"UNRRA is... the first great test of the capacity of the present world partnership of the United Nations and associated governments to achieve a peacetime goal. It represents a first bold attempt of the free peoples to develop efficient habits of working together. It is now up to all of us to prove that it is not only for war and destruction but also for help and healing that nations can be united to act for the common good. Then will peace have her victory no less than war."
- Herbert H. Lehman
The United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation Administration provided immediate relief to displaced persons in an atmosphere of emerging political conflict, logistical challenges, and uncertain directives. Small conflicts occurred between the large Western powers and smaller Allied nations but the primary dispute took place with Western and Soviet-influenced countries. These profound differences meant that UNRRA's relief efforts would prove unsustainable. Displaced persons in Europe came from every part of the world. In the summer of 1945 UNRRA teams participated in the repatriation of Russians, Frenchmen, Italians, North and South Americans, Chinese, and many others. By the autumn of 1945 there were six main groups of displaced persons with which the Administration was concerned. Poles, Polish Ukrainians, Balts (Latvian, Estonian, and Lithuanian), Yugoslavs, Jews, and Greeks. There were other major groups in the care of which the Administration was not involved. These included the so-called volksdeutsche from Czechoslovakia, Yugoslavia, and former German territories placed under Polish administration, Hungarians, and a few others (UNRRA II, 497). Rhetoric turned from optimistic idealism that stemmed from rallying the war effort to severe distrust of political ideologies and intentions which heightened Cold War tensions. Based on the simple yet powerful principle to help people help themselves, UNRRA began the task of providing relief to millions.
The project's goal is to place UNRRA in its proper historical context by analyzing the international political climate that it entered into and define what UNRRA's actions meant in relation to the emerging Cold War and the continuance of international aid efforts.