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Mr. EILBERG. OK. Thank you, Mr. Greene.
Our next witnesses will be Mr. Pierce Gerety, former Deputy Administrator of the Refugee Relief Act, Department of State, and also his Assistant at the time, Mr. John F. Reiger, formerly of the Department of State.
If I misstated your title or position, I apologize, Mr. Gerety. Which is Mr. Gerety?
Mr. GERETY. I am Mr. Gerety.
Mr. EILBERG. Sit wherever you wish, that is all right.
Mr. Gerety, I understand you do have a statement prepared. Mr. GERETY. Yes.
Mr. EILBERG. Before that, do you swear that the testimony you are about to give will be the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, so help you God?
Mr. GERETY. So help me God.
Mr. REIGER. I do.
TESTIMONY OF PIERCE GERETY, FORMER DEPUTY ADMINISTRATOR, REFUGEE RELIEF ACT, DEPARTMENT OF STATE, AND JOHN F. REIGER, DEPARTMENT OF STATE
Mr. GERETY. Yes, Mr. Chairman and members of the subcommittee, as you said, I prepared a short preliminary statement which I will read.
Mr. Chairman and members of the subcommittee, I am happy to accept your invitation to appear at this hearing.
As I understand it, your subcommittee is attempting to determine whether any alleged Nazi war criminals were admitted to the United States under the Displaced Persons Act of 1948 or the Refugee Relief Act of 1953; whether the screening procedures were adequate and whether there was any deliberate effort made by anyone to obstruct the investigative processes where alleged Nazi war criminals were involved.
I can only speak firsthand about the conduct of the Refugee Relief program from June 9, 1955 to its conclusion on December 31, 1956, when the act expired.
[For text of Refugee Relief Act, see app. 1 at p. 172.]
When I took charge of the Refugee Relief program at the request of Secretary of State Dulles and President Eisenhower in June 1955, the conduct of the program was being severely criticized on almost all sides as being excessively strict in its screening procedures, with the result that very few of the 214,000 visas authorized by the act had actually been issued.
It is somewhat ironic to think that now, 23 years later, questions have been raised that suggest we may not have been severe enough. I think the truth is that we did as thorough a job of checking our applicants for visas as was possible, utilizing all the avenues of inquiry that were open to us and all the resources that were available to us.
We had a comprehensive name check procedure for all applicants. We had the cooperation in the investigations of the FBI, the CIA, the Army's Counter Intelligence Corps in Germany and Austria, the Interior Ministry or corresponding agency of the various countries involved, not including, however, the Iron Curtain countries.
The Interior Ministries, of course, had the files of their national and local police and intelligence agencies available to them. We also checked the names of applicants at the Berlin Document Center. In some countries the local police cooperated directly with our staff.
When the investigation file was complete it was forwarded to the appropriate visa office where the applicants were separately interviewed by a visa officer and an Immigration and Naturalization Service officer, who had to concur before a visa issued.
Nevertheless, it must be conceded that, among the 200,000 or so persons who were admitted to the United States under the Refugee Relief Act, there may have been some who were excludable for one reason or another, and who managed to conceal their backgrounds, whether they were Nazi war criminals or common crooks.
However, of one thing I feel absolutely certain, no one was admitted because of any conspiracy to protect Nazis or Communists or any other enemies of our system.
The staff engaged in the Refugee Relief program was large, working in offices in Austria, Germany, Greece, Italy, England, Belgium, France, Holland, Jordan, Lebanon, Japan, Taiwan, Hong Kong, and Korea.
The principal career officer in charge was John F. Rieger, who was based in my office in Washington. He is now retired from the Foreign Service and is here with me today.
I would like to take this opportunity to pay tribute to Mr. Rieger and all of the men and women who assisted us for their unselfish dedication to the job and their loyalty to the United States. I would be shocked beyond belief if I found that any of them had been unfaithful to their trust.
I have read the report by the Comptroller General of the United States, the so-called GAO report, dated May 15, 1978, which you so kindly made available to me.
I agree with its general conclusion that: "It is unlikely that any widespread conspiracy has existed in Federal agencies
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obstruct investigations of allegations" that any visa applicants were Nazi war criminals.
