Memorandum of Conversation, by the Assistant Secretary of State (Berle)

The Danish Minister came in to see me today at his request. The principal object of his visit was to say that he had prepared a report for the Danish Government covering Greenland matters. He realized [Page 352] that the Danish Government was so closely in German hands that anything he wrote must be assumed to reach German sources as well as his own Government. Accordingly he was giving a straight factual summary and letting matters go at that.

He said, however, that he wished to be reassured as to our own line in respect to Greenland.

Originally we had dealt directly with the Greenland Government, through him, without going through Copenhagen. Since our advice to the Copenhagen Government that we had appointed consuls in Greenland—which had been explained by a lack of communications—the Danish Government had indicated that it expected Greenland matters in the future to be taken up through Copenhagen. He wondered whether we had changed our line in this respect.

I said at once that we had not.

We recognized the sovereignty and independence of Denmark; but we recognized that the Danish Government, being within the lines of the German military occupation, was not in a position to exercise full sovereignty. On the other hand, the elements of the Danish Government which lay outside those lines, and which chose to do so, were in a position to act autonomously. On no other theory, I said, could we recognize the neutrality of Greenland; for if Greenland were being controlled from Denmark it would obviously be under the control of a belligerent, namely Germany. Accordingly, we were forced to make a distinction between our dealings with Greenland which went direct, so long as Greenland undertook to maintain its full independence of action, and our dealings with Copenhagen. I pointed out that were Greenland to be recognized as under the control of the German-occupied Copenhagen, it would be difficult for us to object if the British or the Germans undertook to occupy it.

The Danish Minister seemed satisfied with this.

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A. A. Berle, Jr.