The problem of displaced persons (D.P.’s) arose just after the end of World War II. Many people of various nationalities suddenly found themselves deprived of either the option or the desire to return to their home. During the war, thousands of Polish soldiers continued to struggle against the German invaders in Polish or various foreign military formations in Western Europe. Additionally, thousands of Poles were in Nazi concentration camps or in German factories and farm doing forced labor, where they were liberated by the Allied Armies. Finally many Poles left the U.S.S.R. after the signing of the 1941 Sikorski- Stalin agreement. Political events and all the changes that took place on the Polish territories after the end of the war made a return home impossible for many of these people.
The two countries housing the most Polish displaced persons were Germany and, after the demobilization of the Polish Army in the West, England. The living conditions in D.P.’s camps were very bad, especially in Germany, with little hope for improvement in the foreseeable future. Displaced persons of other origins faced virtually the same situation. The necessity of resettlement was very urgent. According to a U.S. Senate Report, in 1947 there were over 233,300 Polish D.P.’s of ethnic origin, out of the total amount of some 1,214,500 displaced persons in Europe.
On June 2, 1948 the 80th U.S. Congress enacted Public Law 774, commonly known as the Displaced Persons Act, allowing admission of some 205,000 European displaced persons into the U.S.A. for permanent residence. Realizing that the solution of the problem of Polish displaced persons could be effected primarily by Americans of Polish descent, the second National Convention of the Polish American Congress held in Philadelphia in May 1948 unanimously adopted a resolution calling for the creation of a nationally representative committee for resettlement of Polish D.P.’s. Accordingly in July of that year, the American Committee for Resettlement of Polish D.P.’s was established with principal offices in Chicago and was incorporated as a non-profit organization under the laws of the State of Illinois.
After early difficulties, the ACRPDP was recognized and accredited by the U.S. Displaced Persons Commission, the Federal Displaced Persons Commission, the Advisory Committee on Voluntary Foreign Aid and the International Refugee Organization. Thanks to that, the ACRPDP was the only independent agency of national scope that could send its representatives abroad and issue its own “assurances” for sponsoring entry of D.P.’s into the U.S. without necessity of securing individual affidavits.
On July 17, 1948 the Committee adopted By-Laws which defined is purpose and objective as follows:
… to help selected eligible displaced persons of Polish nationality in the designated D.P. camps in Europe and in accordance with Public Law 774, provide them with necessaries, secure their transportation from port of entry to the place of resettlement in the United States, provide them jobs and housing facilities and to work in cooperation with the Federal D.P. Commission and all related governmental, civic and private agencies in this regard [Section 1];
… to raise funds in order to successfully carry out the resettlement program of the D.P.’s [Section 2].
The first authorities of the ACRPDP were composed of the following officers of the Congress:
Chairman- Judge Blair F. Gunther
Secretary-Treasurer- Edward E. Plusdrak
Directors- Miss Adele Lagodzinska, Rev. Valerian Karcz, John A. Stanek, Joseph
Pawloski, Mrs. Frances Dymek, Thaddeus V. Adesko
They all were established leaders taking an active part in the life of the Polish-American population in the U.S.A. They also represented larger Polish American organizations such as the Polish National Alliance (PNA), the Polish Roman Catholic Union, the Polish Alma Mater, the Polish Women’s Alliance of America, and the Association of Sons of Poland. Thanks to that, the ACRPDP could also base its operations on support and cooperation with those long-existing and recognized agencies. Connections with the PNA, as the most powerful organization, were especially important; the ACRPDP was able to reach many more Polish Americans through PNA structures and in 1951 obtained a big loan from it.
The ACRPDP organized some 26 State Division Committee and many local ones whose main concern was the procurement of housing and jobs for D.P.’s. The Central Office of the Committee located in Chicago, Ill., planned, directed, and coordinated work of the state divisions. It also maintained systematic contact with interested state authorities and agencies. The resettlement program was accomplished by the operations of Committee representative at ports of entry (New York and Boston) where incoming Polish D.P.’s could obtain aid for all official procedures and financial assistance in reaching their new inland destinations. The Committee cooperated for this aim with the Travelers Aid Association which furnished help for traveling immigrants.