Mr. EILBERG. Thank you, Mr. Gerety.
Mr. Gerety and Mr. Rieger, it is not the wish of this subcommittee to re-examine all facets of the Refugee Relief Act of 1953. We are concerned with only one aspect, especially that part of the operation which dealt with the screening of applicants for admission under this act and, specifically, the administration of section 14 of the act.
The final report of the Refugee Relief Act of 1953 submitted by the Administrator of the Bureau of Security and Consular Affairs, Scott McLeod, dated June 15, 1957, gave a complete description of the activities undertaken under that act.
The portion dealing with investigations undertaken under sections 11(a) and 11(b) and 15 of that act, covers over 21 pages of details on the compliance with the law in that regard.
I must now draw your attention to the particular section of the act which concerns us. Section 14, which states:
No visa shall be issued under this Act to any person who personally advocated or assisted in the persecution of any person or group of persons because of race, religion or national origin.
Nowhere in the final report nor in the semiannual reports submitted to Congress by the Administrator was there any mention made of individuals refused under this section 14 provision, no mention at all.
Can you comment on this?
Mr. GERETY. No; I unfortunately cannot. I think Mr. Rieger could probably recall. It's a long time ago, you know.
Mr. EILBERG. Mr. Rieger, please speak up?
Mr. GERETY. Why didn't we mention that in the report? That report was prepared in my office on the Refugee Relief Act. Mr. EILBERG. Do you have any comment, Mr. Rieger?
Mr. GERETY. We didn't say how many were excluded. I don't know why.
Mr. RIEGER. I was out of the country and at a post when that report was finally concluded. I was not in on the final formulation. I don't recall in the initial preparation there was any specific request made for that sort of information. That is all I can say about it.
Mr. EILBERG. Do you know of your own knowledge, Mr. Rieger, of anyone who was excluded because of the provision of section 14? Mr. RIEGER. I can say that there were many people who were rejected by the Immigration and Visa officers on the basis of information that was developed through the investigative reports and as a conclusion of their own interviews with those individuals.
Certainly we had many rejections. In fact, so many rejections that, as Mr. Gerety has pointed out, at one time we were criticized for being too careful, too cautious, too stringent.
Mr. EILBERG. I understand that, and I understand his point, but my question is were there any rejections because of section 14? Mr. GERETY. Could I say I don't recall we kept a record of rejections by cause. That is what I am getting at.
Mr. EILBERG. Well, Mr. Gerety, do you have any recollection? Mr. GERETY. I mean, I don't remember any specific reason why somebody would be excluded. I don't remember any specific Nazi war criminals, but we certainly got names, checked at the Berlin Document Center, which is where that sort of information would most likely come from.
Mr. EILBERG. Let me ask this: The final report gives six reasons for having refused visas; three, health, illiteracy and labor requirements are fairly obvious; the other three, political security, eligibility, and moral security, I believe, require some clarification.
Can you explain what constituted grounds for referral under the political security criteria?
Mr. GERETY. My recollection is we had lists of organizations that, if people belonged to them, we would not let them in. I don't have a specific recollection of a list of Nazi organizations. Do you, John? Mr. RIEGER. My only association with that specifically was my previous function in Germany when I was security officer, personnel security office for the High Commission there, and we did then follow all of the screening requirements that had to do with Nazi problems.
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Mr. EILBERG. Would you bring the mike closer to you?
Would you repeat that portion pertaining to Nazi criminals? Mr. RIEGER. Any questions about Nazi association or Nazi activity were dealt with at that time, and we incorporated, as I recall, at the outset of the Refugee Relief program when we established the investigative criteria, those elements with which we were familiar from having dealt with the problem previously under the High Commission in Germany.
Mr. EILBERG. But under the Refugee Relief Act you have no recollection of any cases being excluded for Nazi activity or war crime activity?
Mr. RIEGER. I have no recollection of individual cases.
Mr. EILBERG. Would you expand a bit on your role with the High Commissioner of Germany where the subject had come up?
