inflation is following the same spiral as under the Germans from 1941 until 1944, when a. hundred-billion-drachma note became less valuable at the end of that period than a half-drachma piece at the beginning.

ft is a serious question whether any Greek government will have the courage to raise the cost of food to a point, where the farmer will he encouraged to produce and where domestic prices will hear a reasonable relationship to world prices. Inasmuch as UNRRA’s primary task Is to assist with the relief and reconstruction in such a way as to allow nations to stand on their own feet, the Greek situation presents an extremely pressing problem,


The northeast section of Yugoslavia, which lies in the Danube basin, is extraordinarily fertile and normally produces enough food for all Yugoslavia, and also a considerable exportable surplus. Unfortunately, this area was still being fought over during the planting season. Lack of draft animals made the plowing very shallow and the sowing late. The crop was fair, but sufficient to take care of the local population and leave a considerable surplus for the rest of Yugoslavia.

Drought destroyed the greater part of the crops from Montenegro along the Dalmatian coast through Bosnia and Herzegovina into Slovenia. Destruction of bridges and railways and loss of trucks made any attempt at transportation from the northeast to the southwest out of the question. Thus the problem was one of bringing in sufficient food to coastal ports to stork the mountainous areas of the west coast before winter set in.

There was also the problem of furnishing agricultural rehabilitation materials — fertilizer, trucks, and so on. The people are working hard. They have a courage and fortitude which gives every promise of advancing rehabilitation rapidly by the next harvest.

But from the point of view of relief, here were the difficulties. The Tito government is avowedly Communist. The best farmers in the Voivodina, the northeast area, were Germans. One fourth of the land was owned by German farmers who had been settled on it for periods varying from a few years to a hundred. They have all been dispossessed, and their holdings have been divided into six geographical areas which are being resettled by Serbians, Croatians, Slovenians, Montenegrans, Bosnians, or Macedonians. The Hungarian farmers of the area are being allowed to stay. Just what the effect of this mass resettlement may be on next year’s crops remains to be seen, but ample tractors and other farm implements have been shipped in by UNRRA in the hope that crops will be produced.

Tito has made certain secret trade agreements with Soviet Russia as well as with his neighbors. The texts of these agreements at this writing are unknown. It is extremely difficult, even impossible, to lay out an intelligent procurement program when one does not know what commitments have been made by the government to export or import. One of the specific instructions which Congress gave to the American member of the UNRRA Council was to try to secure on behalf of UNRRA full information in regard to these secret agreements.

There are many men in uniform throughout the country. Because of the lack of civilian clothing, it is impossible to tell which individuals are on active service and which are still in uniform for lack of anything else to wear. There is no question, however, that Tito is maintaining a much larger army than the economy of the country should be asked to support, and the presence of soldiers everywhere gives rise to many suspicions that relief supplies are being diverted for army use by the Yugoslav government.

(1 should like to say parenthetically that every agreement bv the UNRRA organization and the recipient country specifies that all UNRRA supplies become the absolute property of the recipient country immediately upon crossing the frontier or being landed at dockside. Full responsibility for their disposition thereafter lies with the government. UNRRA’s only check is that of an observer who can satisfy himself that disposition is being made without regard to race, religion, or political affiliation.)


Of all the nations of Eastern Europe, Czechoslovakia probably suffered the least physical destruction. She did lose a tremendous amount of rolling stock (her railway cars shrank from 93,000 to 12,000), and she was cleaned out of all her surplus food stocks in Slovakia while the Russians were fighting over that area. Her situation politically was peculiar. The Germans maintained a protectorate over the western province of Bohemia and the central province of Moravia, but Slovakia was considered a full ally. As a result, rationing was very strict in the two former provinces, whereas there was no rationing in Slovakia. With the entry of the Russians, the situation was reversed. Slovakia was treated as an enemy state, and the other two provinces were treated with much greater leniency. As a result, Slovakia is today the biggest part of the relief problem, and some 42 per cent of all UNRRA relief supplies to Czechoslovakia are destined for that province alone.

With the withdrawal of Russian and American troops from the country, Czechoslovakia’s recovery should come quickly. The 1945 crops were reasonably good; she has a surplus of sugar, and she has sufficient coal to export both coal and coke. She can make barter arrangements with her neighbors, and if she can secure the industrial supplies that she is asking for. such as raw materials, iron ore, and tanning supplies, her full recovery should be at least as rapid as that of any other country on the Continent.


