740.00115 European War 1939/321: Telegram

The Chargé in Germany (Kirk) to the Secretary of State

777. Department’s 738, March 26, 11 p.m.20 The present status of the negotiations between principal belligerent governments for the release of civilian enemy aliens is as follows:

While the German reply to the Department’s original proposals for release and treatment of civilian enemy aliens was virtually a complete acceptance (Embassy’s 1727, October 26 [16], 5 p.m.)21 the French and British replies were more restricted as to categories of enemy aliens which would be allowed to depart. Subsequently both the French and British Governments indicated the conditions under which agreements on this question might be reached and after protracted negotiations which were the subject of communication between this Embassy and the Embassy in London the following arrangements are in effect or are about to go into effect:
An Anglo-German arrangement was effected by (a) a German memorandum of December 12, 1939,22 wherein the German Government stated its willingness to permit the departure of British women and children and persons under 18 or over 60 years of age provided reciprocity is granted and provided there exists no objection in individual [Page 201]cases from the standpoint of national security and (b) a British note of February 18, 1940,23 which stated that no obstacle other than national security will henceforth prevent the departure of German women and children and persons under 18 or over 60 years of age in the United Kingdom, colonies, overseas territories, protectorates, mandated territories and India provided reciprocity is granted. After circularizing all Consulates the Embassy transmitted to the German authorities lists of British subjects of the categories stipulated desiring to be released. Departures are taking place regularly from Germany of such persons. This agreement appears to be in full operation with the possible exception of Palestinian women still detained in Germany pending the receipt of information respecting the release of German women from Palestine.
The departure from Germany of approximately 400 Lascars detained in Hamburg and Bremen was arranged for and effected under a special agreement whereby the British Government gave certain guarantees respecting non-participation of Lascars in combat activity or enrollment on British ships. All Lascars have been evacuated except two who are hospitalized.
A German–New Zealand agreement24 has been effected on the same basis as the Anglo-German agreement in (2) above.
After protracted exchange an agreement has been reached for the reciprocal release from imprisonment and eventual departure of German women confined in Australia and Australian women confined in Germany.25 The Australian Government is still considering the question of a reciprocal release of males under 18 or over 60 years of age.
No agreement respecting Canadians has been reached although the German Government has indicated its willingness to conclude an arrangement on the same basis as (2) above. In this connection reference is made to Department’s 407, February 17, and Embassy’s 596, March 9, 11 a.m.26
A Franco-German arrangement will probably be concluded shortly.27 After protracted negotiations a note of March 7 stated that the German Government is prepared on the basis of reciprocity to permit the departure of French women and children and males under 17 or over 60 years of age, cripples and the incurable sick regardless of age. This note was drafted on the basis of several French proposals [Page 202]and German counterproposals and awaits only the formal acquiescence of the French Government in order to go into effect. Advices have recently been received from Paris that this acceptance is now being prepared. Lists of French nationals falling within the categories stipulated desiring to depart have already been submitted to the German authorities.
In addition to the foregoing arrangements for certain categories of civilian enemy aliens the Embassy has concomitantly impressed upon the German Government the desirability of enlarging the repatriation possibilities for enemy aliens in accordance with the directives set forth in the Department’s 605, September 29, 5 p.m.,28 and 973, November 28, 4 p.m.29 The results of these efforts were described in my 438, February 17, 2 p.m. (which was also sent to London as 68, February 17, 2 p.m.)30 and contains the German reply under date of February 13 to the Embassy’s communication of December 1. Since the receipt of this German note of February 13 competent officials of the Foreign Office have repeatedly expressed the hope that an agreement along the lines indicated therein might be reached. They also expressed the hope that the American Government would again approach the British and French Governments with a view to obtaining such an agreement. To date no reply has been received to this German note either from the Department or from London.

In the course of discussions on these questions foreign officials pointed out that perhaps the fact that there were many more Germans in French and British territory than vice versa has made the French and British Governments reluctant to agree to the general release of enemy aliens. Of the thousands of Germans in enemy territory however it was said that only several hundred in each enemy country are of interest to Germany and that the vast majority would not return if they could. Consequently the actual numbers of persons exchanged would approximately equalize and the German proposal would not therefore result in any great numerical disparity in exchanges. It was further contended that as the total exchanges would probably not amount to more than several thousand persons that an agreement for a general release of enemy aliens including males of military age would have no appreciable effect on the conduct or the outcome of the war. In these circumstances the German officials indicated their willingness to widen the scope of the repatriation arrangements and expressed the hope that the American Government would continue its efforts to this end.

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I should welcome any observations the Department may desire to make with special reference to my 438, February 17, 2 p.m.

  1. See footnote 15, p. 198.
  2. See telegram No. 1272, October 19, 1939, 2 p.m., to the Ambassador in France, Foreign Relations, 1939, vol. i, p. 642.
  3. See telegram of December 18, 1939, 9 a.m., from the Chargé in the United Kingdom, ibid., p. 655.
  4. Apparently based on the telegram to Berlin quoted in telegram No. 331, February 7, 7 p.m., from the Chargé in the United Kingdom, p. 188.
  5. See telegram No. 485, February 28, 6 p.m., from the Chargé in the United Kingdom, p. 196.
  6. See telegram No. 695, March 20, 3 p.m., from the Ambassador in the United Kingdom, p. 197.
  7. Neither printed.
  8. The Chargé in Germany reported in telegram No. 857, April 8, noon, that the Franco-German arrangement went into effect April 3 (740.00115 European War 1939/323).
  9. See Foreign Relations, 1939, vol. i. p. 641, footnote 62.
  10. Ibid., p. 650.
  11. See telegram of February 19, 3 p.m., from the Chargé in the United Kingdom, p. 192.