352.1121 Fernandez, Antonio/147

The Secretary of State to the Ambassador in Spain (Bowers), Then in France

No. 502

Sir: Reference is had to the Department’s telegram B–385 of November 24, 7 p.m.,12 and to subsequent communications regarding [Page 263] the case of Antonio Fernandez Villa and his wife, Salvadora, American citizens imprisoned at Palma de Mallorca. There is now enclosed for your information a copy of a strictly confidential despatch, no. 48 of November 23, 1937 from the American consular officer at Palma,13 reporting upon the trial of Fernandez and his wife, which took place on November 16, 1937.

For your further information it may be stated that Professor Pedro Villa Fernandez of New York University, who is a brother of Antonio Fernandez, has advised the Department that according to information that he has received from a personal source, the authorities at Palma de Mallorca would not object to the release of Mr. and Mrs. Antonio Fernandez, if they could be sure that after leaving Spain they would not talk about their personal experiences, which might be used for propaganda purposes against the regime of General Franco. Professor Villa Fernandez has assured the Department that if Mr. and Mrs. Antonio Fernandez Villa are permitted to leave Spain, he will undertake to see that his brother will neither talk nor write about his experiences in Mallorca nor allow himself to be used for propaganda purposes as long as the present conflict in Spain continues. It may be remarked, incidentally, that Professor Villa Fernandez has been in close touch with the Department on this case, and some time ago deposited $425.00 with the American Consul at Marseille to cover the expenses of his brother and his wife in returning to the United States. Professor Villa Fernandez has been informed that his assurances in this connection have been brought to your attention.

The Department is of the opinion that the evidence upon which Mr. and Mrs. Fernandez Villa were convicted by the military tribunal at Palma, as reported in the enclosed despatch from Vice Consul Fisher, in no way justifies the extremely severe sentences imposed by that tribunal. It may also be observed that this case has aroused considerable interest in this country, and may result in increasingly unfavorable publicity for the regime of General Franco. It is hoped, therefore, that favorable action in this case may soon be taken by General Franco.

If a favorable opportunity should present itself, you are authorized to bring the above considerations to the attention of Señor Sangroniz14 or of his representative at St. Jean de Luz, and to emphasize again the desirability from the point of view of all concerned of bringing [Page 264] this unfortunate incident to a close on the basis suggested in your letter of November 27, 1937 to General Franco.

Very truly yours,

For the Secretary of State:
G. S. Messersmith
  1. Foreign Relations, 1937, vol. i, p. 559.
  2. Not printed; T. Monroe Fisher, Vice Consul at Leghorn, Italy, was on detail at Palma de Mallorca.
  3. J. A. de Sangroniz, Chief of Diplomatic Cabinet of the Nationalist Government of Spain.