College of Arts and Sciences
Master of Arts in History - Thesis (MA)
World War II, Refugees, League of Nations, United Nations, the Holocaust, UNRRA, the Intergovernmental Committee for Refugees, the War Refugee Board, Displaced Persons, Herbert Emerson, Dwight D. Eisenhower, Earl G. Harrison, Refugee History, Diplomatic History, Myron Taylor, Jewish History, American History, International History, European History, the High Commissioner for Refugees, James G. McDonald
Gehman, Mitchell A., "Ploughing of the Sands: the Refugee System of World War II and the Man that Tried to Hold it Together" (2021). Masters Theses. 755.
As the world began to transition to the East versus West struggle of the Cold War, the United Nations created the International Refugee Organization to handle the concerns of the displaced persons and unwilling refugees left in the wake of the victorious Allied armies. However, the creation of the IRO was not an event that occurred in a vacuum. It was preceded by a number of previous bodies made to address refugee concerns, like the Intergovernmental Committee for Refugees, the League of Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, and the United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation Administration. These bodies worked both before and during the war to try and develop systems that would be able to handle providing aid for refugees, assist in emigration, repatriate refugees, and to plan and execute long-term resettlement plans. Despite the fact that many of the bodies were less than effective during the war, their work, combined with the efforts of leading figures within the refugee system like Sir Herbert Emerson, created a foundation for the United Nations system that followed. As such, the period of the refugee system that existed during World War II can be viewed as one of transition and development, as well as continuity from the League of Nations’ earlier efforts due especially to the work of Emerson, rather than rote failure.