851.00/2406: Telegram

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

5040. The following signed note from the Foreign Office dated October 21 has been received:

“His Majesty’s Government in the United Kingdom have been considering the situation created by the measures of repression being exercised by the German authorities in the Occupied Territories of Europe and in particular by the practice which is growing up of shooting hostages in alleged retaliation for acts of resistance by the population of those territories.

His Majesty’s Government have reached the conclusion that some formal notice ought to be taken of this situation, and that it might be well to issue a collective declaration concerning the German action. At the same time His Majesty’s Government consider that it would be inadvisable in such a declaration to make at this stage any specific threats of reprisal.

I am, therefore, approaching the Allied Governments and General de Gaulle2 and sending them the draft of a declaration which we consider suitable. I enclose a copy of this draft herewith. I should be grateful if Your Excellency would inform the United States Government of this proposal and inquire whether they would be willing to associate themselves in some form with the declaration. If the United States Government found such a course possible, the effect of the declaration would undoubtedly be greatly enhanced.”

Terms of the declaration read as follows:

“The Governments of the United Kingdom, et cetera, and the Free French National Committee make the following declaration:

When the German invaders, in their lust for conquest attacked and enslaved the various European countries now under the German yoke, they no doubt hoped that the peoples of these countries, in the depths of their despair, would yield without resistance; would allow themselves to be pillaged and starved in the name of Hitler’s New Order; and would passively submit to the destruction of their national heritage.
These hopes have been falsified. The German authorities now realize that they cannot destroy the souls of these peoples even though they may possess themselves of their bodies, lands and possessions. Thus, thwarted in their plans, and alarmed at the intense and passionate hatred that these have aroused, they are now in panic resorting to acts of undisguised terrorism and murder. Innocent persons are held as hostages and murdered indiscriminately in alleged retaliation for the action of patriots endeavoring to uphold their national independence against the German oppressors. Germany, who has claimed “living room” for her own people, shows that this means expulsion and massacre of the inhabitants of the homeland. Germany, who has claimed colonies, shows that Germans can only be established by the obliteration of the subjected race.
The sound of despots have hardly died down when the firing squad takes up the felonious work, and in the rear of the German armies there is the rattle of death in Belgium, in Czechoslovakia, in France, in Greece, in Crete, in the Netherlands, in Luxemburg, in Norway, in Poland, in Soviet Russia and in Yugoslavia. These methods will not break the spirit of the enslaved peoples. But it is certain that they have earned for the German name scorn and disgust throughout the world. Each barbarity stiffens the will of these heroic peoples to endure and to resist.
We, therefore, publicly declare that the brutalities which are being committed in the Occupied Countries are contrary to the dictates of humanity; are a reversion to barbarism; and will meet with sure retribution. To this end we are united in our resolve to win the freedom of the oppressed peoples and to execute justice. The method of oppression and terror used by Hitler are such that many people, including the Germans and Italians, are ignorant of the full facts. When these things are known, world opinion will not allow the criminals to escape just punishment for their crimes. Careful record is being kept of the facts so that in due time the world may pronounce judgment. With victory will come retribution.”

  1. Gen. Charles de Gaulle, President of the Free French National Committee.