740.00116 European War 1939/1130: Telegram

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

7238. Department’s A–1291, September 25, regarding War Crimes Commission. The meeting of the representatives of the Allied Governments concerned to take steps to set up the proposed United Nations Commission for the Investigation of War Crimes was held yesterday afternoon in the Foreign Office presided over by Viscount Simon.23 It was agreed to establish the Commission forthwith in London and a communiqué to this effect was issued at the close of the meeting, along with the names of the countries represented at the meeting. The countries represented were: Australia, Belgium, Canada, China, Czechoslovakia, Greece, India, Luxemburg, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Poland, Union of South Africa, United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, United States of America, Yugoslavia and the French Committee of National Liberation.

It will be noted that the USSR was not represented. This was explained by Lord Simon as due to two or three technical points which had not yet been cleared up but which it was hoped would be settled shortly. The meeting passed a resolution for transmission to the Soviet Government expressing the hope that it would shortly be able to take part in the proceedings of the Commission.

The Department’s instructions as given in the airgram mentioned above have been complied with. The question of the chairmanship of the Commission was left to be decided by the Commission. I made clear the position of the United States Government both in regard to the Soviet proposal that the chairmanship be held in rotation, as well [Page 422] as the alternate proposals approved by the Department. A British Secretary General was agreed to and it was indicated that the choice for this position would probably be Mr. McKinnon Wood, formerly of the legal section of the League of Nations. Premises for the Commission are to be provided in the Law Courts Buildings.

The question of setting up a technical committee of experts occasioned considerable discussion with a predominance of opinion that a technical committee was essential. It was the unanimous opinion that this committee would be set up on a parallel basis rather than as a subcommittee of the investigating commission, with an advisory relationship to the Commission as well as to the Governments concerned. The Governments present agreed however to the American position that the setting up of such a committee would be postponed until after the establishment of the investigating commission.

The Norwegian representative suggested that the original secretariat be limited to English personnel. I objected to this and was supported by the meeting.

The British delegate to the Commission, Sir Cecil Hurst, suggested that an unofficial meeting be held of those members of the Commission now in London and this was agreed to. It will take place sometime within the next 10 days or 2 weeks.

  1. British Lord Chancellor.