868.48/2054: Telegram

The Minister in Sweden (Johnson) to the Secretary of State

447. Department’s 121, March 3, 8 p.m., my 399, March 2, 7 p.m.; and 415, March 4, noon. British Minister and I saw Secretary General of Foreign Office this afternoon at latter’s request.

Mr. Boheman said that Swedish Government and Swedish Red Cross will be happy to cooperate toward realization of plan for shipments of wheat and flour to Greece as outlined in aide-mémoire given him by British Minister on March 2. He stated that Swedish ships with tonnage totalling 45,000 to 50,000 tons are available for purpose and could be time-chartered on conditions to be agreed upon—for example on basis of conditions laid down in Anglo Swedish shipping agreement. He said that there were seven or eight ships available now in Baltic averaging nearly 7,500 tons each rather than the 50,000 tons mentioned in British aide-mémoire. He thought that this tonnage would be sufficient for maintaining shipments at rate indicated in aide-mémoire of March 2.

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He suggested that commission of control should consist of two or three members under presidency of Mr. Allard, Swedish Chargé d’Affaires in Sofia and Athens, now resident at Sofia. He pointed out that Allard was personally well qualified for job as he had spent many years in Greece as Chargé d’Affaires and had detailed knowledge of country and very wide acquaintance. He also mentioned incidentally that Allard was persona grata to Germans as he had been instrumental in saving life of German Minister in Greece when fighting was going on. Other suitable candidates are available and their names will be submitted shortly. He suggested informally that Mr. Gyllenram at present in charge of Swedish office at Vichy engaged in protection of certain foreign interests be made another member of commission. He said Gyllenram was a man of wide experience including experience in feeding populations. They also have in mind a man with good business qualifications. He suggested that commission should be assisted by clerical staff and stated that Swedish Government is prepared to defray expenses of such a commission of control and he said that his Government realized cost would not be great but that it would like to make this small contribution to so worthy an undertaking.

As to conditions guaranteeing Greek population would derive entire benefit from relief action Swedish Government and Swedish Red Cross are prepared to enter into negotiations with German and Italian Government on line indicated in aide-mémoire. He thought that this direct approach by Swedes would save a great deal of time and would have more useful results than if the proposal were taken up with German and Italian Governments initially by International Red Cross as had been suggested in British aide-mémoire. Mr. Boheman further suggested that United States and British Governments inform International Red Cross Committee at Geneva of the scheme and ask that body to assume protection of the relief action in order that it might be carried out under its general auspices. Both Mallet and I suggested that it would seem to us preferable for Sweden itself to inform International Red Cross in sense suggested after German Government’s consent had been obtained. Boheman agreed and said his Government was entirely agreeable to any suggestion we might make regarding approach to International Red Cross. He emphasized more than once importance of avoiding any move which Germans might regard as an affront to their prestige. It was this point on which they were most sensitive and unless matter were handled carefully the scheme might encounter real difficulties.

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He had two further suggestions to make informally:

Pointing out that as conditions stated in British aide-mémoire did not expressly stipulate that Swedish ships after their errand had been performed would be returned to their “prison” in the Baltic it was most important that Germans clearly understand this will be done and that they have no suspicion the shipping might subsequently fall into Allied hands. He thought conditions in British aide-mémoire should be modified to make this plain as Germans would be sure to pick it up.
He suggested that in any publicity which the United States and British Governments might feel it necessary to make regarding safeguards for food reaching Greek people only, they limit themselves simply to saying that adequate guarantees had been given that Greek population will get full and sole benefit from food distribution without making public details of the conditions. He thought that would be wisest course to take with view to avoiding any difficulty with Germans in point of prestige.