740.00116 European War 1939/813: Telegram

The Chargé in the United Kingdom (Matthews) to the Secretary of State

1608. My telegram No. 604, January 22, 11 p.m., and previous correspondence concerning investigation of war criminals. The Foreign Office tells me that it has sent a telegram to Ambassador Halifax5 in the following sense:

All governments concerned have now agreed in principle to the proposals for a United Nations Commission and have agreed to participate in its work. (This includes both the Soviet and Chinese Governments.
The British have appointed Sir Cecil Hurst as their representative on the Commission and would like to learn as soon as possible whom the United States Government proposes to nominate as its representative.
The British Government would like to have us agree to the chairmanship of the Commission being accepted by the United States representative. The British consider that the headquarters of the Commission could most conveniently be located in London.
If London is acceptable as headquarters the British would propose that panels of the Commission, if the Governments so desire, may be established in Washington, Moscow, or Chungking to enjoy “the greatest possible degree of autonomous action and prestige consistent with the central and coordinating functions and authority” of the headquarters of the Commission in London.
The British assume that membership of the Commission should be restricted to the four major United Nations, the Dominion Governments, if they so desire, and Allied Governments in London. “Arrangements will have to be made for French representation”

Lord Halifax is instructed to ascertain as soon as possible the views of the American Government on the above proposals.6 Similar telegrams have been sent to the British Embassies at Chungking and Moscow to sound out the Chinese and Russian Governments respectively.

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In acquainting me with the foregoing the Foreign Office has emphasized the growing interest in the question both on the part of the exiled governments in London and on the part of the British public. The latter’s interest finds expression in an increasing number of questions asked in Parliament. The Foreign Office believes that while the question of investigation of war criminals is hardly one directly connected with the prosecution of the war, those whose time and thought would be devoted to its study are probably precisely those who are not fully occupied with the war effort.

I should appreciate being informed of the nature of the Department’s reply to Lord Halifax.

  1. Viscount Halifax, British Ambassador in the United States.
  2. British note presented March 11, not printed.