840.48 Refugees/3642: Telegram

The Ambassador in Spain (Hayes) to the Secretary of State

541. This morning Spanish Government suddenly cancelled permission for 1400 French refugees to depart from Cadiz on two French ships to be sent for purpose. Our information is that decision followed [Page 263] violent protest by German Ambassador acting under instructions from Berlin. Ambassador said to have threatened to torpedo refugee ships and to have said Spaniards must stop letting French out.

While the German attitude is explainable on the basis of Germany’s natural reluctance to lose the thousands of able-bodied French workers now crossing into Spain and reluctance at seeing them reach North Africa, we must not discount possibility that démarche is only a part of general diplomatic offensive to bring Spain into the war on Axis side or exact other military concessions from Spain.

Reports of new German troop concentrations in Southwest France have been spread freely in Spain for several weeks (such concentrations amount to two divisions according to our best information).

A High Spanish official is quoted as having said that a German diplomatic offensive in Spain began yesterday and that refugee matter is merely a pretext.

Despite foregoing Foreign Office seems still disposed to release French refugees and has asked North African representatives to endeavor to obtain Portugal’s consent to transit through that country.

Repeated to Algiers, Lisbon and Tangier.