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James G. McDonald collection

Document | Accession Number: 2004.220.1

The James G. McDonald collection consists of diary entries, correspondence, subject files, photographs, and printed materials documenting McDonald’s work as chair of the Foreign Policy Association, League of Nations High Commissioner for Refugees from Germany, chairman of President Roosevelt’s Advisory Committee on Political Refugees, member of the Anglo-American Committee of Inquiry on Jewish Problems in Palestine and Europe, U.S. Special Representative to the Jewish State, and U.S. Ambassador to Israel.
McDonald’s diaries take the form of dictations he made to his staff, who typed and maintained them over the years. The entries date from 1923-1936 and 1946-1950. The 1923-1933 entries document McDonald’s service as president and chairman of the Foreign Policy Association (FPA) and then as League of Nations High Commissioner for Refugees from Germany. Most of these entries focus on his activities with the FPA, a New York-based non-profit organization that sought to educate Americans on foreign policy issues through activities such as luncheon discussions featuring expert panels and radio broadcasts. The FPA also worked with other non-governmental, humanitarian, and religious organizations to influence United States policy on issues including disarmament, post-World War I reparations payments, the proposed formation of a World Court, and Japanese aggression in East Asia and its invasion of Manchuria in 1931. The diaries record McDonald’s frequent travels and his activities as chair of the FPA, including visits to government officials in Washington and meetings with members of the foreign policy establishment both in and outside of the United States government. Key to the latter activity were dinner and luncheon meetings, including those hosted by the FPA as well as a number of other organizations and individuals, which are described in detail in the diaries, as well as in the invitations, guests lists, and seating charts for such events that can be found in the Subject files series (series 3) of these papers.
Entries from 1933-1936 document his move to Geneva, his work as High Commissioner for Refugees from Germany, meetings with world leaders including President Roosevelt, Adolf Hitler, Cardinal Eugenio Pacelli (later Pope Pius XII), and Benito Mussolini; the virulent and fanatical antisemitism of the Nazis he met; and his vocal concerns about Nazi policies which were already causing a large number of refugees to leave Germany and seek asylum elsewhere.
The gap in the diaries from 1936 to 1946 is reportedly attributed to McDonald’s lack of office staff who would have been able to regularly type and maintain the diaries for him. His diary resumes in 1946 following his appointment to the Anglo-American Committee of Inquiry on Jewish Problems in Palestine and Europe and again from 1948 to 1950 following his appointment as U.S. Special Representative to the Jewish State and U.S. Ambassador to Israel.
The Correspondence series is arranged as two subseries: 1) Family and individuals and 2) Israel. The Family and individuals subseries consists largely of correspondence sent by James G. McDonald to his wife and two daughters, mostly during the late 1920s and early 1930s. Much of the content focuses on the family, but McDonald occasionally describes work events and impressions of negotiations at some of the international conferences he was attending. Additional correspondence includes letters from close family friends Leland and Helen Robinson, from John D. Rockefeller III, and from humanitarian Lillian D. Wald. This series also includes letters McDonald’s secretary, Olive Sayers, wrote to her mother describing her travels and work alongside McDonald while he served as League of Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. Most of the correspondence is personal and is arranged alphabetically by correspondent.
The Israel correspondence subseries is related to McDonald’s time in the Middle East, primarily during his term as U.S. Special Representative and then Ambassador to Israel. Topics include the 1948 ArabIsraeli war and the battle of the Negev, efforts to establish Arab-Israeli peace, the assassination of Count Folke Bernadotte, Palestinian refugees, elections to the First Knesset, McDonald’s presentation of his diplomatic credentials to David Ben-Gurion, the position of Christians in Israel, communism in Israel, and economic and cultural development. Correspondents include Dean Acheson, David Ben-Gurion, Clark Clifford, John Foster Dulles, Rabbi Jacob Herzog, Herbert Hoover, Samuel Leidesdorf, George Marshall, Ambassador George McGhee, David Niles, Leland and Helen Robinson, Dean Rusk, Moshe Sharett, Francis Joseph Spellman, President Harry S. Truman, Chaim Weizmann, Sumner Welles, UN officials, embassy officials, and his family members. Records also include carbon copies of letters and reports sent back to Washington, press releases, chronologies, radio scripts, and news items, and they are arranged chronologically.
