740.00115 European War 19391/424: Telegram

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

1882. Your 1446 and 1447, 27th. Notes based on your two telegrams given Foreign Office today. The Foreign Office had previously given the Embassy informally a copy of a communication addressed under date of June 22d to the Swiss Legation stating that the British Government had “come to the conclusion that is desirable, that 2633 [Page 205]German civilian internees and 1823 combatant prisoners of war should be transferred to a part of His Majesty’s Dominions where they will be outside the area of hostilities,” that the Canadian Government had agreed to accept them, that the prisoners of war would be treated in accordance with the terms of the 1929 convention32 (of which Canada is a party) and that civilian internees would be treated “in general as at present in accordance with the principles of the convention.”

A similar note was sent to the Brazilian Embassy concerning 1500 Italian civilian internees.

The Foreign Office today confirms that the Government’s intentions in this matter are quite definite and that the first group of Germans has already sailed. The Foreign Office holds that there is a considerable difference between removing civilians caught in a neutral country to internment camps in Germany and transferring prisoners of war and interned civilians from one part of the British Empire to another. It emphasizes that its action is entirely in accordance with the letter and the spirit of the 1929 convention, that the prisoners and internees are merely being moved “outside the area of hostilities” and that the action is in no sense punitive. It holds that any reprisals by the German or Italian Governments other than moving British subjects to places of greater safety where they would receive treatment at least as good as at present would be entirely unjustified and would cause the British Government to consider retaliatory measures.

The Swiss Legation and the Brazilian Embassy have received no instructions from the German and Italian Governments to protest and are apparently not concerned over the move. The Swiss Legation, in advising the German Government of it, took care to emphasize that the prisoners and internees were being moved outside the area of hostilities. The Brazilian Embassy merely cabled the text of the Foreign Office note but the Brazilian Counselor states that he will attempt to reassure the Italian Government.

  1. International Convention Relative to the Treatment of Prisoners of War, signed at Geneva, July 27, 1929, Foreign Relations, 1929, vol. i, p. 336.