THE ROCKEFELLER FOUNDATION'S REFUGEE SCHOLAR PROGRAM
Between 1933 and 1955 the Rockefeller Foundation contributed $1.5 million toward the identification and assistance of 303 European scientists and scholars displaced by racial and political persecution by Nazi and Fascist regimes. Support from the Rockefeller Foundation enabled these refugee scholars to relocate, and many went to universities in the United States.
The following report by Thomas B. Appleget, "The Foundation's Experience with Refugee Scholars" (March 5, 1946), provides an overview of the foundation's work in this field and lists the specific scholars aided by the program. Appleget was vice-president of the foundation when he wrote the report. The original copy of this report is located in the Rockefeller Foundation Archives, Record Group 1.1, Series 200, box 47, folder 545A.
For scholarship on the RF's support for refugee scholars, see the Bibliography of Scholarship from the Rockefeller Archive Center.
Table 1: Emergency Program, 1940-1945, Placement
Table 2: Refugee Scholars Aided, 1933-1939
The Foundation's Experience with Refugee Scholars
The Rockefeller Foundation's program for refugee scholars, which divides historically into three stages, began in 1933 and ended in 1945. Altogether, the Foundation expended $1,410,778 for this purpose and aided 303 individual scholars. The great majority of the men aided have found satisfactory permanent posts in America and will become American citizens; the remainder, either found posts, usually temporary, in other European countries, or, enabled to continue their productive work in American universities during the war period, have now returned or will soon return to European posts. Practically all, in spite of the disruption which war brought to their lives, made satisfactory adjustments to their new circumstances and preserved their devotion to their scholarly work as well as their sanity and good nature. In this program, the Foundation not only insured the continuance of important scholarly work; in many cases, it actually saved distinguished, productive lives from destruction.
The displacement of scholars for political and racial reasons began in Germany with the advent of Hitler. Subsequently it spread to Spain, Italy, Austria, Czechoslovakia, and then, country by country, marched with the advancing armies until nearly all Europe was affected. Thousands of university and research teachers were displaced, among them the most distinguished in the world; not merely debarred from teaching and research, they were not allowed to make a living at all. As the fury grew, these men found themselves frequently in peril of their lives. Many eminent scholars, indeed, did die for no cause but their race, their religion, or their intellectual integrity. Many others escaped to friendly countries. Hundreds of these, as the German armies advanced, were forced to flee again: scholars who thought they had found haven in Austria or France were obliged to move on to England or America. Even yet there is no accurate estimate of the extent of this vast disturbance. Every bit of evidence, however, strengthens the conclusion that as a mass migration of scholarly personnel it is unprecedented in academic history.
The 303 scholars aided between 1933 and 1945 represented twelve different nationalities. Until 1940, they were almost entirely German. After 1940, other nationalities began to appear in greater number. During the whole period, however, over 60% of the scholars aided were Germans. The 303 scholars divide by nationality as follows: German, 191; French, 36; Austrian, 30; Italian, 12; Polish, 11; Hungarian, 6; Spanish, 5; Czecho-slovac, 5; Belgian, 2; Danish, 2; Dutch, 2; and Finnish, 1. By field the greatest part, over 35%, were in the Social Sciences, The classification by fields is as follows: Social Sciences, 113; Natural Sciences, 73; Humanities, 59; and Medical Sciences 58.
The Foundations aid to refugee scholars divides, historically, into three stages:
Funds were set aside by the Trustees for allocation by the officers to institutions in the United States and Europe which indicated a willingness to offer positions to deposed scholars either on a temporary or permanent basis. No requests from individual scholars were entertained; all actions were taken at the instance of institutions. In the second place, in practically every case the Foundation's contribution was not more than half of the total amount required. Grants were made for periods ranging from one to three years; in exceptional cases, even longer. During the latter part of the period, no grants were made to institutions which did not hold out dome assurance that the grant would result in the permanent placement of the scholar. At the end of 1939, the Foundation had expended a total of $743,257 in 305 grants to 197 scholars (including eleven scholars also aided after 1939) placed in academic institutions in Europe and the United States. Of this amount, $507,757 went to American institutions; $235,500 to institutions in Europe. Although it is as yet impossible to secure complete data, it is certain that, in most cases, the Foundation's aid to deposed scholars in Europe provided them only with temporary assistance and did not result in their permanent placement. In America the program was successful. The total of $500,000 allocated provided aid to 122 individual scholars in sixty-five different institutions. Of these, ninety-nine, or 82%, found permanent positions. Taking into account those who died, went into business, or migrated to other countries, only seven could be definitely classified as failures.
A report of the Special Research Aid Fund for Deposed Scholars was submitted to the Trustees on December 6, 1939. The names of the scholars aided are included in the alphabetical list in Table 2.