The ACRPDP had official representatives in charge of its bases of operations also in Germany and England. Colonel Bolesław Wichrowski performed an intensive activity on behalf of the Committee in Frankfurt. He collaborated with the American authorities and agencies in Germany (the International Refuge Organization, among others) as well as with local Polish refugee organizations. Also, Mr. Frances Dymek, Director of the ACRPDP and Vice-President of the Polish National Alliance, remained in Europe for half a year acting in matters pertaining to Polish Displaced Persons.
The situation of some 18,000 former Polish soldiers in Great Britain was more complicated, because of many formal difficulties created by the Department of State which administered that program. The ACRPDP put much effort and time into solving all legal, organizational, and financial problems and after 1950 managed to develop a firm commitment in resettling former Polish Soldiers in the U.S.A.
Struggling against a constant lack of money, the Committee organized the National Fund Drive in the spring of 1949. The goal was to collect one half million dollars by the end of the year and create a Displaced Persons Fund. An appeal was made to American Poles as well as non-Poles alike. All contributions to the Fund were deductible for the purpose of federal income tax. The ACRPDP launched a huge campaign involving all its forces. In order to advertise the campaign, it published many bulletins, certificates, and posters; it conveyed the message to all Polish organizations in the U.S. and provided them with special information regarding ways of collecting money. All State Divisions demonstrated immediate cooperation in the drive. Among the first contributors were the biggest Polish organizations like the Polish American Congress and the Polish National Alliance. The names of private contributors were published in special “1949 National Fund Drive Bulletins.” But despite this enormous effort, the campaign did not bring expected results. By October 31, 1950, the total amount of money collected was less than $34,000. The ACRPDP had to accept some loans and focused on collecting outstanding accounts for unpaid inland transportations from the displaced persons.\
On December 31, 1951 the Displaced Persons Law expired. By that time the ACRPDP had obtained assurances guaranteeing employment and housing for 35,000 persons. The ACRPDP representative in Germany came back to the U.S.A. finishing his work in D.P. camps. The Program related to the Polish ex-Soldiers in Great Britain functioned only a little longer.
One the basis of necessity to pay all indebtedness, the Committee continued its existence and was confirmed by the Advisory Committee on Voluntary Foreign Aid (ACVFA). After the signing of the so-called “Refugee Relief Act of 1953” by the State Department, the ACRPDP found itself once more in the position to bring and resettle Polish D.P.’s who wanted to establish new homes in the United States. Cooperating with other world and American organizations, the committee worked on putting the new law into effect.
On June 14, 1955 the Board of Directors of the Committee reached several decisions which were to shape its future activities. It was decided to accept the proposal of the War Relief Services—National Catholic Welfare Conference (NCWC) that officers of the NCWC would represent ACRPDP business abroad with the ACRPDP giving assistance to the Polish displaced persons on American territory. As a result of that agreement, from 1955 till 1957 1,253 cases of Polish D.P.’s who applied for admission to the U.S.A. were successfully concluded, and out of this number a total 1,099 persons arrived in the States assisted by ACRPDP officers.
In April 1957 some changes were made in the Committee’s executive boy. Rev. Valerian Karcz, who was secretary and treasurer for many years, was elected new chairman of the Committee. His position of secretary was taken by Charles Rozmarek, President of PNA and PAC, and former Chairman Judge Blair F. Gunther remained on the Committee as one of the Directors.
The ACRPDP continued its operations through the next several years, though its activity decreased noticeably. Scant financial records (mostly payments for the services of Mr. Charles Burke who as Director of the Washington Office of the PAC also represented ACRPDP matters) constitute the only documentation in the ACRPDP collection for the period 1964-1968. In 1968, coinciding with deep changes within the Polish American Congress with whom the ACRPDP was affiliated, the American Committee for Resettlement of Polish Displaced Persons ceased to exist.
This sketch of the ACRPDP history has been drawn up mostly form the Committee’s records described in this inventory and doesn’t claim to be exhaustive. Though the ACRPDP was one of the most active and influential Polish American organizations during its existence, it is difficult to find any records of its activity in published materials. Publications dealing with the problems of displaced persons and refugees often mention only the existence of the ACRPDP, identifying the year of its establishment and the definition of its goals formulated on the basis of its By-Laws. It’s impossible to overestimate the importance of the work carried out by the ACRPDP; all appropriate records connected with it have similar great value.