740.00115 European War 1939/185: Telegram

The Ambassador in France ( Bullitt ) to the Secretary of State

2971. The representations outlined in the Department’s telegram 1458, November 29, 7 p.m., were presented in writing yesterday at the Foreign Office where they were sympathetically received. A copy of the British note of November 24 had been submitted previously.

From a long and extremely frank conversation with the competent Foreign Office official which followed the submission of our note it may be surmised that the French reply, promised within the next 2 weeks, will be along the following lines:71

At the outbreak of a war into which France entered with reluctance and which began with a drastic general mobilization (which was true of neither England nor Germany) it was found necessary provisionally to intern some 15,000 enemy aliens of military age. Even though the great majority were as refugees bitter enemies of the Hitler regime a popular uproar would have resulted had these Germans been permitted to continue their normal livelihood while all ablebodied Frenchmen had left home and business to fight Germany.

Since that time 6,000 have been released either for service as volunteers in the French Army or for emigration abroad while few older men have been freed unconditionally. The machinery for sifting the trustworthy refugees from the suspects has been improved and accelerated and discussions are now under way with a view to improving the conditions and deciding the ultimate lot of those whose internment may be expected to continue.

(In this connection and with reference to paragraph 2 (a) of the Department’s [973,] November 28, 4 p.m., to Berlin, the French Government has agreed to the proposal of the International Committee of the Red Cross reported in my 2761, November 15, 5 p.m.,72 that the provision of the Geneva Convention be extended to interned civilians. (See my despatch No. 5364, December 2.72)

With respect to proposed exchanges the Foreign Office is likewise a priori to extending its suggestions to other categories of civilians. It feels, however, that the categories already proposed should come first and earnestly requests that Kirk press the German Government for a reply. The problem of continued relief to French women and children in Germany and Poland inevitably involving the transfer of foreign exchange to enemy is causing concern to the French Government.

[Page 655]

In view of Kirk’s telegram 133, November 25, noon,73 concerning the relief problem and the report given by the French Government to the problem of repatriating the categories already proposed (and which constitute the bulk of French civilians in Germany) the Department may wish to urge at Berlin immediate action with respect to persons of non-military status. It should be borne in mind in this connection that virtually all German nationals now in France are refugees whose repatriation would, under the circumstances of their departure from Germany, Czechoslovakia and Austria, be unthinkable.

  1. In his telegram No. 3009, December 20, 4 p.m., the Ambassador in France reported the receipt of a French note, dated December 15, substantially as outlined in this telegram (740.00115 European War 1939/192).
  2. Not printed.
  3. Not printed.
  4. Not found in Department files.