800.01B11 Registration—Ovakimian, Gaik (Dr.)/32

Memorandum of Conversation, by the Assistant Chief of the Division of European Affairs (Henderson)

I called Mr. Berge, the Assistant Attorney General, this morning and informed him that the Soviet Ambassador yesterday had told Mr. Atherton that through Mr. Donald Richberg the Ambassador had ascertained that Justice would agree to the release and deportation of Ovakimian if the State Department would be agreeable.84 I told the Assistant Attorney General that we would like to know whether the Ambassador’s statement was correct.

Commissioner Berge stated that Donald Richberg called him by long distance telephone several days ago and had inquired whether, in view of the change in the international situation,85 the Department of Justice would not be agreeable to drop the Ovakimian case. Mr. Berge had replied that if the international situation should render it advisable for a change of attitude in regard to this case, the Department of State would be the channel through which Justice should be informed.

I asked Mr. Berge what the attitude of the Department of Justice would be to the release of Mr. Ovakimian in case the Soviet Government should agree in return to release and permit the departure from the Soviet Union of all American citizens detained in that country with their wives and children and provided the Soviet Government would arrange for his immediate transportation back to the Soviet Union. I told Mr. Berge that I was asking this question rather prematurely since the matter had not yet been squarely presented to the Department of State, but that I wished to be prepared in case the proposal should be made.

Mr. Berge stated he would like two or three days in order to investigate the case carefully and in order to ascertain how important it might be for the internal protection of the United States for the prosecution to be continued.

I told Mr. Berge that we had received through the Department of Justice a letter from the United States Attorney, Correa, in New York, in which Mr. Correa again asked whether the Secretary of State would interpose objections to the subpoenaing of Amtorg officials [Page 980] as witnesses in connection with the Ovakimian case. I said that the United States Attorney had intimated in his letter that the Ovakimian case might be dropped in case there were objections on the part of the Secretary of State. I pointed out that it was not our desire that this case should be dropped, at least before some arrangements could be made for the release of American citizens in the Soviet Union. At the same time we do not wish just now to give a green light to the United States Attorney in New York to go ahead and arrange for the subpoenaing of additional Soviet officials. Mr. Berge promised to take up the matter and to see, pending the result of the investigation which he would make, that the case against Mr. Ovakimian would not be dropped and that no Amtorg officials would be subpoenaed in connection with the Ovakimian case. I told Mr. Berge that we would not reply to the letter that we had received from him dated June 27, 194187 until we knew what the results of his investigation were.

  1. Ambassador Umansky also had some discussion in regard to the Ovakimian case with the Acting Chief of the Division of European Affairs, Kay Atherton, on June 30, 1941, and with the Assistant Chief of that Division, Loy W. Henderson, on July 1, 1941. See their memoranda of June 30 and July 2, pp. 778 and 781, respectively.
  2. The German invasion of the Soviet Union had started on June 22, 1941. For correspondence concerning the beginning of U. S. aid to the Soviet Union, see pp. 768 ff.
  3. Not printed.