740.00115 European War 1939/259: Telegram

The Chargé in the United Kingdom (Johnson) to the Secretary of State

331. Embassy’s 2454, November 25, 1 p.m.95a The following telegram has been sent to Berlin as 48, February 7, 7 p.m.:

“With reference to Mr. Herschel Johnson’s notes No. 1657 of December 11 (your 251, December 9, 10 a.m.)96 and No. 1683 of December 16 (your 262 of December 14)97 regarding the release by the German Government of British women and children and persons over 60 and under 18 years of age, [apparent omission] has the honor to state that no obstacle other than that of consideration for national security will henceforth be placed in the way of the grant of exit permits to all German citizens in these categories in the United Kingdom, British colonies, overseas territories, protectorates, mandated territories in respect of which the mandate is exercised by His Majesty’s Government in the United Kingdom, and India, provided that the German Government reciprocates as they have undertaken to do in the United States Embassy’s note No. 1683 of the 16th December.

2. Arrangements have been made to ensure that the German citizens concerned should not be removed from ships during their homeward journey, always provided that any individual whose detention may be found to be desirable in the interests of national security may be removed at any time.”

A further note of the same date offers observations for your guidance in dealings with the question of the release of British subjects from Germany and German-occupied territory. It states:

  • “2. Practical difficulties connected with the coordination of procedure as well as transport arrangements in the various colonies, protectorates and mandated territories and India have until now prevented His Majesty’s Government from making a concrete reply to the proposals made by the German Government as reported in the United States Embassy’s notes of September 12 (your 19, September 11, [Page 189]9 p.m.),98 September 18 (your 33, September 16, noon)99 and September 25 (your 42, September 22, 5 p.m.)1 in their aide-mémoire of October 4 (Department’s circular telegram of September 29)2 however the United States Embassy made certain suggestions regarding the treatment of enemy aliens and the concurrence of His Majesty’s Government with these suggestions was communicated to the Embassy in Lord Halifax’s note of November 24 (my 89, November 28, 11 p.m.)3 that of the German Government had been conveyed to the United States Embassy at Berlin on October 14.
  • 3. Although the formal reply to the German proposals has had to be postponed, His Majesty’s Government have given practical effect to principles in accordance with those laid down in the United States aide-mémoire of the 4th October. So far as possible German citizens have been allowed to depart from the United Kingdom and territories within the British colonial empire and India: no one has been kept in internment except for sufficient reasons in each individual case; and no reprisals have been taken.
  • 4. No less than 3572 German citizens have been allowed to leave the territories in question since the outbreak of war, whereas the German Government have allowed to depart so far as the Foreign Office is aware 34 women and 109 men including 107 Lascar seamen. They have interned, or were proposing to intern, approximately 140 men and 120 women, apparently as a reprisal for British internment of Germans, in spite of the undertaking not to resort to reprisals which is inherent in their acceptance of the principles of the United States aide-mémoire under reference.
  • 5. His Majesty’s Government have now formally stated their intention to release forthwith women and children and persons over 60 and under 18, subject to the proviso that any individual may be retained for reasons of national security, but this is dependent on reciprocal action by the German Government. His Majesty’s Government have given evidence of their good faith in this matter in releasing large numbers of Germans in advance of an undertaking; and they consider that it is now for the German Government to respond by immediately releasing from internment all British subjects, especially women, with the possible exception of any individuals they may consider it necessary to detain for reasons of national security, and permitting with similar exceptions the departure of all British women and children and persons over 60 and under 18 who may wish to leave.
  • 6. This is in fact no more than has been promised in the 2nd paragraph of the German note to the United States Embassy in Berlin on October 14, but in view of the action of the German Government in [Page 190]using internment as a reprisal the Foreign Office await concrete evidence of the German Government’s intentions in this matter. The Foreign Office would remind Mr. Johnson that the German Government consider that the exchange of British subjects and German citizens should not consist of exchanges of a number of British subjects for an equal number of German citizens, nor of exchanges proportional to the total number of enemy civilians in either country. The Foreign Office concur in this view and are of opinion further that the exchanges should not be on a territorial basis. British Indian subjects for instance should not be detained until the arrival of German citizens from India. The Foreign Office consider that any claim to justify such a procedure on the ground that British subjects might all be released before the arrival of German citizens from distant places would not only be contrary to the undertaking given by the German Government but has been already compensated in advance by the release of a large number of German citizens in distant places of whom many have already reached Germany. Mr. Johnson will observe that the territories contained in the “United Kingdom, British colonies, overseas territories, protectorates and mandated territories in respect of which the mandate is exercised by His Majesty’s Government in the United Kingdom and India form a whole, and that there is no intention of negotiating individual exchanges in respect of any particular territory comprised therein. Separate representations have already been made, as Mr. Johnson is aware, in respect of the Dominions.”

Johnson
  1. Foreign Relations, 1939, vol. i, p. 647.
  2. Not printed.
  3. See telegram of December 18, 1939, 9 a.m., from the Chargé in the United Kingdom, Foreign Relations, 1939, vol. i, p. 655.
  4. See telegram of September 12, 1939, from the Ambassador in the United Kingdom, Foreign Relations, 1939, vol. i, p. 638.
  5. See telegram of September 17, 1939, from the Ambassador in the United Kingdom, ibid., p. 639.
  6. See telegram of September 23, 1939, from the Ambassador in the United Kingdom, ibid., p. 640.
  7. Ibid., p. 641.
  8. For text of Foreign Office note of November 24, 1939, see telegram No. 2454, November 25, 1939, 1 p.m., from the Ambassador in the United Kingdom, ibid., p. 647.