United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation Administration
The United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation Administration (UNRRA) was an international relief agency, largely dominated by the United States but representing 44 nations. Founded in 1943, it became part of the United Nations
United Nations
The United Nations is an international organization whose stated aims are facilitating cooperation in international law, international security, economic development, social progress, human rights, and achievement of world peace...

 in 1945, was especially active in 1945 and 1946, and largely shut down operations in 1947. Its purpose was to "plan, co-ordinate, administer or arrange for the administration of measures for the relief of victims of war in any area under the control of any of the United Nations through the provision of food, fuel, clothing, shelter and other basic necessities, medical and other essential services".
Its staff of civil servants included 12,000 people, with headquarters in New York. Funding came from many nations, and totaled $3.7 billion, of which the United States contributed $2.7 billion; Britain $625 million and Canada $139 million.

UNRRA cooperated closely with dozens of volunteer charitable organizations, who sent hundreds of their own agencies to work alongside UNRRA. In operation only three years, the agency distributed about $4 billion worth of goods, food, medicine, tools, and farm implements at a time of severe global shortages and worldwide transportation difficulties. The recipient nations had been especially hard hit by starvation, dislocation, and political chaos. It played a major role in helping Displaced Persons  return to their home countries in Europe in 1945-46. Its UN functions were transferred to several UN agencies, including the International Refugee Organization
International Refugee Organization
The International Refugee Organization was founded on April 20, 1946 to deal with the massive refugee problem created by World War II. A Preparatory Commission began operations fourteen months previously. It was a United Nations specialized agency and took over many of the functions of the earlier...

  and the World Health Organization
World Health Organization
The World Health Organization is a specialized agency of the United Nations that acts as a coordinating authority on international public health. Established on 7 April 1948, with headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland, the agency inherited the mandate and resources of its predecessor, the Health...

. As an American relief agency, it was largely replaced by the Marshall Plan
Marshall Plan
The Marshall Plan was the large-scale American program to aid Europe where the United States gave monetary support to help rebuild European economies after the end of World War II in order to combat the spread of Soviet communism. The plan was in operation for four years beginning in April 1948...

, which began operations in 1948.

Founding and authority

U.S. president Franklin Delano Roosevelt proposed the agency in June, 1943, to provide relief to areas liberated from Axis powers after World War II ended. Roosevelt had already obtained the approval of written, the Soviet Union, and China; the later obtained endorsements of 40 other governments to form the first "United Nations" organization.

The Agreement for United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation Administration founding document was signed by 44 countries in the White House
White House
The White House is the official residence and principal workplace of the president of the United States. Located at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW in Washington, D.C., the house was designed by Irish-born James Hoban, and built between 1792 and 1800 of white-painted Aquia sandstone in the Neoclassical...

 in Washington, November 9, 1943. UNRRA was headed by a Director-General, and governed by a Council (composed of representatives of all state parties) and a Central Committee representing the United States, Britain, Canada, China, and the Soviet Union. The other countries who signed the agreement included: Australia, Belgium, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Cuba, Czechoslovakia, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Egypt, El Salvador, Ethiopia, the French Committee of National Liberation, Greece, Guatemala, Haiti, Honduras, Iceland, India, Iran, Iraq, Liberia, Luxembourg, Mexico, Netherlands, New Zealand, Nicaragua, Norway, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Philippines, Poland, South Africa, Uruguay, Venezuela, and Yugoslavia.
Although the UNRRA was called a "United Nations" agency, it was established prior to the founding of the United Nations
United Nations
The United Nations is an international organization whose stated aims are facilitating cooperation in international law, international security, economic development, social progress, human rights, and achievement of world peace...

. The explanation for this is that the term "United Nations" was used at the time to refer to the Allies of World War II
Allies of World War II
The Allies of World War II were the countries that opposed the Axis powers during the Second World War . Former Axis states contributing to the Allied victory are not considered Allied states...

, having been originally coined for that purpose by Roosevelt
Franklin D. Roosevelt
Franklin Delano Roosevelt , also known by his initials, FDR, was the 32nd President of the United States and a central figure in world events during the mid-20th century, leading the United States during a time of worldwide economic crisis and world war...

 in 1942.

Although initially restricted by its constitution to render aid only to nationals from the United Nations (the Allies), this was changed late in 1944, in response to pleas from Jewish organizations who were concerned with the fate of surviving Jews of German nationality, to also include "other persons who have been obliged to leave their country or place of origin or former residence or who have been deported therefrom by action of the enemy because of race, religion or activities' in favor of the United Nations."

