File No. 763.72114/77

The Ambassador in Great Britain (Page) to the Secretary of State


Bitterness has developed between the British Government and the German Government about treatment of prisoners of war and interned non-belligerents. Anderson, just returned from Berlin, reports that German Government wishes me and in fact expects me personally to visit the prisons and detention camps in England and report upon them, and expend from the German Government for clothing and other comforts for these war prisoners and interned German subjects. Anderson visited several interned camps and carried report to Berlin. This only partially satisfied German Government, which insists on my personal examination and report.

I am, of course, ready to undertake such work if you think it wise to authorize me to do so, and if British Government consent. I shall not approach British Government till I receive your instructions. Your general instructions for the conduct of other embassies do not cover this point. British Government will assent, I am sure, in case German Government agree to reciprocal actions by Gerard.

British Government a little while ago gave me $15,000 to send to aid British prisoners in Germany. Now German Government has put in my hands $15,000 for reciprocal use.

I suggest for your consideration the possibility of instructing me to undertake this work as an act of grace not as a duty, not incurring responsibility for the condition of prisoners nor any other responsibility whatever, except an accurate accounting of expenditures. There are now about 20,000 Germans interned and prisoners in Great Britain.

Anderson reports that German Government have feeling that American Embassies here and in Berlin are pro-British. They feel that any people who are not for them are against them. German Government is greatly disappointed that American public opinion is not pro-German. I need not say that this Embassy has acted with as rigid neutrality as the Government at Washington itself, and has served the German interests within your instructions with the utmost zeal and care.

American Ambassador
[Page 754]

The Acting Secretary of State to the Ambassador in Great Britain (Page)1


577. In view of the reports which have already been made by the several American representatives it would seem inadvisable to go further into the matter at this time. Should, however, the German Government request that an investigation of some designated prison or detention camp be made by an expert American representative other than yourself, it should only be done by and with the consent and approval of the British Government.

It appears to the Department that such investigations and reports are futile and might afford opportunity to one belligerent or another to charge the American Government with partiality or prejudice in favor of some one belligerent. The Department, therefore, deems it inadvisable to make at present a fresh general investigation or report as to conditions in the prisons and detention camps in England. Department is to-day sending similar instructions to Berlin and Paris.

You may, of course, expend moneys from funds furnished by the German and Austrian Governments for clothing and other comforts for the war prisoners and the detained subjects of those countries and at all times lend your personal assistance and the assistance of the entire Embassy staff in any way and manner that may tend to the amelioration of the discomforts of those interned.


  1. The second paragraph, with necessary explanation and changes, to the Ambassadors in Germany and France.