Mr. RIEGER. As I said, I was in charge of the personnel security branch in the High Commission in which we screened applicants for employment and we rescreened all of the people who had been working for the High Commission, taken over from the military government previously. So we went through the files of all of the Germans numbering perhaps 10,000, 15,000 at that time who were on our rolls.
In the course of that we adhered to and followed the proscriptions having to do with Nazi assocations and many, many people were eliminated from employment at that time.
Mr. EILBERG. From employment?
Mr. RIEGER. From employment at that time.
Mr. EILBERG. In Germany.
Mr. RIEGER. Both rejected after they had been employed and also we rejected applicants for employment.
Mr. EILBERG. For employment in Germany?
Mr. RIEGER. Yes; under those criteria and, as I said, we used those criteria later, as I recall. This is all so long a time ago. We used those basic criteria, incorporated them into the standards when we established the procedures for investigation of the refugee relief program.
Mr. EILBERG. To your knowledge, did any of the people that were denied employment because of having been Nazi war criminals appear for admission to the United States under the Refugee Relief Act?
Mr. RIEGER. I have no idea about that, sir.
Mr. EILBERG. Can you suggest how the subcommittee might explore that subject further? How can we look into that at this time? Mr. RIEGER. I have no idea where those records are, those of the High Commissioner or for that matter those of the refugee relief program. I suppose they are in the Archives, but I cannot be of any assistance.
[Further information was subsequently provided by Mr. Gerety and appears in app. 5, p. 209.]
Mr. GERETY. You might bear in mind, my recollection, John, is that most of our investigations in Germany and Austria until shortly after the end of the program, were really conducted by the CIC, because the Army was still in control as you may remember, in both Germany and Austria during most of the life of the refugee relief program.
It was towards the end of that that there was a peace treaty signed with Austria which changed the facts.
Mr. EILBERG. All right.
Now, going back for a moment to the final report which gives us six reasons for refusing visas, three we mentioned, health, illiteracy, and labor requirements, and I then began to explore with you the other three, political security.
What was meant by political security, Mr. Gerety?
Mr. GERETY. That would be the types of things you are talking about, membership in the Nazi organizations, but also in other organizations. We had, I remember specifically in Greece, a whole list of organizations that were considered to be undesirable from the standpoint of the U.S. security, and every one had to be investigated, and we had the cooperation of the local police in this connection to find out if they had been a member of any of these organizations that we considered to be against our interests.
Mr. EILBERG. Then there was the criteria of eligibility.
Mr. GERETY. There is the general law about people being undesirable on moral grounds, for the commission of crimes, the whole set of excludable grounds that are in the general immigration law.
Mr. EILBERG. You mentioned the moral security criteria. Under which of these categories were alleged Nazi war criminals refused admission, or would they have been?
Mr. GERETY. I would think, but I cannot give you a specific case because I don't remember any specific cases, but I would think they would be excluded under the political securities business, members of political organizations that were proscribed by our standards.
Mr. EILBERG. Mr. Gerety, I wonder if you would describe for us the procedures utilized by your agency to determine whether a particular applicant would be allowed to enter the United States. What was the process, and particularly, did someone, somewhere, do a little checking to see whether an applicant was, in fact, eligible for admission.
Mr. GERETY. Certainly. That is what I tried to outline in my preliminary statement. Every applicant had to go through an investigative process, and that involved name checks with all of the agencies, FBI, CIA, whatever the CIC could develop, the local Interior Ministry of Germany, for example, and Austria and the Berlin Document Center, which we maintained, that is, the Government of the United States, where they assembled all information that they could find on Nazi war criminals, and Nazi membership in various Nazi organizations.
All of the names were checked against everything available there. A file was assembled on each applicant with all of the information we could dig out. Then the people were then, there were other problems with eligibility, incidently under the Refugee Act, and one of the ones severely criticized and caused a great deal of the delay, was they not only had to apply and pass all of these investigative checks, they had to be sponsored by an individual and we dealt with all of the voluntary agencies in the United States, HIAS, CRS, and CWS, United Lutheran Service and all of that, Lutheran World Service, I guess they called it.