740.00115 European War 1939/440: Telegram

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

2062. Your 1446, 27th, and my 1882, June 28, 11 p.m. Foreign Office note dated July 8 after referring to the considerations advanced by the Department, including the possibility of reprisals, states: [Page 206]

  • “3. Lord Halifax has the honor to state that in sending German prisoners of war and internees to Canada, His Majesty’s Government in the United Kingdom are not acting in any way contrary to the provisions of the Prisoners of War Convention, still less with harshness. The climate of Canada is good, there is an abundance of food, the prisoners will be, as was pointed out in Lord Halifax’s note to the Swiss Legation of the 22d June, of which a copy was sent to the United States Embassy on the 22d June, outside the area of hostilities, and Canada is a party to the Prisoners of War Convention and is prepared to observe its stipulations in the case of prisoners of war, and generally, in the case of interned civilians. Every effort will be made to ensure that these men are not exposed to any unnecessary risk on the voyage but of course His Majesty’s Government in the United Kingdom cannot accept responsibility if the lives of these men are endangered by the armed forces of the enemy failing to comply with the rules of warfare which oblige belligerents to ensure the safety of the passengers and crew of any merchant ships sunk. The names of the Germans sent to Canada will be communicated to the German Government as soon as possible, and facilities will, no doubt, be given by His Majesty’s Government in Canada to the representative of the power which is in charge of German interests in that Dominion, to visit the internment camp or camps on the arrival of the internees or prisoners of war, so that they can satisfy themselves as to their treatment.
  • “4. His Majesty’s Government in the United Kingdom would be unable to admit that there is any parallel between the seizure of British subjects by the German forces in a neutral country which they had invaded and their transfer to Germany for internment, and the transfer of prisoners of war and enemy civilians from one part of the British Commonwealth of Nations to another. To resort to reprisals would, therefore be an entirely unjustifiable act on the part of the German Government.
  • “5. Lord Halifax trusts that the United States Government will appreciate the force of these arguments and that the United States Embassy at Berlin will be able to give such information and explanations to the German Government as may convince them that the transfer of German prisoners of war and internees to Canada is in no way prejudicial to them but rather the contrary, and that there is, therefore, no ground for any retaliatory action against British prisoners of war or British internees in Germany.”

Not repeated to Berlin.