Subject files contain original material from McDonald’s life and career, as well as photocopies and more recent material. Original material includes records related to the FPA, the Dominican Republic Settlement Association (DORSA), the Anglo-American Committee of Inquiry on Jewish Problems in Palestine and Europe, and the period of McDonald’s term as Ambassador to Israel, including notes, a pocket diary, and other documents from the era. Additional original materials include notes, minutes, and descriptions of committee meetings from the 1920s, in which McDonald, as a representative of the FPA, took part, but which included a number of other non-governmental organizations who sought to advise the U.S. government on policy issues. These include the files titled “Conferences on international relations and reparations,” “Disarmament Committee,” “London Naval Conference,” “Manchuria,” and “World Court.” Later photocopied documents, such as those pertaining to Bernard Baruch, Rabbi Stephen Wise, President Roosevelt’s Advisory Committee on Political Refugees, and other similar material, was likely assembled by Barbara McDonald Stewart or others in the course of their historical research about McDonald’s life. This series contains many menus, lists of attendees, and agendas of formal lunch and dinner meetings McDonald attended on political and international topics. Subject files also include biographical materials about James McDonald, fragments of diaries belonging to Barbara and Ruth McDonald and diplomat Jay Pierrepont Moffat, a scrapbook of wartime clippings, and an unpublished manuscript by Isaac B. Berkson about Palestine. Subject files are arranged alphabetically.
Photographs primarily feature McDonald and document his work in the United States, Palestine/Israel, and Europe as High Commissioner for Refugees from Germany, member of the Anglo-American Committee of Inquiry on Jewish Problems in Palestine and Europe, and as U.S. Special Representative and then Ambassador to Israel. Photographs also depict historical figures such as David Ben-Gurion, Itzhak Ben-Zvi, Edvard Beneš, Norman Bentwich, Eddie Cantor, Jimmy Durante, Eliahu Eilat (Elath), Albert Einstein, Serge Koussevitzky, Herbert L. May, Golda Meir, Henry Morgenthau, Moshe Sharett, Abba Hillel Silver, Chaim Weizmann, and Rabbi Stephen Wise. The photographs portray events such as Zionist meetings, kibbutz and school visits, groundbreaking ceremonies, award presentations, and fundraisers. They also include portraits of McDonald and his family and document trips to Argentina, Australia, Brazil, France, Greece, Poland, South Africa, Spain, Switzerland, Trinidad and Tobago, and Venezuela and depict ships such as the SS Roma, SS Paris, SS Ile de France, and SS Queen Elizabeth. Many of the photographs were taken by press and publishing companies. Arrangement is approximately chronological.
Printed materials consist of four printed volumes presented to McDonald and include his 1909 Indiana University yearbook The Arbutus, Yeshayahu Klinov’s 1949 work Israel Reborn, Klinov’s 1950 work Chaim Weizmann: First President of the State of Israel, and Ze’ev Raban’s 1930 work The Song of Solomon in coloured plates. Arrangement is chronological.
Barbara Stewart research materials primarily document James G. McDonald’s work as High Commissioner for Refugees from Germany during the early 1930s. Records consist of chronological documents arranged by Stewart in the process of writing her dissertation and preparing a history about her father’s work and United States policy regarding Jewish refugees from Nazi Germany. The documents include: 1) original materials, such as telegrams, reports, speeches, and printed materials, that McDonald created or received during his tenure as High Commissioner, 2) photocopies of original materials, such as diary entries and correspondence, that might appear elsewhere in this collection, and 3) photocopies of related materials from collections in other repositories including Columbia University. This series also includes name lists of prominent individuals relevant to McDonald’s work, printed materials describing McDonald’s work as High Commissioner, and records documenting efforts to resettle refugees in South America.
Diary carbons consist of carbon copies of most of the diaries in the first series of this collection. The vast majority of the copies are exact replicas of the original diary pages, but a small handful include different annotations or revisions. Arrangement is chronological.

inclusive:  1873-2010
19 boxes
3 oversize boxes
Credit Line
United States Holocaust Memorial Museum Collection, Gift of Barbara Ann McDonald on behalf of the McDonald family
Record last modified: 2023-08-24 13:56:12
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