File No. 763.72114/2993

The Minister in Denmark ( Egan ) to the Secretary of State 4


1495. Our 1482, October 25, 3 p.m. The Legation learns that the Russians and Austro-Hungarians and Germans have agreed to [Page 636] exchange: (1) all tubercular prisoners; (2) all who cannot be cured in less than one year; (3) [those] suffering from maladie-de-fil-fer, i. e., whose nerves are so shaken by internment that their nervous systems go to pieces at the sight of a prison camp; (4) other minor special diseases. The foregoing is nothing more than a sieve through which the Central Powers may recover their officers; the reported provision that no exchanged person may be employed at the front or for military instruction is equally specious.

The importation of American food for prisoners has been discussed. It is proposed equally for prisoners held by Russia and by the Central Powers. The latter contend that they would profit neither in an economic nor a military sense; suggested control by Danish delegates and had the temerity to acknowledge that the present ration was insufficient for normal nutrition. The food imported from America would simply insure the prisoners being fed more satisfactorily without gain to Germany, they contend.

The increase of the number of invalid prisoners in Denmark—now 1,200 Austro-Hungarian and German, and equal number Russians—proposed with the probable inclusion of future American and British prisoners is evidently the next step forward [toward] hastening the remanding of the much-needed officers and men. The Danes agreed on condition that food for the purpose could be imported from America.

The question of peace has once or twice been broached but not pursued, which gives the certainty of efforts having been continued privately.

The Legation submits that unless prompt and united pressure is brought to bear upon the Russian Government many thousands of Austro-Hungarian and German prisoners will be declared ill and repatriated to release officers and men for service at the front until such time as they themselves shall become fit.

The delegates of the Central Powers and the Danes are using every means to win over the Russians, and if a brake is not soon applied the results may be most detrimental to the cause of the Allies.

American Legation
  1. Transmitted to the Ambassadors in Great Britain and France on Oct. 29. telegrams Nos. 5686 and 2752, and to the Ambassador in Russia on Oct. 30, telegram No. 1809. The last telegram contained in addition the following: “Please ascertain facts and if report is substantiated say to Minister of Foreign Affairs that the Department cannot but feel that a grave peril exists to the Allied cause in the contemplated release of so large a number of German and Austrian officers and men.”