Robert Rackmales will give a talk entitled, "Forging a U.S. Refugee Policy for the Middle East: The Roosevelt and Truman Years," Tuesday, Sept. 13, at 6:30 p.m. at Belfast Free Library, 106 High St.

Hosted by the library, the presentation is offered as a free community event in in anticipation of the 30th annual Camden Conference – Refugees and Global Migration: Humanity’s Crisis, Feb. 17-19, 2017.

Many organizations that are struggling today to cope with massive population displacements had their origins in the refugee crises that preceded and followed World War II. The non-governmental International Rescue Committee (IRC) was founded in Germany in 1933. The UN Relief & Rehabilitation Administration was founded in 1943, and the UN Refugee Convention signed in 1951.

Rackmales’ talk will focus on the period from July 1938, when Franklin Roosevelt’s attempt to organize an international effort to provide refuge to victims of Nazism in Germany and Austria collapsed, to July 1951, when the UN Refugee Convention was signed in Geneva (but not by the United States).

As is the case today, issues involving acceptance of refugees aroused intense public reactions in the U.S., often limiting presidential options. These controversies did not always follow strictly partisan lines and were also capable of creating deep divisions within the government.

During his 32-year career in the U.S. Foreign Service, Rackmales dealt with refugee issues on multiple occasions. His meeting in Istanbul in 1986 with Turkish refugees from Bulgarian persecution was shown on Turkish national TV. As U.S. charge d’affaires in Belgrade during the Balkan wars of the 1990s, he worked closely with IRC and UN HCR officials providing assistance to refugees from each of the affected ethnic groups.

Rackmales is a former board member of the Camden Conference and Senior College at Belfast, and is a member of the American Foreign Service Association and the American Historical Association.

The 30th anniversary Camden Conference Community Events Series is supported in part by the Maine Humanities Council.

The mission of the Camden Conference is to foster informed discourse on world issues. For more information, visit camdenconference.org, email info@camdenconference.org, or call 236-1034.