The Polish situation has been difficult to evaluate. No UNRRA agreement was signed in Poland until the end of September, 1945, and only in recent weeks have observers been able to travel over the country and make a real appraisal of relief requirements. Warsaw is a shambles, having suffered from the final German demolition operations the worst destruction of any great city in Europe. Poland’s transport is in terrible shape, and until September her port facilities in the Baltic were so badly mangled that they were useless. Not only were many Russian soldiers wandering aboul in the country on leave, on guard duty maintaining the lines of communication between Russia and Germany, or operating collective farms, but thousands were in transit from the Russianoccupied zone of Germany. Since these soldiers were living off the land, appraisal of food stocks was extremely difficult to make.

The early estimates prepared by the new Polish government on Polish needs stressed strongly the industrial requirements and did not emphasize food requirements so heavily. The authorities appeared to he following the Russian pattern of indifference to human life and comfort, and of stress on industrial development. In recent weeks, however, the Polish government’s attitude has changed, and it is now emphasizing to a much larger extent the need of food. A more humanitarian approach is being made — one which accords more closely with Western conceptions of primary requirements.

As in Yugoslavia, the relief problem in Poland is complicated by trade agreements with Russia, the substance of which is none too clear. But, unlike the rather sullen attitude of Yugoslavia towards the entire relief operation, the Polish government is continually expressing in its press its gratitude, especially to the United States, for what is being done. In Yugoslavia, until very recently, there was a steady and conscious ignoring of the part that the United States has played in bringing help, and there have also been complaints because Yugoslavia was not getting more help.


Italy, particularly the southern half of the peninsula, suffered terribly from the drought of 1945. As a result of this drought the grain crop was disastrously short. Until October 1, 1945, the Allied armies had been importing grain to take care of the needs of the population on a ration basis of 300 grams of bread a day. As of that date all appropriations for this purpose ceased, but through a temporary juggling of Lend-Lease funds, $100,000,000 was made available through the Foreign Economic Administration to the State Department to carry on the Army share of the operation. UNRRA was asked to take over as of January 1, 1946.

In November there were serious food riots in several large Italian cities. The tight world wheat situation and the tremendous demands for deliveries in all countries of Europe rendered it almost impossible to make sufficient deliveries in Italy to maintain a 300gram standard. The earlier requirements for grain in Italy amounted to about 200,000 tons per month. In December they had to be stepped up to 300,000 tons, largely because the Italian government overestimated by about 35 per cent the amount of indigenous grain they would be able to collect from their own farmers in Northern Italy.

Here again, unless UNRRA can maintain a rate of shipment almost up to that for December until the next harvest, more serious social unrest is likely to develop. Italy’s situation is an unhappy one in that the country is still living under a series of armistice terms. It does not know what its new borders may be, nor what may be expected from it in the form of reparations. While England, Canada, and the United States are pouring money into the country not only to keep its people alive but to try To revive its textile and other light industries, it still has outstanding against it reparations claims from Russia and Yugoslavia. Unless decisions are reached with considerable promptness, Italy will remain a major relief problem for the Allied nations long after UNRRA has ceased to function.


This nation of six and one-half million people has not been an economic unit since the break-up of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. It was dominated by the city of Vienna, which had an insufficient hinterland to maintain so large a city population. Its plight today is tragic. Under Russian occupation the ration in Vienna was about 750 calories per day. The ration has now been increased under the Control Commission to something over 1500 calories. Little is known of the situation at the moment in the Russian-occupied area, nor has any agreement yet been reached by UNRRA for any uniform relief policy in the four separate zones of occupation. It will be interesting to see whether or not an international relief organization can function effectively in so small an area under four separate masters. Perhaps the mere fact that it is operating at all may assist in the development of more uniform policies throughout the country and in the re-creation of the state into some semblance of unity. Of all administrative monstrosities, Austria is probably the leading example at the present time.


The Chinese problem is so vast that no single observer can evaluate it. Some phases of it, however, are in striking contrast to the problems in the European area.

Through all its history China has suffered from periodic famines. Frequently these famines were local and could not be relieved because of the primitive state of transportation. Bad as it was before the war, transportation is now in infinitely worse shape. Much of the communication between the different areas of China was by water. Thousands of river steamers, junks, chicken boats, and other craft have been destroyed, and nearly all China’s coastal shipping was lost during the war. As a result, Chinese relief and rehabilitation hinge primarily on transportation— transportation of a type which is not readily available. Undoubtedly, many local famines will develop. Where these areas can be reached by transport from the coast, many lives can be saved, but the problem is of such magnitude that the best we can hope for is that a start can be made this year on renovating transport and that some supplies can be shipped into the most seriously affected areas.

Medicines and all kinds of hospital supplies are badly needed, as are raw materials and factory repair parts. Practically all industrial China was under Japanese occupation, and her problems cannot be solved in the next year or two. They must be met by a long-range reconstruction program.

