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"Report on the Work of the Refugee Committee"

The Religious Society of Friends (also known as Quakers) first emerged in Britain in the 17th century. The Quakers' pacifism and belief in every person's "inner light" play a key role in their social activism and relief work.

The American Friends Service Committee (AFSC) formed in 1917 as the American Quaker relief organization. It offered practical assistance to people in Europe during and after World War I, most famously by providing meals to millions of German children.1 In the 1930s, the AFSC responded to the Jewish refugee crisis in Europe by creating a refugee division, which helped at least 22,000 people (including many Jews) to flee Europe and establish a new life abroadbefore, during, and after World War II.

Unlike many aid organizations that were focused on the logistics of evacuating refugees from Europe, the Quakers helped new arrivals adjust to life in the United States. The AFSC established several workshops and hostels in the United States to help refugees learn English, secure employment, and adjust to American culture. After World War II, the AFSC and the British Friends Service Council jointly won the 1947 Nobel Peace Prize for their work.2 

This five-page-long report from 1941 on the AFSC's work describes various initiatives and projects. The author, Mary M. Rogers, served as the associate director of the Service Committee. Although the majority of Quakers resided in the Northeast and the AFSC was headquartered in Philadelphia, the AFSC report illustrates the broader geographical reach of the Quakers' refugee work. The group was active in the Midwest, on the West Coast, and in Cuba. 

Written for a Quaker audience, the report advocates a shared understanding of ethics and politics and demonstrates the urgency of Quakers and Jews in an era of world war and German expansion. It encourages the entire Quaker community in the United States to take greater action:

"If we truly believe in that spark of divinity in each man and truly believe that our strength and our greatness as a nation lies in our very diverse origins, we must go forth to proclaim these beliefs as convincingly as those who preach intolerance and hatred."

This program was known in Germany as the Quäkerspeisung ["Quaker feeding"]. Together with its British counterpart, the British Friends Service Council, the Quakers maintained international centers in several major European cities to continue relief work in the 1920s and 1930s. 

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Archival Information for This Item

Source (Credit)
AFSC Philadelphia
Accession Number Foreign Service Section 1941, Meeting Minutes
Date Created
Author / Creator
Mary M. Rogers
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA
Document Type Report
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