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

The German Chargé d’Affaires13 came in this afternoon at my request. I told him that there were many Americans in Germany and German-occupied territory who in effect were being denied exit permits in that, having made application for exit permits, they failed to receive the same; that no exit permits had been granted to an American to leave occupied France since May 15; that there were various citizens in Germany, many of whom had applied for exit permits and who had failed to receive same, and upon pressing the matter, their passports had been returned to them but no exit permits accompanied the passports; that there were a number of American citizens in Norway, Denmark, Holland, Belgium, Yugoslavia, Bulgaria and Greece; that several others in Rumania were unable to get transit visas; that all this seemed quite unreasonable; that it was becoming more and more important from the point of view of the United States; that we wanted assurance from the German Government that they would permit the departure of any American citizen now in Germany or in occupied territory unless there was legitimate reason why he should not be liberated because of some infraction of a proper German law.

I refrained intentionally from mentioning a date or of naming the date of the sailing of the West Point from New York for the specific reason that I did not want to impinge upon the arrangement [Page 407] already having been made for the exchange of certain officials and persons.14 However, I did tell him that it was desired he present the matter to his Government urgently and it was desired he impress upon his Government the increasing importance with which the United States Government considered this matter.

I asked Dr. Thomsen when he thought he could receive an answer. He said he thought he could receive it in a very few days and probably by the first of the week. I told him that I very much hoped that he would be able to get an answer by the first of the week; that I would probably be out of the city then but that Mr. Dunn15 would be in charge of the matter and I asked him to advise Mr. Dunn. He said he would; that he would cable immediately and that he understood the matter and that he hoped to have a favorable response. He said that his Government had acted from the point of view of retaliation because of the movement to require exit permits from the United States. I replied that the authority to require permits had just been exercised whereas the attitude of the German Government had continued this way for several months; that the regulations under which exit permits would be granted were in the course of preparation but that they were reasonable, were universally applicable, were not designed specifically against persons of German nationality; and that the regulations would be published. Furthermore, I stated the United States had not at the present time the intention of denying exit permits to German nationals as a general rule; that each case would be decided on its own merits at the time application was made; that that was our present intention but that we were particularly interested in Americans being able to obtain exit permits and to leave German territory when they applied for an exit permit.

He mentioned the fact that Germany was in a state of war and that different arrangements were necessary and that occupied France was an active military area and that they were particularly loath to let persons with military information out of that area. I replied that there were various reasons of that same nature existing in the United States, even though we were not in a state of war.

B[reckinridge] L[ong]
  1. Hans Thomsen.
  2. Arrangements were made for the German and Italian consular groups to sail on the American ship West Point leaving New York City July 15, 1941, for Lisbon, Portugal, with a safe-conduct pledge from the British, and for the American consular staffs from Germany, German-occupied territories, and Italy to arrive at Lisbon in time to embark on the West Point for its return passage.
  3. James Clement Dunn, Adviser on Political Relations.