So far there have been no serious suggestions that UNRRA undertake any program in either Germany or Japan,1 because the humanitarian problem in both those countries is being left strictly in the laps of the military authorities. However, no one can objectively make an appraisal of relief requirements from the surplus-producing areas of the world without taking those two countries into account. They were both food-importing countries before the war. They will have to continue to be importing countries long after the military occupations have ceased. To import food, however, they have to export something, but what it will be is not yet clear.

Here we face a problem which cannot be ducked: namely, that someone must give the food or lend the food to keep the populations of those two countries alive or else we shall starve them to a level which the countries can support. In the aggregate this would probably mean letting twenty million people die, leaving fifty to sixty million in each country to exist on the land.


IN THIS meager factual account of UNRRA and its activities I have so far made no effort to estimate the significance of its method of operation from the longrange point of view. There are three aspects that deserve separate consideration.

In the first place, UNRRA is a truly international organization. While the United States is carrying nearly three fourths of the load, and Great Britain, Canada, and the British Empire are carrying the major part of the balance, nevertheless, the organization was created by forty-odd nations, and each is sharing the administrative expense as well as contributing a part of the personnel. The facts that in Czechoslovakia and Yugoslavia the heads of the UNRRA missions are Russians who require that practically every document which comes into the office shall be translated into Russian; that in many missions there are individuals who do not know English the language in which most of the correspondence is carried on or the language of the country in which they are operating; that in individual missions there are as many as fifteen nationalities represented, indicate that an almost insuperable lask has been attempted.

But still the organization works. There have been frictions among different nationals which were probably accentuated by a generally low morale in the early stages of the organization. These frictions, however, are to a great extent disappearing as the tasks of the individual missions become more clearly defined and as the morale of the organization improves. When the curtain finally comes down early in the year 1947 on UNRRA operations, the world will probably feel that the first, great, experiment in administering through mixed nationalities has been surprisingly successful.

The second feature that has long-range significance is that UNRRA supplies are an outright gift to the recipient nutions. At the end of the last war, Congress made available to the President $100,000,000 in a revolving fund which he transferred to Mr. Herbert Hoover and the American Relief Administration.

Mr. Hoover had authority to supply relief as a gift, or on credit terms, or in return for cash payments, and the $100,000,000 revolving fund was stretched to a point where roughly $3,000,000,000 in essential foodstuffs was distributed throughout needy countries over a period of two years. However, obligat ions were taken and given in good faith for 90 per cent of these relief supplies—obligations which, with the exception of little Finland’s, were never met. It is no reflection on the superb job done by Mr. Hoover and the American Relief Administration that he was obliged to finance relief in this way.

IINRRA frankly recognized lhat any effort to saddle a relief debt on a destitute country could only lead to the wholesale repudiation that followed ihe. last war — a repudiation which has carried with it. over the years serious continuing irritants in international relations. Happily the lesson was learned, and the present healing process will surely leave fewer unwholesome scars.

The third significant phase of the operation, which can be evaluated only in part at this time, deals wilh the social consequences of such a large-scale effort In relieve human suffering. Historically speaking, there can be no denial of the fact that misery breeds social unrest and anarchy; that anarchy in turn, particularly in areas which are important in the economy of the world, seriously retards any return to normal peaceful pursuits and normal economic progress. As the world grows industrially, it becomes constantly more delicately attuned to maladjustments anywhere, and confidence in the stability of the future becomes an increasingly important part of its reasonable functioning.

Already the operations of UNRRA appear to have gone far in preventing a degree of misery which would certainly have been followed by anarchy. The small food riots in Italy have been but a minor symptom of what might have happened on a great scale. Even now, the living standards of millions of people are terribly low, but much of what UNRRA has been doing in its work of agricultural rehabilitation. and to a lesser extent in its work of industrial rehabilitation, gives promise of a tremendous recovery by the time the next harvests have been reaped. It is perhaps too early to be optimistic on this score. Human beings have shown and still show an amazing inclination to seek political power at the expense of their neighbors and to use the old device of fanning racial hatreds as a diversion front domes-

UNRRA has set out to be the first great international healer. If it achieves even a fraction of its purpose, it will have been well worth the difficulties and the cost of the experiment.

  1. UNRRA is carrying on a large operation in Germany with displaced persons of nationalities other than German. Compared to its other undertakings — and the number of displaced persons in special camps is decreasing rapidly — this is a small operation, but it has received disproportionate publicity. It drew attention because at one time it involved some 5000 UNRRA staff members, and because of the difficulties of defining responsibility between the military authorities and UNRRA.