The Counselor of Embassy in Spain (Thurston), Then in France, to the Secretary of State
[Received January 31—2:15 p.m.]
1199. At the request of Del Vayo conveyed through the Spanish Consul here I visited Figueras this afternoon accompanied by Colonel Cheadle. An escort met us at the border for the purpose of opening passage through the refugees and motor traffic.
At Figueras Senor del Vayo informed me that he desired to request the United States Government to lend its support in behalf of two measures, namely:
- to bring about greatest speed on the part of the French in admitting refugees. He said that the flow of refugees to the frontier has been checked and that if these now awaiting clearance could be removed this problem would be solved;
- to obtain international action perhaps through the League of Nations to safeguard the art treasures of the Prado which are now stored in the great fort at Figueras.
I stated to the Minister for Foreign Affairs that I would at once report the foregoing to you and to the French Embassy here (a similar [Page 735] invitation to visit Figueras was extended to the French Ambassador and the British Minister but neither is here at the moment) and that I was glad to know that the populations of towns were no longer being evacuated from them. The Atlajunquera is greatly reduced and the road is now fairly clear within a few hundred yards of the line.
As to the Prado treasures the problem is one of preventing them from being destroyed by bombs and as the Government is installed within the same fort it is likely that methodical bombing will begin at any moment. The solution would seem to be for the Government to remove either itself or the Prado treasures from the fort and at once.
Negrin joined the conference and he and Del Vayo seem even yet to be unaware of the magnitude of the disaster that has overtaken them. Both spoke of saving the situation and affirmed that it is not hopeless. I felt it to be my personal duty to remark that outside opinion holds that in so far [as] Catalonia is concerned they are virtually lost. Del Vayo stated that if the “new lines” do not hold the Government will remove to the southern area. It does not seem likely that a transfer to that area on any large scale is now possible.