File No. 861.00/2971

The Consul at Moscow ( Poole) to the Secretary of State

Sir: I have the honor to submit herewith for the information of the Department a copy of a letter which I have to-day addressed to the Minister of the Netherlands, who is temporarily at Moscow negotiating with the Bolshevik authorities concerning the departure of the Allied representatives and the release of Allied nationals now held as hostages.

I have [etc.]

DeWitt C. Poole, Jr.

The American Consul at Moscow ( Poole) to the Netherland Minister ( Oudendijk)

Sir: As of possible interest to you in connection with your negotiations with the People’s Commissar for Foreign Affairs, I have the honor to inform you that I was approached on August 26 by Mr. B. M. Sverdlov, brother of the chairman of the Central Executive Committee, respecting the case of certain women and children said to have been taken as hostages at Ufa.

Mr. Sverdlov explained that the Bolshevik forces upon retiring from Ufa took with them a large number of hostages, chosen more or less at random from the more wealthy inhabitants, and that it was possible that these hostages had subsequently been treated with severity. Without attempting to defend this action he pointed out that the taking of women and children as hostages, even as a measure of reprisal, was a barbarity which should be stopped at all costs. He proposed that if I should prepare instructions in the premises to the American Vice Consul at Samara he would use his influence to have these instructions forwarded by wireless telegraph.

Pursuant to his proposal I wrote Mr. Sverdlov a letter in which I referred to his request for cooperation in the matter of the release of hostages and asked him to employ any means which might be at his disposal to have the following telegram dispatched:

At request of People’s Commissars I draw your attention to the cases of wife of Commissar of Food Supply Tsuryupa, wife of Commissar Bruikhanov, wife [Page 681] of Commissar Yuriev, wife and son President Railway Committee Mukhin, wife of Muraviev, Madam Iliin, wife of Commissar Kadomtsev, wife of Commissar Kibanov, all of whom are said to have been taken hostages at Ufa. You will investigate at once and if confirmation obtained act vigorously to secure the immediate release of the persons named. The taking of hostages of any kind is barbarous. The extension of such measures to women and children is not to be tolerated and, whatever the circumstances, must be prevented by every means in our power. Liberation should not be made contingent upon reciprocity but offered gratuitously as an example which a civilized opponent cannot but follow. Poole.

At the request of Mr. Lockhart I added to the letter that the British Diplomatic Agent concurred in the foregoing instructions and regretted that there was no British agent at Samara whom he might address in a similar sense. At Mr. Sverdlov’s suggestion I submitted the case to M. Grenard and he in turn addressed a letter to Mr. Sverdlov, asking him to forward to the French Vice Consul at Samara telegraphic instructions of the same tenor as those quoted above.

I am personally convinced that the only hope of bringing to an end, or in any way mitigating the course of mutual reprisals upon which the Bolsheviki and a part of their opponents have unfortunately entered, is to induce one or the other side to liberate its hostages gratuitously, thus placing upon the other the full moral onus of a failure to reciprocate forthwith. I am not too sanguine of success even by this method but still consider it possible that the Bolsheviki may finally perceive that only by some striking act of abnegation and repentance can they lessen in any degree the black discredit which they have recently brought upon their cause and upon themselves individually.

I have [etc.]

DeWitt C. Poole, Jr.