Resources on Refugees
- Created on 26 April 2012
- Last Updated on 21 August 2019
Resources on Refugees of the Revolution of 1956
in the United States
Records of the President's Committee for Hungarian Refugee Relief in the
Tracy S. Voorhees Papers at Rutgers:
The failure of the Hungarian Revolution of 1956 and the plight of some 200,000 refugees leaving Hungary in its aftermath constituted an embarrassment for the government of the U.S., which had provided moral support to regime opponents through Radio Free Europe, but then failed to aid the rebels during the revolution. Neutral Austria provided a temporary home to refugees, but many other countries welcomed them more permanently. The United States received a first contingent itself in time for a Thanksgiving dinner at Camp Kilmer in New Jersey. Military authorities chose the recently retired Army base near the main campus of Rutgers University because it was unoccupied yet in good condition and not far from air and sea arrival points for the refugees. Initial organizational confusion convinced the administration to engage an administrator with experience and expertise in this area.
Tracy Voorhees had served under President Eisenhower, had campaigned for him in the 1956 election, and was living in retirement not far away in Brooklyn. He agreed to serve without pay, and the President's Committee for Hungarian Refugee Relief was established by the President on December 12, 1956. The Committee operated until May, 1957, helping to resettle in the United States more than 32,000 refugees.
The Committee was assigned the following duties and objectives:
a. To assist in every way possible the various religious and other voluntary agencies engaged in work for Hungarian Refugees.
b. To coordinate the efforts of these agencies, with special emphasis on those activities related to resettlement of the refugees. The Committee also served as a focal point to which offers of homes and jobs could be forwarded.
c. To coordinate the efforts of the voluntary agencies with the work of the interested governmental departments.
The records of the President's Committee consists of incoming and outgoing correspondence, press releases, speeches, printed materials, memoranda, telegrams, programs, itineraries, statistical materials, air and sea boarding manifests, and progress reports. The subject areas of these documents deal primarily with requests from the public to assist the refugees and the
Committee by volunteering homes, employment, adoption of orphans, and even marriage. Also included are the working papers necessary to fulfill the Committee's objectives.
The largest part of the committee's records, consisting of 16 cubic feet in 48 boxes, are preserved in the Dwight D. Eisenhower Library in Abiline, Kansas and were processed in 1967. A container list for this collection is available online. The committee records at Rutgers are very similar in character to those in the presidential library. Some of them may be duplicated in Abilene, but it is likely that most of the Rutgers holdings are unique. Voorhees probably selected this material upon leaving office in order to prepare his own account of the committee's work. The papers include three versions of his essay "The Freedom Fighters: Hungarian Refugee Relief 1956-1957" with the note "prepared in 1961 – revised in 1968 and 1971."
Tracy Stebbins Voorhees (1890-1974) was descended on his father's side from a distinguished New Jersey family of Dutch origin. Born in New Brunswick, he graduated from Rutgers College with an A.B. in 1911 and an A.M. in 1914, then an LL.B. from Columbia Law School in 1915. He was admitted to the bar in New Jersey in 1915 and New York in 1918, and formed his first law firm in New York City in 1919. He was a partner in several firms for 22 years, until 1941.
Voorhees' involvement in health care administration began in 1932 with his appointment to the Board of Regents of Long Island Hospital in Brooklyn, N.Y. In 1935 he helped form a charitable organization named after his mother, Mary S. Voorhees. In 1938 he became president of Long Island College Hospital, and a year later became a trustee of the Blood Transfusion Betterment Association.
Health care led Voorhees into international affairs. In 1939-1940 he was assistant director, under Herbert Hoover, of the Finnish Relief Fund. In 1940 he was an advisor to Bundles for Britain, participating in its Blood for Britain program, and for two years a member of the Board of Directors of Relief for Belgium, Inc. In 1942 he became chairman of the Blood Donor Service of the American Red Cross as well as a civilian consultant to the Legal Division of the Surgeon General's Office.
In 1944-1946 Voorhees headed various medical and supply missions in the U.S. Armed Forces, and managed food relief operations in occupied Europe in 1946-1947. In 1948 he was appointed Assistant Secretary of the Army, advancing to Under Secretary of the Army in 1949-1950. In that position he played a prominent role in occupation policy for Germany and especially Japan. In 1948-1950 he was president of Army Emergency Relief, and in 1950-1953 vice chairman of the Committee on the Present Danger, which lobbied for a strong defense posture in Europe.
He chaired the President's Committee for Hungarian Refugee Relief 1956-1957, and was the president's personal representative for Cuban Refugee Relief in 1960-1961.
Voorhees served his Rutgers alma mater in various capacities: president of the Rutgers University Fund Council 1939-1940; member of the Board of Trustees from 1942, and the Board of Governors 1957-1965. He received the Rutgers University Award in 1941, an honorary LL.D. from Rutgers in 1950, and the Rutgers University Alumni Trustee Award in 1971. In July 1974 the Board of Governors named the portion of Rutgers between Hamilton Street and Seminary place "Voorhees Campus" in his honor. His papers were presented to Rutgers University Special Collections and University Archives in 1963-1971.