740.00112 European War 1939/6719: Telegram

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

5249. Further referring your 3964, August 20, midnight. MEW34 on September 18 advised Swedish Legation here as follows stating that the comments were made on behalf of United States and His Majesty’s Governments:

“1. With regard to the transit of war material we are pleased to note that the figure of 2500 tons a month to Norway and Finland respectively will not be exceeded. But ‘war material’ as defined by your Government covers only a small proportion of the total material useful for the German war effort which passes through Sweden and [His] Majesty’s Government and the United States Government do not feel able to agree to an increase in the oil quota unless some limitation is placed upon the total quantity of materials which are passing in transit through Sweden for German account. We must therefore ask that in addition to the limitation of war material all German transit traffic through Sweden should be limited to 100,000 tons per annum for Norway 40,000 for Finland via Norway and 60,000 tons for Finland direct. The agreed quantities of war material would of course be included in these totals.

We fully recognize that limitation of the transit traffic to these figures may have to be done clandestinely or by means of expedients, but we have no reason to doubt that your Government would be able in practice to bring about this limitation which, having regard to the heavy traffic which Swedish railways are called upon to carry, would be in Sweden’s own interest.

2. We believe that a considerable increase has occurred lately in the number of German soldiers on leave carried backwards and forwards across Sweden and we are informed that this has been admitted in recent conversations in Stockholm. Some limitation is regarded as necessary by His Majesty’s Government and the United States Government and as was stated in your memorandum, it is in the interest of Sweden to keep the number of journeys as low as possible.

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We must therefore ask your Government to agree to some ‘ceiling’ for this traffic and the figure we suggest is a total of 225,000 double journeys a year, which would enable most of the German soldiers in Norway to go on leave once a year and return to their units. This seems to us to be a very generous figure and we hope that your Government will be able to accept it. We would further suggest that they should do everything in their power to lighten [tighten?] up the conditions of travel so as to insure so far as possible that the men who travel from Germany to Norway are the same as those who have previously been carried back to Germany across Sweden. In other words, we want the traffic to be restricted to men genuinely going on leave and not to be used for evacuating men from the north and replacing them by fresh drafts.

3. The conditions covering the import of oil into Sweden must be strictly observed and the American Government have a desire (which we share) for an assurance from your Government that the increased quota will be used solely for military purposes, will be guarded against seizure and will be promptly destroyed in the unhappy event of circumstances rendering this necessary. We assume of course that every tanker inward bound would have as a requisite German safe conduct so that the Germans will not have any excuse for confiscating the cargo.

4. It is necessary to ask your Government for two new conditions before the new quota can be fixed:

It has come to our knowledge that recently German troopships carrying reinforcements for the German Armies in Finland and Russia have been in the habit of proceeding in Swedish convoy. Apparently these vessels approach Swedish waters from the Danish coast without escort and, after passing through the Falsterbo canal (in itself an inadmissible proceeding which is, we are glad to learn, to be discontinued), later proceed in Swedish convoy northwards along the Swedish east coast. This practice in the case of ships bearing troops and war material is not permissible under international law and we feel fully justified in requesting an assurance from your Government that it will close forthwith.
In view of some recent incidents which we have found rather disquieting, we request an assurance from your Government that the provisions of the Anglo-Swedish war trade agreement of 7th December, 1939, as subsequently modified, will be strictly observed in every respect particularly as regards ‘normal trade’ with belligerents and the provision of commercial statistics. We require both monthly export statistics of all those rubrics shown in the Swedish pre-war monthly trade returns (Sveriges In-Ochutforsel Avvissavaror) expanded to show countries of consumption, and the special statement respecting the return of processed raw materials which the Swedish authorities promised to furnish to the Commercial Counsellor to His Majesty’s Legation at Stockholm in February last. It is inaccurate to speak of this as a ‘new condition’ as such an assurance naturally does not involve any fresh obligation for your Government.

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The British and American experts have agreed that the quarterly quota of 30,000 tons should be divided as follows:

Aviation spirit 6,550 tons; gas oil and fuel oil 21,150 tons; lubricants 2,300 tons; total 30,000 tons.

We hope that your Government will be able to meet us on all the points specified in this letter. If so, the way will be clear for a memorandum embodying the terms of the agreement to be drawn up and initialed and for me increased quota to be brought into operation.”

Minister of Economic Warfare35 states objection expressed verbally by Gisle,36 Swedish representative here, was to furnishing statistics demanded in paragraph 4 (b) of above quotation.

Minister of Economic Warfare advises matter being taken up by Swedes with Stockholm.

Minister of Economic Warfare states they are advising British representatives in Washington and Stockholm.

Please advise Walden and Board of Economic Warfare.

  1. Ministry of Economic Warfare.
  2. Hugh Dalton.
  3. C. O. Gisle, Counselor of the Swedish Legation in the United Kingdom.