What was the War Refugee Board?


The War Refugee Board (WRB) was established in January 1944 through an Executive Order of President Franklin Roosevelt. The Executive Order stated that it was American policy “to take all measures within its power to rescue the victims of enemy oppression who are in imminent danger of death and otherwise to afford such victims all possible relief and assistance consistent with the successful prosecution of the war.”

The WRB, led by John Pehle, worked with Jewish organisations, resistance groups and diplomats from neutral countries to try and save as many Jews as possible whether in hiding or held in concentration camps, as well as publishing the first details of the murders at Auschwitz to the American public as part of a campaign to deter perpetrators from further acts. Most famously, the WRB and the American Joint Distribution Committee sponsored the work of the Swedish diplomat Raoul Wallenberg, who saved thousands of Jews in Budapest by issuing Swedish documents promising protection. After the war, however, though the WRB saved tens of thousands of Jews, Pehle described its work as “little and late”.

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