Roswell and Marjorie McClelland papers

Language of Description
Alt. Identifiers
  • 2014.500.1
1 Jan 1940 - 31 Dec 1995, 1 Jan 1940 - 31 Dec 1945
Level of Description
  • English
  • German
EHRI Partner

Extent and Medium




Biographical History

Roswell Dunlop McClelland (1914-1995) was born in Palo Alto, California, to Ross St. John McClelland and Alice (Alys) M. Mitchell. He studied French, German, Italian and American literature, graduating with a BA from Duke University in 1936 and an MA from Columbia University in 1940. During his studies, Roswell learned to speak German and Italian. On November 19, 1938, he married Marjorie Helen Miles (1913-1978). Marjorie graduated from Stanford, and completed graduate work in child psychology at the University of Cincinnati and Yale University. Marjorie was a member of the Religious Society of Friends (also known as Quakers), a Christian religious group devoted to peaceful principals. After Roswell's graduation from Columbia, he was awarded a fellowship to study an archival collection related to Voltaire in Geneva, Switzerland. The fellowship was awarded by the American Friends Service Committee (AFSC), a Quaker organization that promotes development, service and peace programs throughout the world. However, by June 1940, Nazi Germany and their allies had occupied most of Europe, and Roswell was not able to use the scholarship. With the expanding war in Europe, the AFSC was looking for aid workers to send overseas. Due to Roswell’s foreign language skills, he was recruited to go to Europe and direct an AFSC refugee relief office in Rome, Italy. In August 1940, Roswell and Marjorie went to Europe, spending a month in Lisbon, Portugal, before traveling to Rome. In August 1941, the office closed and the couple moved to Marseille, in Vichy France, where they joined another AFSC office. From their base in Marseille, Roswell worked to provide relief for prisoners in Les Milles internment camp. Marjorie worked to select children for the USCOM children’s transport to the United States in the summer of 1942. In the late summer of 1942, the couple moved to Geneva to establish a special office of the AFSC’s Relief & Refugee Section in Switzerland. Roswell and his colleagues developed several programs to provide refugees with financial assistance, clothing, and preparation for emigration. On January 22, 1944, President Roosevelt established the War Refugee Board (WRB) to carry out an official American policy of rescue and relief for victims of the war and Nazi persecution. In March, Roswell was selected as the Board’s representative in Switzerland. He commuted to Bern four days a week, while Marjorie continued to run the AFSC offices in Geneva. As part of his work with the WRB, Roswell translated the Auschwitz Protocol, from German to English. The Auschwitz Protocol was a report written by Rudolf Vrba and Alfred Wetzler, two Slovakian Jews who escaped from Auschwitz. After the end of the war in May 1945, Roswell became a United States Foreign Service officer. Roswell and Marjorie had four children. Later in life, after Marjorie passed away, Roswell remarried.

Archival History

United States Holocaust Memorial Museum


United States Holocaust Memorial Museum Collection, Gift of Kirk McClelland

Kirk McClelland donated his father’s collection to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in 2014.

Scope and Content

The Roswell and Marjorie McClelland papers contains a unique set of correspondence and documents related to the American Friends Service Committee’s work in Rome, Marseilles, and Geneva during World War II, and the work of the War Refugee Board in Switzerland from 1944-1945. The collection includes photographs and copies of photographs of Roswell and Marjorie McClelland after their 1938 wedding; in Rome in 1940; of AFSC workers in France in 1941-1942; of the Gurs and Les Milles camps; of Roswell with their sons Barre and Kirk in 1945; and of the entire family in Switzerland ca. 1949. Copies of photographs taken by and of Roswell McClelland on a tour of the Mauthausen concentration camp in the summer of 1945 are also included. Biographical information includes curriculum vitaes written by Roswell McClelland and a biographical statement written by Kirk McClelland of his father’s life, written after Roswell’s death. Original documents includes newsclippings announcing their 1940 trip to Europe; the McClelland’s 1941 Cartes d’ Identite in France; artwork given to them as thank-you gifts from prisoners in French internment camps; Roswell McClelland’s handwritten notes in preparation for and after meeting with Pierre Laval in the summer of 1942 regarding the deportation of Jews, and copies of various reports. Personal correspondence includes letters written from the McClellands, mainly to members of the Miles family. Marjorie McClelland is the main author of the lengthy letters, which are numbered in a series which she resets when the family moves to a new location. The correspondence covers their personal and professional lives. The War Refugee Board papers include copies of weekly reports of the Board’s activities, compiled by the staff in Washington; the copies in this collection cover the period August 1944-September 1945. This series also includes copies and various handwritten drafts of the Auschwitz Protocols, copies of various reports written and submitted by McClelland, miscellaneous notes related to ransom negotiations, and correspondence with various aid organizations in Switzerland. Correspondence with historians and documentarians include documents regarding McClelland’s work as a War Refugee Board representative; most of the material focuses on ransom negotiations, the Auschwitz Protocols, and the proposal to bomb the Auschwitz concentration camp. This series includes correspondence with many of the leading historians working in the field of American response to the Holocaust in the late 1970s and early 1980s. A transcript of a 1967 interview of McClelland by Yehuda Bauer includes McClelland’s handwritten notes and corrections. Roswell McClelland and members of his family gathered articles, reports, clippings and copies of documents related to Auschwitz, the War Refugee Board, ransom negotiations, and the work of the AFSC in France. Includes drafts of McClelland’s essay, “An unpublished chapter in the history of the deportation of foreign Jews from France in 1942,” copies of documents included in David Wyman’s archival source series, a copy of Dino Brugioni’s report on the possibilities of bombing Auschwitz, and other collected materials. As Roswell McClelland had a habit of annotating documents as he was reading them, many of the reports and correspondence include handwritten notes and comments.

System of Arrangement

The collection is arranged in eight series: Series 1: Photographs, 1938-ca. 1949 Series 2: Biographical material, 1948-1995 Series 3: Original documents, 1940-1989 Series 4: Personal correspondence, 1940-ca. 1970 Series 5: War Refugee Board papers, 1944-ca. 1973 Series 6: Correspondence with historians and documentarians, 1969-1993 Series 7: Research material prepared and collected by Roswell McClelland and family, undated Series 8: Miscellaneous, 1965-1973


Corporate Bodies



This description is derived directly from structured data provided to EHRI by a partner institution. This collection holding institution considers this description as an accurate reflection of the archival holdings to which it refers at the moment of data transfer.