Memorandum of Conversation, by the Chief of the Division of European Affairs (Moffat)
The Czechoslovak Minister called this morning. He had been out in Chicago and had spent twenty-four hours with Mr. Beneš. He said that although Mr. Beneš was without official status, nonetheless [Page 57] he and various other Czechs who do not accept the new régime look up to him for advice and guidance and will follow his lead.
I inquired about published reports that Mr. Beneš might be considering proclaiming a new provisional government in this country. He said that there was nothing in the idea, that Mr. Beneš’ denials should be taken on their face value, and it had been decided by both of them to take no sensational or dramatic stand.
I then told the Minister that in reply to his question as to whether he could transfer the Legation property to the Masaryk Institute, the Legal Adviser had ruled that he could not do so. The Legation stood not in his name but in the name of the Czechoslovak Republic, and he could only transfer title if he had “full powers” to do so given by the Czechoslovak Government or a recognized successor thereto.
I then told him that we had read in the paper of Mr. Osusky’s93 action in turning over the keys of the Czechoslovak Legation in Paris to the French authorities, and intimated that if he should choose to follow suit this Government would gladly assume custody. At this suggestion the Minister became very excited and said that so long as we did not recognize the disappearance of Czechoslovakia he remained the Minister, and counted on us to give him full and active support.
As to Mr. Osusky, he said that he could not understand his activities of late. He was one of the few old guard Czechs who had not maintained touch in any way with Mr. Beneš since the crisis.
The Minister then went further, and advanced the doctrine that as his Government had disappeared and he could not obtain full powers from his Government, he could act on the theory that he was the Czechoslovak Government and control its physical properties as he saw fit. In this connection he referred not only to the Legation building but to Czechoslovak gold in New York banks. I pointed out that he should be very careful to assure himself that he was on sound legal ground in advancing these claims. Personally I felt that there was some doubt as to whether he could act in matters which normally required the presentation of full powers.
The question next arose about the advisability of a visit by Mr. Beneš to Washington. I told him that I could inform him in confidence that although the President in other circumstances would be delighted to receive Mr. Beneš, he felt that under present conditions everybody’s interests would be served if Mr. Beneš should refrain from coming to Washington or asking an interview with the President. The Minister said that this message was not unexpected, and that he would guard its confidential character.[Page 58]
The Minister next took up the question of his staff. He does not consider the Counselor of Legation sufficiently qualified for the post, and wished to make certain that in his absence Dr. Červenka94 would be recognized as Chargé d’Affaires. …