Susan Pettiss, an American relief worker, remembered that UNRRA—the United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation Administration—‘caused quite a stir when it was established’. Its creation was ‘a magnificent unprecedented feat’, she thought: ‘There was no background, tradition, system, common language or currency for UNRRA’; yet it brought together ‘men and women of different nationalities, backgrounds and skills’, all united in the ambition to build ‘a true world community with new social systems and international relations’. 2 Other relief workers thought much the same. Francesca Wilson, a British relief worker with decades of experience, described how en route to begin her duties in continental Europe it suddenly dawned on her ‘what a great experiment UNRRA was—the first international body to do something concrete and constructive, an attempt at an international civil service’. 3

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Nor was this sense of UNRRA's unprecedented internationalist tasks and character confined to...

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