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UNRRA / IRO ScrapBook

Brief History of UNRRA and IRO

The Allies chartered the United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation Administration (UNRRA) at a 44-nation conference at the White House on November 9, 1943. The express purpose of the agency was the repatriation and support of refugees who would come under Allied control at the war’s end. The civilian relief teams of UNRRA were charged with coordinating relief efforts and managing the camps.

UNRRA was also responsible for certifying welfare agencies for operations in the camps. Though the agency had considerable difficulty launching its operations immediately after liberation because of inexperienced personnel and the unforeseen scope of "unrepatriable" DPs, UNRRA was designated as the principal provider of care for the survivors following the Harrison Report. In late 1945 and 1946, UNRRA became an all-encompassing agency that oversaw both management of the DPs and relations with the central and camp committees. The protracted relief effort cost the United Nations billions and eventually led to the insolvency of the UNRRA.

In late 1947, its tasks were delegated to its successor agency, the International Refugee Organization (IRO), which undertook similar responsibilities but concentrated more on financial security. Both agencies served as major employers for the Jewish DPs and their representative bodies. The agencies and their officers, including former New York mayor Fiorello La Guardia, who served as UNRRA director general from March 29, 1946, to January 1, 1947, set important precedents for the care of refugees.

Source: - US Holocaust Memorial Museum

(collected by Edward C. Crommelin)

After receiving his training in 1945 at the UNRRA training center at Jullouville and Granville, France, Edward Crommelin began as a Warehouse Officer with Team 313 assigned to the Ebensee Displaced Persons Camp (formerly a concentration camp where forced labor was used to build V2 rockets.)

Although he had been born and raised in Holland - a land noted for its low, flat polders - he felt most at home in rugged, mountainous terrain. Therefore, when the opportunity for a foreign posting came along with a job offer from UNRRA, he passionately had only one destination in mind: Austria!

He served seven years in Austria with UNRRA and its successor organization, the International Refugee Organization (IRO), rising to become a senior administrator of several displaced persons camps in the vicinity of Klagenfurt, Villach and Worthersee (Kartnen) before emigrating to British Columbia, Canada in 1952.

Although he loved to take pictures, nearly all his photos are of the magnificent Austrian countryside. Few were taken of the actual refugee camps. However, he left us a 'word picture' of his early experiences during the training period and various phases of his stint with the U.N. through letters home to his wife, son, and father.

Obviously there is still considerable interest in the immediate post-war period in Europe - that period portrayed so well in movies such as The Third Man with Joseph Cotten, Trevor Howard and Orson Welles, and The Red Danube starring Walter Pidgeon and Janet Leigh, and Before Winter Comes starring David Niven, Karina and Topol.

Since he took many photographs during his travels through Austria, a great deal of work remains to be done in compiling this information for posterity. Ed passed away in Vancouver, 1982.