Anticipating that World War II would leave in its wake millions of refugees, among them no small number of Jews, FDR in 1942 ordered his confidant John Franklin Carter to devise a top-secret plan to distribute these refugees across the globe, informing him that anyone who leaked information about the plan would “suffer guillotinally.” Steve Usdin explains how this endeavor, known as the “M Project,” developed:
Carter was a journalist, novelist, and former diplomat who ran an informal secret intelligence service for Roosevelt. . . . Roosevelt’s first choice to head the M Project was Aleš Hrdlička, curator of physical anthropology at the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History. The two men had carried on a lively correspondence for over a decade and the president had absorbed the scientist’s theories about racial mixtures and eugenics. Roosevelt, the scion of two families that considered themselves American aristocrats, was especially attracted to Hrdlička’s notions of human racial “stock.”
A prominent public intellectual who had dominated American physical anthropology for decades, Hrdlička was convinced of the superiority of the white race and obsessed with racial identity. . . . Roosevelt had asked Carter to recruit Hrdlička, and to tell him his task would be to head up a secret international committee of anthropologists to study the “ethnological problems anticipated in post-war population movements.” . . .
Hrdlička ultimately refused to participate in the M Project because Roosevelt wouldn’t give him absolute control. Isaiah Bowman, the president of Johns Hopkins University and a geographer, was promoted from his role as a member of the committee to the head of the project. Roosevelt knew Bowman well and so was presumably aware of his anti-Semitic views. . . .
Settlement contingencies for a wide range of peoples were studied, but when Roosevelt described the M Project to Churchill during a lunch at the White House in May 1943, he focused on one particular group. FDR described it as a study about “the problem of working out the best way to settle the Jewish question,” Vice-President Henry Wallace, who attended the meeting, recorded in his diary. The solution, which the president endorsed, “essentially is to spread the Jews thin all over the world” rather than allowing them to congregate anywhere in large numbers.
President Truman would shut down the initiative as soon as he learned of its existence.