Report on the refugee crisis at the Polish consulate

Here is my first translation of a document from the Hoover Institution archive of Polish foreign ministry documents. It is written on August 2, 1940, just after the height of the refugee crisis, by the acting head of the consulate, Vaclav Bitner, who has stepped in to help restore order in the wake of the premature departure of the former vice consul Stanisław Dygat. The extraordinary events of the previous six weeks break through the officialese of the report

Toulouse, August 2, 1940

The Consulate of the Republic of Poland in Toulouse hereby submits a report on of the business of the Consulate in its administrative work and social welfare in the period from mid-June to the present.

I. Issues of citizenship and passports:
Starting in mid-June, the Consulate experienced a one-hundredfold increase in the rate of applications, mostly regarding the issue of passports. Previously the Consulate of the Republic of Poland in Toulouse received at most 800 passports applications in a year. In the period from June 15, the number of passports issued has increased enormously. The peak number of passports issued and submitted were up to 200 a day. From 15 June to 31 July, around 6,600 passports were issued passports, judging from the use of blank passports.

To meet this challenge the Consulate looked very liberally at evidence of citizenship. In relation to soldiers, service in the Polish army in France was found to be sufficient evidence to issue a passport. More difficult was the issue of the civilian population, particularly the large flood of refugees from Belgium, often not possessing Polish passports. Passports were issued on the basis of the Belgian identity card, together with Polish documents as birth certificates, membership certificates, etc.. This was the case for Polish citizens.

Under these conditions, it was possible for some people not already possessing Polish citizenship to get Polish passport. These are almost exclusively those who lost Polish citizenship in 1938 or 1939 under the Law of 31 March 1938 Article 1 but retained documentation of their prior citizenship. This amount is small, however, and might amount to no more than 1% of the total number of issued passports.

The working conditions during this time did not allow the Consulate to [properly index] issued passports. There could be no question of setting up a personal file for each person receiving a passport. The indexes that were kept were to avoid issuing double passports to one person.

Passports issued to former soldiers were usually free of charge. From the civilian population required fees, usually equal to the sum of 146 francs. However, about 90% of the people there were workers from Belgium and northern France who had been without work for several months and persist here with benefits received from the French authorities - received passports free of charge. The collected fees received are more than 90,000 fr. as if July 31, 1940

Time did not allow for postage stamps to be glued on passports. Fees collected by the clerk were listed on a piece of paper, with a list of people and the amount collected.

There were incidents of abuse [bribery?] in the issuing of passports but these are now very few or indeed eliminated. Three contract workers who helped in the first period with the flood of work have been removed for this reason by the Consulate.

In addition to passports issued at the Consulate, there were also other similar document-issuing centers, such as in Perpignan, where the stamp of the Pyrenees Orientales prefecture and signature of former Consulate officer George Morozewicz appeared on forms prepared on the duplicator. Quantities of passports were issued this way were during the first days after June 21, with the goal of easing travel within France. Whether and how much fees were collected has not yet been established. Several people who came forward with these passports at the Consulate stated that no fees were paid for such passports.

II. Accounting
The Consulate official who was left in place, Mr. Stanislaw Wozniak, a military passport clerk and accountant, and deputy head of the Consulate during absences by the station chief, had neither the time nor the authority to access the official account books. Cash receipts and expenditures in the write cache book were properly fastened and numbered.

According to the verbal command by the Consul, cash inflows and outflows of the Consulate for the entire period from 20 June 1940 were not recorded to the official ledgers, which made ​​impossible the normal account closings for the months of June and July. This now will be done as soon as possible - the difficulty is that the accounting officer Mr. Wozniak is far too preoccupied with work in other sectors and there is no proper or place or time to find the peace and quiet to do this task.

III. Security of the Consulate premises.
In the first days after the departure of the Head of the Consulate, circumstances allowed the theft and destruction of some items owned by the State, as well as the items in storage from private individuals. One officer together with the old, very energetic janitor (Walenty Jakubowski, formerly of the Embassy in Paris) could not cope with everything owing to the crowd of people besieging his desk.

There have been incidents of theft, especially with suitcases and trunks of individuals that were submitted here for safekeeping. The resulting loss is difficult to assess. Things destroyed in the office are limited to the value of the quantity while the losses of individuals are incomparably greater. In the first period of the crisis, the Consulate had to allow overnight access on the premises of the representative offices to a fairly large group of visitors, who would otherwise have been homeless outside the Consulate.

The above condition has now changed for the better. Those living in the building of the Consulate are persons performing official functions at the Consulate or with the Polish Red Cross, whose offices are located in the Consulate.

IV. Social welfare
In this report, the Consulate will be limited only to provide general sums issued, leaving other issues for a more detailed future report. Expenditure in the period from June 20 to July 31 amounted to a total of 741,520.70 francs. This included administrative expenses (paper, office supplies) of about 10,304 francs. rent new office premises, fr. 13,000 and staff costs of about 114,010 fr. The personal expense allowance is for three months and two officials of the Consulate, who were posted in the city after June 20, fr. 20192. Consulate employees, 37,450 and fr. 56,368 for office worker wages and military demobilization.

The balance of expenditure, fr. 604,206, are expenses for the proper care and housing of refugees. With larger amounts of benefits paid this sum appears fr. Board paid 40.000 to hostels in Salies du Salat, 10,000 fr. to the Polish House in Toulouse, 7,000 to shelter Polish in Loures-Barousse, fr. 36.200 for retirement and assistance grants for soldiers' wives (benefits granted by the Government Delegate for the Polish refugees in France) and the sum of fr. 511.006 assistance grants for soldiers, at a rate of fr. 20 per head every couple of days. The small amount of civilian assistance grants rarely exceed the sum of fr. 100 per person,

Consulate expenditures to aid Polish refugees has decreased by up to 80% since the organization of the Polish Red Cross in Toulouse. Red Cross registration has been in operation since about 10 July. Registered refugees receive assistance from the French authorities of 12 francs per day.

Proceeds V.
After the departure of the Head of the Consulate on June 20, 1940, the officer had left the sum of fr. 131,037.80, representing the balance on hand, bank account, and postal account. Since then until July 31 inclusive, revenue from charges for passports amounted to (exactly) 87,603.50 and there is a note in the amount of fr. 13,000 received from the Consul Chiczewski. The rest of the money covered expenses of the current head of the Consulate of Mr. Vaclav Bitner.

VI. Staff of the Consulate
In addition to the two former officials of the Consulate (Mr. Wozniak and Mr. Osuchowska) the rest of the staff consists of officials from other offices of the Republic of Poland and a few people from outside the Consulate voluntarily reported their work during June 19-24. Staffing is 23 people - in addition to the head of the Consulate.

Not shown here is the number of office workers handling soldier demobilization, which is now treated as a separate entity but remaining under the overall supervision of the Consulate.

By today (August 2) we have seen some reduction work in the Consulate. Several issues remain unsettled, such as drawing up inventories, ordering a personal archive and restoring the property, and above all to bring accounting up to date. The Consulate will proceed in the coming days to as soon as possiblereduce staff, but the composition of the Consulate will remain for the period to be about 60% higher than previously.