Letter from Swanstrom to Carroll, with enclosure, the Parish Resettlement Kit, March 16, 1948
Swanstrom’s letter to Carroll introduces the Parish Resettlement Kit, destined for distribution to lay Catholics throughout the nation by way of each Catholic diocese’ Resettlement Director. Scanning these documents brings to mind a fact that some other documents in this collection might fail to convey—that the worldwide Church’s and US bishops’ resettlement efforts ultimately depended on the contributions and wholehearted participation of the laity. Lay Catholics were the ones who provided monetary contributions and job opportunities, and opened their homes and communities to Displaced Persons (DPs) from Europe. The National Catholic Welfare Conference made American Catholics aware of this need, and awakened their sympathies and humanitarian feelings in order to help them accept the idea of resettlement. Among these materials, we find a Q&A designed to spread facts and correct misconceptions about the refugees, and a suggested radio speech or sermon which seems specially geared to tug at the heart-strings of the listener.
Another key part of the Resettlement Kit are questionnaires to be distributed in every parish, which ask the respondent about what particular kind of aid they would be willing to provide. The emphasis in these questionnaires is on placing refugees as entire family groups, rather than as individuals. The documents making up the Resettlement Kit also repeatedly emphasize the willingness of DPs to work. Their skill in both specialized handiwork and general manual labor is held up as an assurance that resettled DPs will not become a burden on the American people. Although most DPs were from Eastern European countries with very distinctive and active cultural traditions, these documents minimize the DPs’ ethnic background and instead choose to focus on their points in common with Americans. Just as the European ethnicities who settled the American West (largely Germans and Scandinavians) became seamlessly assimilated, so will the DPs as a new generation of pioneers, according to the hopes of this document. This unspoken assumption marks the Resettlement Kit as a product of its era in history. Later, beginning in the 1960s, many people started to resent this emphasis on uniformity, and to play up their different ethnic ancestries as a mark of distinction. Here, though, the emphasis is on fitting in, not standing out.
- What percentage of Displaced Persons does this document estimate are Catholic? Is this higher or lower than some of the other estimates you may have seen throughout this document collection? What might be a reason for the variable estimates?
- How does the Resettlement Kit talk about Jewish refugees, particularly concentration camp survivors? Does the Resettlement Kit’s tone when talking about Jews resemble or differ from that of earlier documents?
- What are some of the reasons people have given for why Displaced Persons cannot be settled in the United States, as cited in the pamphlet “Displaced Persons- A Challenge to American Generosity”? How does the pamphlet refute these arguments?
- What parallel efforts, according to the Q&A on Displaced Persons, have the various Protestant denominations of the world undertaken to assist Displaced Persons?
- What is the name of the DP camp described at length in the suggested radio speech “Village without Hope”? How are the refugees in the camp described, and what details are used to humanize them? How does this speech emphasize the Catholic faith of these refugees and their persistence in their beliefs even in difficult times?