UNRRA operated in occupied Germany, primarily in camps for Displaced Persons
Displaced persons camp
A displaced persons camp or DP camp is a temporary facility for displaced persons coerced into forced migration. The term is mainly used for camps established after World War II in West Germany and in Austria, as well as in the United Kingdom, primarily for refugees from Eastern Europe and for the...

, especially the 11,000,000 non-Germans who had been moved into Germany during the war, but did not render assistance to ethnic Germans.

In Asia the organization provided assistance in China and Taiwan
Taiwan , also known, especially in the past, as Formosa , is the largest island of the same-named island group of East Asia in the western Pacific Ocean and located off the southeastern coast of mainland China. The island forms over 99% of the current territory of the Republic of China following...


Allegations of fraud or corruption in UNRRA were rare, but there were allegations of misappropriation of the aid by the Kuomintang
The Kuomintang of China , sometimes romanized as Guomindang via the Pinyin transcription system or GMD for short, and translated as the Chinese Nationalist Party is a founding and ruling political party of the Republic of China . Its guiding ideology is the Three Principles of the People, espoused...

 (Chinese Nationalist Party) (see Formosa Betrayed).

UNRRA Headquarters was in Washington, D.C., and the European Regional Office was set up in London. The organization was subject to the authority of the Supreme Headquarters of the Allied Expeditionary Forces (SHAEF) in Europe and was directed by three Americans during the four years of its existence. Its first director-general was Herbert Lehman (1 January 1944 to 31 March 1946), former governor of New York. He was succeeded by Fiorello La Guardia (1 April to 31 December 1946), former mayor of New York, who was in turn followed by Major General Lowell Ward Rooks (1 January 1947 to 30 September 1948).


44 nations contributed to funding, supplying, and staffing the agency, of which the United States was the leading donor. The largest recipients of UNRRA commodity aid, in millions of US dollars were China, $518; Poland-- $478; Italy --$418; Yugoslavia -- $416; Greece -- $347; Czechoslovakia -- $261; Ukraine (USSR) -- $188; and Austria -- $136.. Hitchcock 2008 concludes that UNRRA was not perfect, for it was troubled by inefficiency, poor planning, shortages of supplies, and some incompetent personnel. On balance however, he argues, it was a major success in terms of delivering aid, food, and medicine, and helping Europe on the path to recovery, especially Eastern and Southern Europe..

See also

  • Chinese National Relief and Rehabilitation Administration
    Chinese National Relief and Rehabilitation Administration
    The Chinese National Relief and Rehabilitation Administration was an organisation established by the government of the Republic of China to distribute relief aid after from 1945 to 1947...

    Government and Relief in Occupied Areas was a program under which the US after the 1945 end of World War II from 1946 onwards provided emergency aid to the occupied nations, Japan, Germany, Austria. The aid was predominantly in the form of food to alleviate starvation in the occupied...

    The Council of Relief Agencies Licensed to Operate in Germany was a non governmental organization created in 1946 by the American Council of Voluntary Agencies for Foreign Service and included 11 major relief agencies such as the International Red Cross.Food relief shipments to Germany had been...

  • CARE


  • The Search
    The Search
    The Search is a 1948 film directed by Fred Zinnemann which tells the story of a young Auschwitz survivor and his mother who search for each other across post-World War II Europe...

     (Director: Fred Zinnemann, Starring: Montgomery Clift) 1948 Filmed in post-war Berlin: A story which brings to life UNRRA work in 1945 Germany.
  • Sami swoi
    Sami swoi
    Sami swoi is the first part of a Polish comedy trilogy of movies by Sylwester Chęciński...

    , 1967 - a Polish comedy on post-war peasant life, in which an UNRRA-delivered horse is an important action point.

Further reading

  • Armstrong-Reid, Susan E., and David Murray. Armies of Peace: Canada and the UNRRA Years (2008)
  • Fox, Grace. "The Origins of UNRRA," Political Science Quarterly Vol. 65, No. 4 (Dec. 1950), pp. 561-584 in JSTOR
  • Hitchcock, William I. The Bitter Road to Freedom: The Human Cost of Allied Victory in World War II Europe (2009) pp 215-48
  • Reinisch, Jessica. "'We Shall Rebuild Anew a Powerful Nation': UNRRA, Internationalism and National Reconstruction in Poland," Journal of Contemporary History, July 2008, Vol. 43 Issue 3, pp 451-476, DOI: 10.1177/0022009408091835
  • Shephard, Ben. The Long Road Home: The Aftermath of the Second World War.' (Bodley Head, 2010)
  • Woodbridge, George. UNRRA: the History of the United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation Administration (Columbia University Press, 1950), the official history

External links

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