(2) Aid for Deposed Scholars, 1940-1945
This program represented a continuation, but at a reduced rate, and a sharpening of the work carried out from 1933 to 1939 under the Special Research Aid Fund for Deposed Scholars. No special funds were set aside, however; grants were made from regular grant in aid funds. The persons aided were, in general, well known to the officers, and their work, in many cases, fell within program interests. The Foundation acted only upon the request of the institution receiving the European scholar; the Foundation's contribution represented the minimum assistance required by the institution either to place the scholar permanently or to carry him until his return to his former European post was possible. In general, when the grant was made, the scholar was already in the country of his future employment, and no travel arrangements were required. The Foundation assumed no responsibilities toward the scholar beyond the terms of its grant. The grant assured placement, either permanently or for the necessary period, in each case.
Between 1940 and 1945, the Foundation made grants for fifty-nine individual scholars. Of these, twenty-three were German; eight, French; seven, Austrian; six, Polish; five, Italian; three, Danish; two, Spanish; two, Hungarian; and one each were Belgian Finnish, and Dutch. Thirty-five different fields were represented. In the Natural Sciences, six were in Mathematics; four, in Physics; two each, in Chemistry and Genetics; and one each, in Zoology and Engineering. In the Medical Sciences, two were in Physiology; and one each, in Organic Diseases, Social Medicine, Psychiatry, Neurology, Neuropathology,
Embryology, Parasitology, Pharmacology, and Forensic Medicine. In the Social Sciences, five were in Economics; four, in International Relations; two each, in Political and Social Sciences, Military Theory, and Labor; and one each, in Commercial Law, Religion, Demography, International Law, Diplomacy, Education, and Public Finance. In the Humanities, four were in Philosophy; and one each, in History, Social Psychology, Celtic Art, Music, Mediaeval History, and Fine Arts.
Forty of the fifty-nine scholars were placed in the United States; six, in Great Britain; four, in Sweden; four, in Argentina; two, in Canada; two, in Switzerland; and one, in Brazil. Total expenditures amounted to $229,862 during the six-year period, made up, divisionally, as follows: Natural Sciences, $60,106; Medical Sciences, $51,705; Social Sciences, $82,231; and Humanities, $35,319.
The names of the scholars aided are included in an alphabetical list in Table 2.
(3) Emergency Program for European Scholars, 1940-1945
With the invasion of Scandinavia, the Lowlands, and France, and the intensification of the war on England, the Foundation faced an entirely new type of problem. The Foundation had worked in Europe for many years; its officers had an extensive acquaintance with European scholars. Many of these men suddenly found themselves facing not only displacement but actual personal danger. In the previous program, the refugee scholars, in general, were already in America when requests were received. In this new crisis, the scholar, caught at his post, was unable to escape without outside assistance. The situation was an emergency one. Prolonged negotiation, such as was often necessary to secure placement for the scholars aided earlier, was clearly out of the question. Actions to be effective, had to be taken at once.
The Foundation's Emergency Program for European Scholars was presented to the Executive Committee in August, 1940, and was informally approved at that time. Formal action was taken at the meeting on September 27, 1940. Crucial in the program was the securing of some American institution which would invite and receive the scholars. The officers were fortunate in being able to report to the Trustees that satisfactory arrangements had been made with the New School for Social Research to serve as such an agency. Under these arrangements, the New School, which, with fifty foreign scholars on its faculty, had already had a wide experience with the problem, agreed to accept not more than one hundred scholars to be selected by the Foundation. Assurances not only of approval but of actual cooperation were also secured from the Institute of International Education and the Emergency Committee in Aid of Displaced Foreign Scholars. The State Department had been consulted and indicated its complete satisfaction with the project.
To enable the New School to carry out its part of the plan, the Executive Committee appropriated $35,000 to the School for additional operating expenses over a two-year period. Subsequent appropriations raised the total granted for this purpose to $65,589. Through officers' actions, the New School was also subsequently provided with a fund for grants to individual scholars for research supplies and assistance as well as minor travel, from which $3,950 was expended. To assist the Emergency Committee in Aid of Displaced Foreign Scholars, which undertook to find permanent posts in other institutions for the scholars received by the New School, the Executive Committee on September 27, 1940, appropriated $10,000 for the salary of an assistant and travelling and stenographic services over a period of one year. Subsequent appropriations raised the total granted for this purpose to $19,326. The administrative expense of the Foundation's Emergency Program for Refugee Scholars amounted, therefore, to a total of $88,865.
