The Secretary of State to the Ambassador in Austria-Hungary( Penfield )


446. The British Government have formally requested this Government to lend its good offices in visiting prisoners’ camps in Germany and supervising the provision and distribution of money and necessities and minor comforts for British officers and men prisoners of war, and interned civilians in Germany. The British Government have also expressed their willingness to have the Government of the United States undertake similar work on behalf of German prisoners in Great Britain if the German Government so desires.

The Department is willing to undertake this work upon the following plan, if acceptable to the governments concerned, and has so informed the British and German Governments:

Each of the belligerent governments should furnish immediately, for the information of the other, a complete statement of its policy with regard to the treatment of prisoners, with full details showing the supplies furnished and the conditions [Page 1008] of their life during internment, supplemented by copies of orders and instructions issued from time to time to the commandants of the prisoners’ camps;
The belligerents should permit the representatives of the United States in each country to have access to the prisoners and permit the prisoners to furnish written statements about their treatment and conditions of life, and their requirements, which they wish to have communicated to their own government;
In undertaking this work the Government of the United States will assume no responsibilities of any kind beyond the mere transmission of the statements and the distribution of the supplies furnished as above indicated, in accordance with such restrictions and regulations as are imposed by the governments concerned.

You may bring the above to the attention of the Austro-Hungarian Government for its information, and intimate that while this Government will be glad to be of any assistance it can to the Austro-Hungarian Government, it does not feel at liberty to tender its good offices in this respect until it is requested to do so.