861.404/438: Telegram

The Ambassador in the Soviet Union (Steinhardt) to the Secretary of State

391. Reference my 294, February 17, 2 p.m. I am in receipt of a reply from the Foreign Office to my note to Molotov concerning the robberies of the Catholic Church in Moscow presided over by Father Braun. The reply states that the treatment of religious establishments in the Soviet Union is regulated by special agreements between local authorities and “believers”, in which connection reference is made to the letter of November 16, 1933, from Litvinov to the President. It then recites that the church in question and all its appurtenances were obtained “by citizens of the Roman Catholic faith from the Moscow Soviet for use free of charge” and that under the terms of the agreement the congregation is obligated “to safeguard the church and its property and to bear financial responsibility in the event of loss or damage.” This observation was doubtless inserted to explain the bill presented to Father Braun for the articles stolen from the church on various occasions. The note continues that the repeated robberies of the church are evidence that the council of the church has been derelict in safeguarding the premises and that this conclusion is confirmed by the “careful investigation of the facts of the robbery” which the Embassy communicated to the People’s Commissariat and as further set forth in my letter to Molotov. After having invited my attention to the generosity of the Moscow Soviet in returning to the church the premises and contents previously seized by the Soviets from the church, and asserting that the church council has been derelict in safeguarding the premises, the note continues that “the minors, Golikov and Leontev, who stole a number of things in the church, were arrested on February 10, 1941, and a considerable portion of the articles stolen by them were found and returned to an employee of the church.” The note then states that an investigation of the robbery on the night of February 13th–14th indicates that it “could have been committed by any of the visitors to the church remaining there especially for this purpose, and that the entry of the criminals into the church could only have occurred with the cooperation of a confederate who was within the church.” The note then observes that this circumstance evidences a failure of proper measures on the part of the church to name its property and that “the inattentive and careless attitude of the administration of the church toward the fulfillment of its obligations is also characterized by the fact that the administration [Page 998] of the church could not even indicate precisely the location within the church of the articles that were stolen or the time of their theft.” The note concludes that the investigation is continuing, that “measures are being taken for the apprehension of the criminals,” and that “the Embassy will be immediately informed of the results” of this investigation.