FDR's 1938 Plan to Settle Jewish and "White" Refugees in the Unexplored Highlands of Venezuela

June 3, 1938

Add to History Board Share Print
Back to The Collection
Manuscript
See full images and transcript
FDR's 1938 Plan to Settle Jewish and "White" Refugees in the Unexplored Highlands of Venezuela
Typed Letter Signed
2 pages | SMC 473

Quick Reference

      Background

      On March 12, 1938, German troops marched into Austria. In Vienna, 1,000 Jews a day applied for American visas; in Germany, a backlog of 110,000 visa applications soon accumulated. President Roosevelt writes here of a plan to settle refugee Jews – far away from Europe, far away from the United States and far away, it would appear, from reality. They ought to pay the Venezuelan government, he suggests, to allow them to colonize a “little explored” section of that country’s interior. Spaniards unhappy with the Spanish Revolution “would probably be glad to leave home,” too, along with discontents from” parts of Germany, Poland, Czecho-Slovakia and Austria.” Writing to the American Ambassador in Caracas, Roosevelt spins his idea…

      I am told that a large part of this plateau land… is, as far as known, of great richness and capable of successful colonization by the white races… The Republic of Venezuela might well study the whole subject of immigration with the idea of developing a virile, democracy-loving white population over a period of four or five generations. This means, of course, selective immigration and, at the same time, it could doubtless be carried out without putting the government of Venezuela into debt, by requiring immigrants to pay enough for the privilege of settling on this land, not only to make them self-sustaining but to build up gradually the necessary communication systems. In the long run a selective process among different nationalities would result, over a period of a number of generations, in a mixed race just as such a large proportion of our own population is.  In other words, Venezuela may have one of the few remaining large areas which can be colonized on the selective type process. It would, of course, be necessary to eliminate the congregation of any large group of any one nationality in any one place. Venezuela does not want a German colony in one place or an Italian colony in another place or a Spanish colony in a third place or a Jewish colony in a fourth place. The incoming people should be thoroughly mixed up with each other as fast as they arrive.… As a result of the Spanish Revolution, for example, several thousand of the best type of Spaniards would probably be glad to leave home -- and the same thing may apply to parts of Germany, Poland, Czecho-Slovakia and Austria.

      Viola! The problem of Jewish dispossession and political refugees is solved. The only thing is, Roosevelt adds, “You should, of course, leave me out of it altogether.” Indeed.


      Typed Letter Signed, as President, marked “Private” in autograph, 2 pages, quarto, The White House, Washington, June 3, 1938. To Ambassador Antonio C. Gonzalez in Venezuela. With registered transmittal envelope, designated “by pouch.”
      Read More

      all pages and transcript

      Page 1/3

      Page 1 transcript
      THE WHITE HOUSE
      WASHINGTON

      Private


      June 3, 1938.

      Dear Tony:-

      I am delighted to know that you are safely installed in Caracas, and I wish I could at least come to La Guyra this summer but I fear I must postpone it until next winter's cruise.

      By the way, I wish you would get me information about that area of Venezuela which lies on high land north and south of the Orinoco River.  I am told that a large part of this plateau land, lying at an elevation of from three to seven thousand feet, is not only little explored but is, as far as known, of great richness and capable of successful colonization by the white races.  It has always seemed to me that if this unused land is as extensive as it is said to be, the Republic of Venezuela might well study the whole subject of immigration with the idea of developing a virile, democracy-loving white population over a period of four or five generations.  This means, of course, selective immigration and, at the same time, it could doubtless be carried out without putting the government of Venezuela into debt, by requiring immigrants to pay enough for the privilege of settling on this land, not only to make them self-sustaining but to build up gradually the necessary communication systems.

      In the long run a selective process among different nationalities would result, over a period of a number of generations, in a mixed race just as such a large proportion of our own population is.

      Page 2/3

      Page 2 transcript
      In other words, Venezuela may have one of the few remaining large areas which can be colonized on the selective type process.  It would, of course, be necessary to eliminate the congregation of any large group of any one nationality in any one place.  Venezuela does not want a German colony in one place or an Italian colony in another place or a Spanish colony in a third place or a Jewish colony in a fourth place.  The incoming people should be thoroughly mixed up with each other as fast as they arrive.

      Doubtless there are some men in the Venezuelan government who would talk with you somewhat in confidence about this subject.  You should, of course, leave me out of it altogether.  It is my thought that in the crowded state of affairs in some nations in Europe and in certain areas of the United States, existing situations could be relieved by a small but fairly constant stream of emigrants to the unoccupied parts of the world.  As a result of the Spanish Revolution, for example, several thousand of the best type of Spaniards would probably be glad to leave home -- and the same thing may apply to parts of Germany, Poland, Czecho-Slovakia and Austria.

      In any event, you might think this over and put out some feelers.

      Ever so many thanks for that perfectly wonderful Panama hat.  It will be most useful this summer.

      As ever yours,

      Franklin D Roosevelt [in autograph]

      Honorable Antonio C. Gonzalez,

      American Legation,
      Caracas,
      Venezuela.

      Page 3/3

      Page 3 transcript
      THE WHITE HOUSE
      REGISTERED 7479

      Honorable Antonio C. Gonzalez,
      American Legation,
      Caracas,
      Venezuela.

      BY POUCH