Under the plan, the New School, the Institute of International Education, and the Emergency Committee were authorized to recommend scholars to the Foundation. Final decision in all cases, however, rested with the Foundation. The Foundation also nominated scholars directly. In such instances, action was contingent on their acceptance by the New School. When the Foundation approved an individual scholar for aid, it made a grant on his behalf either to the New School or to some other American institution indicating a willingness to receive him. Actually, over 60% of the initial grants were made to the New School. The grant covered travel expense and stipend, ranging from $1,500 to $2,500 annually for two years. Assurance of a teaching position in this country for at least two years was required of our own State Department for a non-quota visa. The recipient institution transmitted its offer by cable to the scholar, following this with a letter of invitation and a teaching contract for two years. The scholar himself was obliged to decide whether he preferred this limited assurance of support to his then current situation. Neither the Foundation nor the inviting institution assumed any responsibility for the scholar after the expiration of this term. Actually, of course, it proved necessary to extend further support in many cases. As a result of an agreement with Dr. Alvin Johnson of the New School in 1943, the Foundation announced that it would take no actions extending aid beyond 1945 or involving more than four years of support for any one scholar. Exceptions to this limitation were made in only four instances, and on grounds which seemed justifiable. The average term of support for all scholars was 2.9 years.
If the scholar accepted, every effort was made to extricate him. The Foundation's temporary office in Lisbon cooperated effectively in making travel arrangements; in many instances, considerable ingenuity was required. Upon his arrival, the scholar was provided with a teaching post. In the case of a scholar received by the New School, it was not expected that he would remain there permanently; the New School aimed merely to be the springboard for his American adventure. Every effort was made to expose scholars to other opportunities; a scholar was transferred immediately upon receipt of an invitation from another institution offering a position with some assurance of permanency.
In all, invitations were issued to a total of eighty-nine scholars. Thirty-one grants were subsequently canceled because the scholar could not be extricated or declined the invitation. Six scholars accepted and, after expending some part of the travel grant on fruitless attempts to escape, remained in Europe. Fifty-two scholars actually reached America and assumed teaching
Of the fifty-two scholars who arrived, twenty-four were French; fourteen, German; four, Polish; four, Austrian; two, Spanish; and one each were Italians Hungarian, Belgians and Dutch. They represented a wide range of academic disciplines. Of the twelve in the Natural Sciences, five were in Physics; and one each in Genetics; Chemistry; Biophysics; Geography, Geology, and Anthropology; Endocrinology; Mathematics; and Physiology. Of the nine in the Medical Sciences, two each were in Neurology, Psychiatry, and Physiology; and one each, in Pharmacology, Biochemistry, and Pathology. Of the seventeen in the Social Sciences, five were in Economics; two each, in Sociology, Social and Political Science, and the Philosophy of Law; and one each were in International Law, Statistics, Anthropology, International Relations, Philosophy, and Economic History. Of the fourteen in the Humanities, three were in Philosophy; two, in the History of Philosophy; and one each, in Documentary Films, History, Diplomacy, Mediaeval Drama, Greek Architecture and Stage Design, Ancient Geography, Philology, and Law.
Of the fifty-two initial giants, thirty-three, or over 60%, were made to the New School; three, to Columbia University; and two, to Yale University. Ten universities in America and one in Brazil received one grant each. Single grants were also made to the American Council of Learned Societies, the New York State Psychiatric Institute and Hospital, the Brookings Institutes and the National Bureau for Economic Research.
In general, those scholars representing the Natural and Medical Sciences were absorbed more rapidly than those representing the Social Sciences and the Humanities. The shortest grant was for one year; the longest, for five. By divisions the average length of the grants was: Natural Sciences, 2.4 years; Medical Sciences, 2.4 years; Social Sciences, 3.3 years; and Humanities, 3.3 years.
Under its Emergency Program the Foundation expended a total of $348,794 in grants for the fifty-two individual scholars. Divisional expenditures were as follows: Natural Sciences, twelve scholars, $61,305; Medical Sciences, nine scholars, $37,596; Social Sciences, seventeen scholars, $136,427; and Humanities, fourteen scholars, $113,466. In addition, for administrative expenses in connection with the program during the six-year period, the Foundation gave the New School a total of $69,539, and the Emergency Committee, a total of $19,326. The total cost of the Emergency Program was, therefore, $437,659.
The placement of the scholars has been almost completely successful. Twenty have found permanent posts in American universities. Of the thirty three originally placed at the New School, six now remain as permanent members of the Graduate Faculty and the Ecole Library. Twenty, all French, have either returned to posts in Europe and North Africa or have accepted positions in the diplomatic or cultural service of the French government. Three are in business or the private practice of medicine. One is dead. Only two, now on part time at the New School, have failed to secure permanent posts.
In a letter written October 18, 1945, Alvin Johnson has summarized the results of the program.
"In reviewing with myself the history and results of our cooperative undertaking, I feel new impulses of gratitude toward you and the Foundation. You saved many valuable lives, and what may really be more significant, many of the hopes men live by. Many of the scholars we brought over have taken root in this country and are flourishing in the new soil. Many have returned, or are returning to Europe to take a part in the rehabilitation of European education, more active and effective for their experience in America.
"A small minority remain who have not made a satisfactory adjustment here and cannot return. This applies particularly to scholars from eastern Europe. But in the coming expansion of American education I am confident that some of them will find places.
"It is gratifying to look back on a work that has succeeded, I am sure you share the gratification with me."
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