740.00115 European War 1939/151: Telegram

The Ambassador in the United Kingdom (Kennedy) to the Secretary of State

2454. Department’s 1478, November 22, 6 p.m.66 The following is the text of a Foreign Office Note dated November 24:

“His Majesty’s Principal Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs presents his compliments to His Excellency the United States Ambassador and, with reference to the representations made by Mr. Herschel Johnson on the 5th October and to the aide-mémoire left by him on the same day regarding the treatment of civilian enemy aliens, has the honour to set forth as follows the views thereon of His Majesty’s Government in the United Kingdom.

His Majesty’s Government wholeheartedly welcome the intervention of the Department of State in this matter. They believe that their views correspond closely with those held by the Government of [Page 648] the United States of America and feel no hesitation in declaring their readiness to adhere to a policy designed to spare innocent persons unnecessary suffering.
On receiving the United States Embassy’s Notes No. 1235 of the 15th September (Berlin’s 29, September 14, 4 p.m.67) and No. 1268 of the 25th September (Berlin’s 42, September 22, 5 p.m.68) His Majesty’s Government observed in them with regret the same indications of a policy of reprisals on the part of the German Government which attracted the attention of the Department of State and which show that the Government of the German Reich have deprived of their liberty certain British subjects whom there was originally no intention and presumably at no time any need to intern.
While reserving the right to adopt such measures for the restraint of dangerous enemy aliens as may be directly necessary to secure the safety of the State”, His Majesty’s Government have already adopted and have at present every intention of adhering to the following principles:
His Majesty’s Government have decided not to resort to wholesale internment of enemy aliens as was done in the war of 1914–18. That this decision has been given practical effect is proved by the fact that between the 28th Augxist and the 9th September some 2,000 Germans sailed from United Kingdom ports. Since the 9th September when it became necessary for such aliens to obtain exit permits before they could leave, about 100 applications for exit permits had been received in the United Kingdom and are now under consideration. Of the 74,000 persons in the United Kingdom over the age of 16 who are registered as German citizens, at the end of October fewer than 600 were interned, while of the many thousands of German citizens at liberty no restriction has so far been placed other than the requirement to register with the police and obtain a permit if they wish to travel more than 5 miles from their registered place of residence.
His Majesty’s Government have set up over 100 tribunals presided over by independent persons with legal experience to consider the case of each enemy alien on its individual merits. No one will be expelled against his will unless such action can be justified by reasons of national security, while none will be kept in internment unless his release or departure is, on grounds of past or potential future activities, likely to prejudice external or internal security or unless he possesses qualifications which render him of special value for warlike purposes.
In the United Kingdom plans have already been made to review at an early date the precautionary measures taken at the outbreak of war for the control of certain dangerous enemy aliens, and His Majesty’s Government propose to relax that control where it is no longer necessary. Arrangements have also [Page 649] been made which will enable each enemy alien under restraint to submit an appeal to the competent authority whose decision will be based on the merits of the individual case, and in no way on any action of the enemy over which the individual in question has had or can have no control. An Appeals Advisory Committee has been set up by the Secretary of State for the Home Department, presided over by two distinguished jurists, to which the competent authority will refer appeals for release from internment made by interned enemy aliens. His Majesty’s Government and the Government of India formally bind themselves to take no reprisals on individual enemy aliens for acts for which they cannot be held responsible.
In the Colonial Empire similar reviews have been made or are contemplated, and the general principles set out in the preceding paragraphs are being followed. It will be appreciated, however, that in a few dependencies special circumstances may exist which may necessitate the imposition of a somewhat stricter measure of control than would be required in others.
As regards India it will be appreciated that special circumstances affecting internal and external security have necessitated greater caution in the application of this policy than in the United Kingdom. The Government of India have, however, also accepted the general principles set out above in determining their policy towards German nationals in India. In pursuance of these principles a special committee which was set up in September is considering the case of every person temporarily detained on its individual merits, and had already by the end of October ordered or recommended the release of 160; every alien whose internment is recommended by the Committee will be granted a right of appeal to the competent authority which will be decided on its merits.
His Majesty’s Government in the United Kingdom are prepared to permit the authorities in charge of German interests in the United Kingdom and British Colonies to inspect and report freely on the conditions in which those enemy aliens who cannot be set free are interned, and the Government of India are equally prepared to permit such inspections in India. The competent authority has already entered into arrangements with international voluntary organisations in the United Kingdom to make provision for physical and mental recreation in the internment camps as well as for occupational employment and spiritual ministrations.
His Majesty’s Government will be glad to learn that the Government of the German Reich are prepared to adopt and give effect to similar principles and they will be glad to receive as detailed information as it may be possible to obtain of the position of civilian British subjects in Germany.”

The foregoing has been repeated to Paris for its information with the suggestion that it not be communicated to the French Government pending the receipt of further instructions from the Department. It has not been repeated to Berlin.

  1. Not printed.
  2. Not printed; this telegram reported initial steps of internment of British nationals as result of reports of internment and detention of German nationals in various parts of the British Empire (740.00115 European War 1939/18).
  3. See telegram of September 23, 8 p.m., from the Ambassador in the United Kingdom, p. 640.