740.00115 European War 1939/318: Telegram

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

750. Department’s 565, March 26, 7 p.m.18 The Embassy has frequently inquired of the Foreign Office as to status of the matter, emphasizing the desirability of an early reply to the German note of February 1 (Berlin’s 438, February 17, 2 p.m.19). The competent officials have today stated that the British Government is prepared to agree to all points of the German note except (d) but they are pessimistic as to the chances of an early reply or of persuading the military and naval authorities to agree to that point, upon which any general exchange appears to depend.

It is understood that there are at present some 2,000 British subjects in Germany and German occupied territory of whom less than 150 are interned and of whom the majority are naturalized Palestinian [Page 200]citizens or persons who are legally British but German or Polish by ancestry and family ties. The British now have approximately 2,000 German citizens interned of whom nearly 90 percent are captured merchant seamen and the remainder persons whom they desire to keep for reasons of national security. I am advised that the number of captured merchant seamen is continually growing, that the Admiralty is not disposed to release them and that the War Office is less favorably disposed than formerly to the release of men of military age owing to objections by the French.

While the chances of a general exchange appear to have lessened perceptibly the Foreign Office states that German women, men over 60 and children under 18 are currently being permitted to leave Great Britain (my 331, February 7, 7 p.m.) despite the limited extent of German reciprocity. I will continue to follow the matter closely. In the meanwhile the Foreign Office is using this Government’s interest as an additional argument with the military authorities.

  1. See footnote 15, p. 198.
  2. Transmitted in telegram of February 19, 3 p.m., from the Chargé in the United Kingdom, p. 192.